Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blackwater Incident a Precursor to Nisour Square

For more on the callous disregard that Blackwater contractors have for Iraqi lives, read this account in the Washington Post of an apparently unprovoked shooting last February that left three Iraqi guards at the Iraqi Media Network dead. The article also contains a healthy dose of State Department complicity in Blackwater's cowboy antics. There's little else to say about the article that hasn't been said before, except to say that when you let men with guns operate without regard for the law or consideration of the civilians living in the environment they operate in, this is a natural consequence.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I take pause when I read this story. First, because it's all eye witness accounts. Police investigators today all but discount eye witnesses. Not necessarily because they're dishonest, but because people think they see things that in fact they have not. (The case of Jean Charles de Menezes being shot on the London Underground is a good case of this.)

Second, I pause because Blackwater stands by their work. Two years ago they ASKED the State Department to install cameras in all their vehicles; they believe a video record will bear out their version of events. (Incidentally, State turned down the request, so we still don't have much evidence about what goes on in Iraq. See http://blackblawg.blogspot.com/2007/10/state-department-denied-blackwaters.html.)

Finally, a note on Blackwater's contract with the State Department. While trawling the blogosphere I recently came across someone rhetorically asking 'Who drives against traffic in a traffic circle?' A fair question. The State Department contract with Blackwater, which is about 1,000 pages long and extensively detailed, stipulate that State Department convoys travel quickly and drive aggressively. Furthermore, no State Department official ever travels with less than three vehicles and they're always the biggest stuff they can find, with those obnoxious "Warning: Stay Back" signs and all of that.

This is in contrast to the CIA, which drives around Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, with contract security, all the time, but doesn't run into trouble. Why? Because they're riding in unmarked beat-up pickups and following traffic patterns. The difference, surprisingly, is not the contractors - both employ them - but the agency that hires them and the terms of the contracts.

It's sad to think that the State Department officially has the lead for public diplomacy. Who most heavily opposed the State Department terms under which Blackwater is employed? The Department of Defense (which also employs contractors, but again, under different terms), folks who actually know a thing or two about public diplomacy, even though it's not their primary duty.

The State Department contract also stipulated that diplomatic security guards must wear wrap-around sunglasses (a cultural faux pas in the Arabic world) and prohibited facial hair (another cultural faux pas). Just what were these State Department boys learning at Georgetown?

Lest you think I'm making this up, the Christian Science Monitor recently ran a story along similar lines. It's definitely worth reading: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1102/p09s01-coop.html.