Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blackwater gets U.S. justice for 2007 Iraq killings

Sedulous readers will recall my opposition to private military contractors, (aka mercenaries), or at least our increasing reliance on them to do jobs the U.S. Military used to do for itself, such as security, logistics and even intelligence.

Why? Because in Iraq and Afghanistan, they haven't been subject to local law, military discipline or the chain of command. They are almost a law unto themselves. 

I also argue they're bad for morale, what with their fat paychecks while our troops' families back home depend on food stamps to survive. And strategically, it's dangerous for our military to lose capabilities it once had and become dependent on outside contractors. 

We do know why the explosive growth in mercenaries though, since 2001: 

  1) They don't count as "troops" that we should care about when generals or politicians talk about U.S. forces overseas; 

  2) None of us has to mourn them when they die or hang a yellow ribbon to keep them safe; 

  3) They are a great way for Republicans to hand out government cheese and re-collect it in the form of campaign contributions (Blackwater alone has collected more than $1 billion in U.S. Government contracts, many of them non-compete); and

  4) There isn't a single government service that Republicans don't want to privatize or outsource, as the eight year of Dubya-Cheney's regime proved.

U.S. mercenaries caused tragedy in September 2007, when a group of Americans from Blackwater, LLC opened fire at a crowded Baghdad intersection and killed 17 innocent Iraqi civilians and seriously wounded 20 others. I posted about it then, writing:

When Blackwater's highly-paid mercenaries indiscriminately shoot and kill innocent Iraqis, the Iraqi people don't know it was mercenaries who did it, they think it was U.S. soldiers. Mercenaries in Iraq are harming the mission of our real troops by turning the Iraqis against America.

Blackwater is a deadly menace, and yet another blight on America's image as our real soldiers try to win hearts and minds in Iraq. 

Or as I've said before in more sanguine terms, it's hard to "win hearts and minds" when you're shooting them in the head and chest. This has always been the fundamental contradiction of America's occupations, er, counter-insurgency efforts  in Afghanistan and Iraq. We call these places "wars" but we also "liberated" their people who we're trying to help while fighting them. 

Even now I hear hot-air pundits like Limbaugh and Hannity say we "lost" Iraq after gaining territory here or there, as if it was a conventional fight to take and hold ground from the Nazis. 

Anyhow... finally justice has been done for some of the Blackwater killers, in the U.S.: Three were found guilty of manslaughter and one of first-degree murder.

And as for Blackwater, well... like many PMCs, they change their name as often as most people change jobs. It went from Blackwater Worldwide to Xe Services, LLC to Academi, LLC and most recently, through a merger with a rival, to Constellis Holdings. Check out Blackwater's detailed but murky history here, including other U.S. federal charges against Blackwater, and its cozy connections with Republicans and even the Family Research Council

I'll leave you with this this beaut [emphasis mine]:

[T]he State Department's chief investigator [of Blackwater] reported being threatened by a Blackwater official in Iraq in August 2007. The investigator said project manager Daniel Carroll told him "that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq."

With such an attitude, it's not surprising that a few weeks later Blackwater killed and wounded all those Iraqis. Good thing somebody could and did do something about it!

By Dan Roberts 
October 22, 2014 | Guardian

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