Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BLACKWATER....Well, this should be interesting:

The Iraqi government said today it had revoked the license of Blackwater USA, a private security company that guards U.S. Embassy personnel in Iraq, following a shootout in downtown Baghdad on Sunday that left at least nine people dead.

....The Iraqi government's position toward Blackwater set up a confrontation with the U.S. government over what legal authority governs the behavior of private security contractors here. Blackwater, which has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, plays a high-profile role because it guards U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and other diplomats.

....It was not immediately clear whether Iraq or the United States holds the authority to regulate Blackwater's operations....Lawrence T. Peter, the director of the Private Security Company Association Iraq, said that Blackwater was licensed by the Interior Ministry. But Blackwater acknowledged as recently as two months ago that a license it obtained in 2005 had lapsed, and the company was having trouble getting the license renewed.

The Bush administration can't be happy about this order. But the Maliki government is already hanging by a thread, and forcing them to back down on this after they've already gone public could deal them a death blow. Maybe there's a quiet compromise of some kind available here, but it looks to me like Blackwater needs to pack its bags.

Kevin Drum 2:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (100)

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Comments

$100 that Blackwater packs exactly 0 bags....

Posted by: Chris on September 17, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you're being overly optimistic. You don't think bushco is going to let them kick out a contractor, do you? Not even with a quiet compromise. Next they'll think they can run their own country.

Posted by: tomeck on September 17, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Chris, I think Blue Girl agrees with you.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 17, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ya gotta wonder what the soldiers and the US population would think if they knew what really went on re: Blackwater et al.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on September 17, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is the US State Department doing employing mercenaries to provide its security? If memory serves me right, that task is the duty of the United States Marine Corps.

The US Government has an Armed Forces at its command. It has no business whatsoever employing mercenaries. That it does so is sad indication of the failure that is Iraq, despite all the happy talk of the warfloggers.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said... "American officials want to get to the bottom of the incident. We take this very seriously, and we are launching a full investigation in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities," Nantongo said.

I'm sure the dead Iraqis feel much better now.

Posted by: tomeck on September 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Interesting, since not two months ago Maliki publicly commended Blackwater's work in Iraq.

Which is it, Maliki? Are they the "proud son's and daughters of capitalism fighting for freedom" or are they getting their license revoked? Can't have it broth ways.

This is just another attempt by Bush haters to deal a little embarrasement to the President. Hey, why not. It's not like lives are on the line.

Posted by: egbert on September 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe there's a quiet compromise of some kind available here

Following on to my earlier comment, why should there be a "quiet compromise of some kind"? The mere presence of mercenaries, let alone the circumstances that require them, undermines the legitimacy of the so-called sovereign government of Iraq.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Here is the broken Blue Girl link. I hope it works. She has been following this story all day.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 17, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Since a whole city was destroyed in retaliation for the execution of a few of the Blackwater scum in Iraq, I doubt any order from any Iraqi puppet government will have any effect on their 'mission' to kill Iraqis for W. Bush and John Hansen.

Posted by: Brojo on September 17, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe there's a quiet compromise of some kind available here, but it looks to me like Blackwater needs to pack its bags.

I think you're wrong Kevin. This is a rash decision made without careful thought and the deadly consequences which may follow from it. Blackwater provides security for many important officials of the Iraqi government and our 136 allies in Iraq. I have no doubt General Petraeus could convince the Iraqi government could change its mind if he is given the chance.

Posted by: Al on September 17, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraqi government isn't empowered to rescind someone's right to sell ice cream let alone operate death squads.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 17, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

136 allies

Is that the total number of people the "36 countries" have on the ground in Iraq? Makes sense.

We all have known for a long time that the idea of a "sovereign Iraqi nation" is a sham. The idea of us being there at the "sovereign Iraqi government's request" is another sham. This will prove it. My guess is Maliki did this to try to prove he has some autonomy but he overplayed his hand, badly.

Posted by: Joshua on September 17, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

The link is still broken. I have no idea why. Here it is http://proctoringcongress.blogspot.com/2007/09/blackwater-update.html#more

From now on she can post her own darn links.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 17, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Ya gotta wonder what the soldiers and the US population would think if they knew what really went on re: Blackwater et al. Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08

I think our military personnel in Iraq are more than aware of what kind of Wild West shit Blackwater gets up to. To quote Johnny Upton in Slapshot, "It's fucking embarrassing."

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Unless they're kicking out the individual employees, we'll soon see the new WaterBlack security company, where everyone gets a new set of business cards and that's it. Maybe they'll get a new logo, but let's not go crazy here.

Posted by: ericblair on September 17, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all Chickenhawks to Me - by Elmo (MP3)

(If you have trouble with the link right click and "save target as")

Posted by: elmo on September 17, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

but it looks to me like Blackwater needs to pack its bags.

Gawd, I hope so. And I hope they are forced to close their Midwest training camp that they are building here in IL.

Posted by: Disputo on September 17, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

What kind of company names itself Blackwater anyway? Sounds like a name from a bad spy novel.

Posted by: JJF on September 17, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

What Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 2:29 PM said.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on September 17, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Which is it, Maliki? Are they the "proud son's and daughters of capitalism fighting for freedom" or are they getting their license revoked? Can't have it broth ways.

