Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Trouble for Blackwater

When it rains it pours:

Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.

In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

...the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

State not only failed to restrain Blackwater contractor's actions, they actively aided and abetted them in getting away with some of their more egregious behavior:

According to [the report] the intoxicated Blackwater contractor shot and killed the guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi. Within two days of the incident, the department had allowed the contractor to leave the country and “recommended that Blackwater make a ‘sizeable payment’ and an ‘apology’ to ‘avoid this thing becoming even worse.’”

While at first a department official suggested payment of $250,000, it was later deemed that the sum was too high and a payment of $15,000 was agreed upon.

Blackwater's actions are one thing. They may be trigger-happy cowboys, but they are at least trying to do their job, which is protecting their clients. State is another matter entirely. Their job is to facillitate peace and reconciliation and further American interests in Iraq. None of this is accomplished when they hire contractors who shoot up civilians and try to cover their asses by hush-hushing killings by Blackwater contractors. Blackwater's cheif is before Congress today trying to conduct damage control, but it's far too late. It's time to reign Blackwater in, and heads should roll at State.


Brian S, Phoenix AZ said...

Get real! Good Republican, Bushie and/or "Christian" heads don't roll in this Administration. (And by now there's nobody else working above the level of janitor.) Accountability is for peons, like grade school teachers.

What your article doesn't address is the cat-and-mouse game our great friend Nuri has been playing with the Genius Condi ever since the convenient advent of this latest atrocity. What Nuri - who apparently can't quite grasp that he's dealing with perfect dullards - is trying to say is: "Let's sit down and have a little chat about this concept of 'applying pressure,' shall we, Condie?"

Cooke said...

The Blackwater personell involved in incidents where they attempted to cover up their actions should have been reported and handled by the state department and the contractor accordingly.

If a Blackwater employee drinks and shoots someone, then that behavior isn't the level of judgement and expertise that the state department is paying for. That employee should be terminated and the state department is responsible for damages.

The state department pays well to keep those diplomats safe, and Blackwater has delivered that level of service. Blackwater is able to provide that level of service by hiring the best the military has trained, ex-seals and rangers.

I don't defend their behavior, but I understand where they experience problems. In the urban warfare environment, it is possible to hear the type of gun fired, but often difficult to tell the direction or who fired. Compunded by the corrupt nature of the current Iraqi police force, makes the task that Blackwater has undertaken an almost overwhleming mission. To simplify, Blackwater maintains a mission oriented focus, protecting their asset/diplpomat.

More to come, food for thought.

Xanthippas said...

Cooke, I agree with you that their focus is and should be limited. They are being paid to keep their clients alive, and that's it. I blame them for not having the good sense and the decency to not overplay their hand in Iraq, but when you create conditions where you ask someone to perform a limited mission, give them all the leeway in the world to conduct it, practice no accountability and oversight, and pay them as much as they ask to do it...well, overzelousness is the natural result. That's why I think we shouldn't be using private contractors to protect government personnel. Unfortunately it's too late to do much about that, as there are no military personnel to replace them. So we're left with at best reigning Blackwater in, making them legally accountable, redefining their mission, and holding them to it. It's too late to undo the damage that's been done, but that doesn't mean more Iraqis should be killed in the process whatever the fate of the mission in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Suddenly the world is so interested in the Iraqis that were shot and killed September 16th but yet little remains on the bodies swinging from the Fallujah bridge. What did Iraq do to all the Iraqi civilians who jumped in praise or took there shoes off to beat their dead lifeless bodies? It was those same contractors who guarded US representatives and served the US in the military ranks and who worked in law enforcement protecting local and state civilians. In the end it boils down to money and does the ends justify the means. Contractors come from a background that trains these individuals to be very capable working teams. The numbers Mr. Prince spoke of today speaks for itself. What gets me with all these negative comments about contractors is there not all "cowboys" and they have families. What do you say to all the families of the contractors who lost their lives protecting one of those stiff shirts on the committee today. Sorry, we are punishing everyone for doing a good job. To bad, you have a immpecable record but you gave up your life so that congressman or State department representative could live but hey we paid to much for your services. I'll try to remember that if anything should happen to someone I love and I have to explain that to my kids. Congress for the first time has got my attention that is something close to home and Mr. Waxman is a political joke.

adam said...

So because Iraqis indiscriminately murdered private contractors, private contracts should indiscriminately murder Iraqis?

Xanthippas said...

What do you say to all the families of the contractors who lost their lives protecting one of those stiff shirts on the committee today.

I don't intend to be flip, but what I'd say is they lost their lives doing a very dangerous job that they were getting paid very well to do. In other words, that has nothing to do with the current debate, which is their tactics in Iraq and wether or not that is helpful or harmful to the U.S. presence in Iraq.