Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blackwater Follies

You may have noticed over the weekend that Blackwater, the private security company that operates with the largest presence in Iraq, had the good sense to get itself banned from operating in Iraq thanks to a shoot-em-up that allegedly left eight (or nine) Iraqi civilians dead. As Noah Shachtman explains in this extremely informative post for Wired.com's blog "Danger Room", the banning was inevitable:

Private military contractors have been involved in all sorts of questionable incidents, since the very start of the Iraq enterprise. U.S. military officers frequently expressed their frustrations with sharing the battlefield with such private forces operating under their own rules and agendas, and worry about the consequences for their own operations. For example, Brigadier General Karl Horst, deputy commander of the US 3rd Infantry Division (responsible for Baghdad area) tellingly put it two years back, These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There’s no authority over them, so you can’t come down on them hard when they escalate force. They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath.”

As Shachtman also explains, that Blackwater is involved is no surprise, the Iraqi government has every incentive to give the boot Blackwater in response to the arrogance of the security contractors roaming around Iraq, and Congress and the Bush administration have allowed this situation to fester by doing nothing to remedy the legal vaccuum that private security contractors operate within in Iraq.

Blackwater provies the security for the U.S. diplomatic convoys that race around Iraq, which are suffering as a consequence of the upheavel:

The United States on Tuesday suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials throughout Iraq, except in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. The move follows a weekend incident involving private security guards protecting a diplomatic convoy in which a number of Iraqi civilians were killed.

In a notice sent to Americans in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said it had taken the step to review the security of its personnel and possible increased threats to those leaving the Green Zone while accompanied by such security details.

The Bush administration is in a tough spot over the showdown. The administration relies on Blackwater and other contractors to provide security in Iraq, and members of the administration have private connections to the firm. But the administration will also find it difficult to force the Iraqis to back down form their response, as Blackwater and other security contractors are largely reviled by the average Iraqi and are easy targets for a weak government trying to win popular support. As Shachtman explains, conflict was inevitable. And as we see from the story above, the State Department is in a serious bind. Blackwater and other security firms make up for a lack of military personnel to provide security duty, and in the midst of the surge it's unlikely that U.S. commanders will want to order their men to start guarding diplomatic convoys. Something's gotta give. Either the Iraqi government will put on a show and then back down after some mollifying by the U.S. government, or (less likely) they'll stick to their order and put the U.S. government in the position of having to replace tens of thousands of security contractors they've come to rely upon.


adam said...

We should end private contracting in wars, period. They hurt our troops, they hurt the war effort, and they bilk the government out the ass for it all.

Anonymous said...

They have NOT been banned. That was just an attempt by the Iraqi PM to sound tough. He failed.

The motorcade was fired on by insurgents standing behind innocent people. The security detail responded to the incoming fire, and took out the perps. Some bystanders were injured.

Blackwater will be back to work in a day or so.

Anonymous said...

Adam doesn't know what he's talking about. Private contracting is nothing new. Nearly every weapon used by our military was designed and manufacturered by private contractors. Every meal they eat, and much of the transportation, are provided by private contrators.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we "sub" the whole war out to Blackwater? We could give our troops a rest and it would be cheaper for the tax payer. sort of..you know.. "out source" the war.

Anonymous said...

Blackwater USA and other private security companies are, simply put, MERCENARIES in Iraq and other hot zones fighting on a daily basis. These companies are immune to prosecution by the local authorities. Paul Bremmer signed an order the week before he left Iraq making these unregulated companies above the law. They are not part of the US military, so cannot be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and, thanks to Bremmer, cannot be prosecuted under Iraqi civilian law.

Let's keep in mind that these companies are in the business of fighting wars. More war means more business for them. Why would they restrain themselves from causing an increase in hostilities when they are immune from facing the consequences. They WANT more violence. They COMMIT more violence.

If they have to kill 20 or 100 innocent Iraqi civilians to protect one US VIP, they have no downside. Their reputation for being able to keep someone safe increases, and they breed hate among the locals, which will breed more violence. More violence means more business for them, and less of a possibility that we will EVER get our forces out of Iraq.

The international community has outlawed the use of mercenaries. See the comments by the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. It states: "Affirming that the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries should be considered as offences of grave concern to all States and that any person committing any of these offences should be either prosecuted or extradited,"


Anonymous said...

Does anyone else see this as a possible set-up?

"The commission -- to be co-chaired by Iraqi Minister of Defense Abd al Qadir and Patricia A. Butenis, the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy -- will receive the results of both a State Department investigation and the separate Iraqi investigation in the next few days, Fox and Sheikhly said."

Two reports; one from the Iraqi government and one from our own. Theirs will blame us, ours will blame them and of course we will believe the words of our own while we ignore the laws of Iraq and expose the Iraqi government for what it really is, a US puppet.
Perhaps this incident was meant to provoke any and all groups and people who despise us with the hope that many will open ties with or strengthen ties with Iran. The idea being that more and stronger connections will be easier to discover and prove. This in turn will keep us from losing face and may even gain us some support when we start yet another pointless war.