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Blackwater in Iraq Killing for Profit By SAUL LANDAU
The words "Support Our Troops" stain the rear bumpers of thousands of cars.
The slogan, however, conceals a more pernicious demand: "Support Our
Mercenaries." Yes, in Iraq, the mercenaries--euphemistically called "paid
contractors"--outnumber US troops, 180,000 to 160,000. These contractors do
more than provide armed security for US personnel. They do chores that
previously belonged to regular army staff.
Private security companies employ for high pay former US soldiers,
ex-kidnappers and torturers from Pinochet's secret police, death squad heavies
from a variety of Central and South American countries and a few leftover South
African apartheid thugs as well. The companies collect billions from US
A typical U.S. soldier serving in Iraq makes about: $57 a day.
The estimated daily take for a Blackwater security guard there runs between
$500- $600. (FACING SOUTH A News and Politics Report Sept. 26, 2007)
Imagine a scene in the corporate boardroom of Whitepiss Security Inc., a
typical contractor with the Pentagon located in Upper South Carolina. The Chief
executive, a former Special Forces veteran who was friends with Timothy McVey,
and a diehard supporter of the Confederacy cause, refuses to use the word
"North." This descendent of the slave holding Col.
Beauregard Fathorn gleefully counts his profits derived from providing
"security" in Iraq. Then he shares his thoughts with fellow executives: "The
Eyerack War," he says, "has become the most beautiful thing that has happened
to this country since the glorious attack at Fort Sumter. It has awakened us
from the sloth of peace and prosperity brought about by the treasonous Clinton
In 1997, a former Navy Seal from a rich family figured out how to sell
violence and enhance his wealth. Blackwater on its webpage disguises both its
greed and its murderous intent by referring to "understanding of the need for
innovative, flexible training and operational solutions to support security and
peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere." CEO and founder Eric Prince
believed "the military and law enforcement establishments would require
additional capacity to train fully our brave men and women in and out of
uniform to the standards required to keep our country secure."
The Website advertises "not simply a 'private security company.' "We are a
professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability
operations firm who provides turnkey solutions. We assist with the development
of national and global security policies and military transformation plans. We
can train, equip and deploy public safety and military professionals, build
live-fire indoor/outdoor ranges, MOUT facilities and shoot houses, create
ground and aviation operations and logistics support packages, develop and
execute canine solutions for patrol and explosive detection, and can design and
build facilities both domestically and in austere environments abroad." One
could easily read this as an appeal to Congress to direct the entire military
budget away from the Pentagon and toward Blackwater? Indeed, Prince has donated
$200,000 to the Republican Party. (FACING SOUTH)
Coincidentally, Blackwater ranks first among 140 private security contractors
in Iraq. And its employees have killed more Iraqis than its rivals. (NY Times
September 27) The estimated worth of its contracts there runs about $300
million. Why not?
Blackwater advertises itself as "the most responsive, cost-effective means of
affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom
and democracy everywhere."
Indeed, mercenaries have become "the fastest-growing industry in the global
economy." The Independent quotes Peter Singer, a security analyst with the
Brookings Institution in Washington, who calculated that "security contractors"
make more than $120 billion annually. They have operations in at least 50
"The rate of growth in the security industry has been phenomenal," says
Deborah Avant, a professor of political science at UCLA. The single largest
spur to this boom is the conflict in Iraq."
The Los Angeles Times estimated the number of employees belonging to US
military contractors in Iraq at 182,000, 22,000 more than the 160,000 US troops
there. 21,000 are US citizens.
As of July 1, more than 1000 of these "contractors had died; almost 12,000
were wounded. (Reuters July 4, 2007)
Scrutiny for this privatized violence came about because of the September 16
killings of Iraqi civilians carried out by Blackwater Security employees in
Baghdad. Even the US puppet government responded in anger to the slaying and
wounding of what they claim are as many as 28 civilians--
including small children. Heavily armed Blackwater guards fired from armored
cars and then called in Blackwater helicopters to blast the residents with more
firepower from the air. Iraqi investigators claim they have a videotape that
shows Blackwater USA guards opened fire against the civilians without
provocation, claimed a senior Iraqi official. (AP September 22, 2007)
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki responded to the public outcry by demanding
that Blackwater and its 1,000 plus armed private army leave. He declared the
Blackwater thugs' behavior "a flagrant assault" and a crime that outraged the
Iraqi people. He then "banned" Blackwater from Iraq.
Less than three days later, however, Maliki's puppet masters in Washington
notified him that they would not allow him to expel Blackwater, whose absence
would leave "a security vacuum" in Baghdad. "If we drive out or expel this
company immediately there will be a security vacuum that will demand pulling
some troops that work in the field so that we can protect these institutes,"
Iraqi government spokesman Tahseen al-Sheikhly obediently informed a press
To cover up the issue of "sovereignty," however, Washington agreed to
"investigate allegations" that Blackwater thugs had shot down Iraqi civilians
in cold blood. In the meantime, Blackwater heavies returned to their "guard"
duties protecting US officials.
Iraqis have learned that the US private forces act with impunity.
Not one of the approximately 48,000 private military thugs in Iraq has been
convicted of a crime. A 2004 edict by proconsul Jerry Bremer removed these
"contractors" from Iraqi court jurisdiction. Neither the Iraqi nor the US
government has kept formal records about how many Iraqis have died or been
wounded by Blackwater gunslingers and their fellow "security" guards.
The Independent quoted a high-ranking US military commander:
"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." (Independent Sept. 21, 2007)
The mass media downplayed the fact that Abu Ghraib translators and as many as
half of its interrogators came from this private war sector. Nor did they
widely report that "contractors" pay far better wages than the Pentagon offers
to US troops; so it should be surprising to find "hired soldiers" training and
doing war-gaming -- before the Iraq invasion.
Private contractors built Camp Doha in Kuwait, which Bush used as his
launch-pad for the 2003 invasion.
Without Blackwater and the other 179 "private contractors" who "help" the US
military by providing "logistical support" and "security services," the
President might have to call for 160,000 more troops for Iraq. That would mean
he'd have to demand a draft.
But not to worry! Modern Republicans masquerading as conservatives stand for
privatizing everything --
even military activities. When Darth Vader served as Defense Secretary under
Bush the First he began the "efficiency" move to cut troops and increase
private contractor roles for military operations. Indeed, Cheney displayed an
almost genetic weakness for using private rather than public enterprise,
especially as profit-making killers.
Coincidentally, Halliburton, which Cheney moved on to lead as CEO, became a
major recipient of such contracts. Clinton continued this Republican, rational
approach to war in the former Yugoslavia. (See Jeremy Scahill's, Blackwater:
the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army)
Democrats might begin to use imagination as well, a better use of their body
functions than hand wringing, and expose the mercenary quality of Bush's war.
By laying out the mercenaries' bloody record in Iraq and then presenting the
tens of billons the taxpayers shell out to these murderers, the Democrats could
demand a real cut in the military budget. Just lop off the amount spent on
"contractors." Hey, they could still claim they support the troops and accuse
the Republicans of supporting the mercenaries!
Saul Landau writes a regular column for CounterPunch and progresoweekly.com.
His new Counterpunch Press book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His new film, WE
DON'T PLAY GOLF HERE (on globalization in Mexico) won the VIDEOFEST 2007 Award
for best activist video. The event was held in October at the Roxie Theater.
The film is available through [EMAIL PROTECTED]
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