Why not? It's their country. In theory their government should be able to do exactly as it likes.

In practice, of course, things might be very different. However I'm not convinced this will have no effect on Blackwater. If large portions of the Shiite population become convinced that Blackwater is a menace then you could have a situation where Iraqi security forces start direct combat engagement with Blackwater mercenaries.

Posted by: ANM on September 17, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone listen to Elmo's song at once. Outstanding, elmo!

Posted by: shortstop on September 17, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think Blackwater falls under Bush's Executive Order of August 2003 (#13303), which pretty much grants American firms immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.

For an administration that planned practically nothing prior to occupying Iraq, they sure had this bit covered.

Blackwater will stay. Otherwise, one of Bush or Cheney's cronies will lose money, and that is unacceptable.

Posted by: Stranger on September 17, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is the US State Department doing employing mercenaries to provide its security? If memory serves me right, that task is the duty of the United States Marine Corps.

The USMC provides defense of the grounds only, unless extreme circumstances arise. Nor are they trained to provide defense of individuals, aka bodyguards.

https://www.msgbn.usmc.mil/?pg=company/pub/about/default.htm

The State Dept has a security service. Wiki it.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

PS - Never thought about it before, but did they name themselves after the Doobie Brothers song?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on September 17, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

...following a shootout in downtown Baghdad on Sunday that left at least nine people dead.

Undoubtedly this is some of that security that Petraeus was trumpeting last week.

what legal authority governs the behavior of private security contractors here

Would none be an accurate assessment?

Posted by: ckelly on September 17, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

This makes a nice bookend to the Walter Pincus story in the Washington Post today -- you know, the one about how the government is looking to dramatically increase hiring of contractors for Iraq since half of our support troops have been shifted to combat roles to deal with the increased insurgency attacks?

Posted by: Rick on September 17, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Tilli and JJF,

Blackwater was founded by former Navy SEALs. "Blackwater" = the dark waters the SEALs swim out of. Okay?

Posted by: hotrod on September 17, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone listen to Elmo's song at once. Outstanding, elmo! Posted by: shortstop

Clever, but I can't tell if it's made better or worse by using a Billy Joel melody.

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Blackwater" also refers to untreated, not yet desalinated sea water. Think "unfit for human consumption" as a mnemonic device.

Posted by: shortstop on September 17, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone listen to Elmo's song at once. Outstanding, elmo!

Thanks shortstop...thank ya very much!

Posted by: elmo on September 17, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Clever, but I can't tell if it's made better or worse by using a Billy Joel melody

I know, but elmo is damn cool. He even knows what HNT is.

Posted by: shortstop on September 17, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

This story fits into the Greenspan stories, too, in a way. The tax cuts would have had a much less serious effect on the deficits without the Iraq war and the mercenaries would have reaped the benefits of the security contracts in Iraq had the oil revenues been sufficient to cover the costs of the war. All that money and no oversight must have had Cheney so excited they had to have him sedated.

It was quite a plan. Of course, like so much else in this administration, planning is one thing and execution quite another.

Posted by: TJM on September 17, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "The Bush administration can't be happy about this order. But the Maliki government is already hanging by a thread, and forcing them to back down on this after they've already gone public could deal them a death blow."

The so-called Iraqi government controls no territory that isn't within the immediate firing range of American boots on the ground, and thus exists only in the minds of the Bush administration.

Therefore, how does one deliver a death blow to something so ethereal in nature, except to light a match and blow the place up?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 17, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Blackwater" also refers to untreated, not yet desalinated sea water. Think "unfit for human consumption" as a mnemonic device. Posted by: shortstop

Only if you are talking to my friend Shuhei - "This water look blackish (brackish)." Or, "I'm going buy some new brack Diesel jeans today at Nordstrom."

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hannah Arendt believed that the primary goal of what she called the "imperialist bourgeoisie" was to take over the state’s monopoly of violence and use it to achieve the economic ends- more markets and more resources- outside of the nation-state. I used to think this was overwrought and confused but the Bush administration has made her work prescient. The problem with privatized violence is that it is directed against the internal democratic politics of the state. If there is anything we can say of the Cheney Regency and all that it has allowed it is that power, state power, can be used for essentially private ends without public oversight or input, from the people or the mandarin bureaucracy.

Posted by: bellumregio on September 17, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Nor are they trained to provide defense of individuals, aka bodyguards.

Oh, bullshit. That'd mean that Marine Generals travel around with -- and have always traveled around with -- no security at all, and that notion just defies imagination. The Marines are perfectly capable of providing security to a convoy; they do it all the time, and the midst of a civil war sounds like a sufficiently extreme circumstance to warrant it.

The point stands that the United States Government has no business employing mercenaries, and that the evidently have to seems like a pretty extreme fucking circumstance.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Moveon apply directly to the war
Moveon apply directly to the war
Moveon apply directly to the war

If Blackwater leaves Betrayous will have to review before next March and it will end the US Military drawdown

which door will they choose

Posted by: Katherine Graham Cracker on September 17, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK
I think Blackwater falls under Bush's Executive Order of August 2003 (#13303), which pretty much grants American firms immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.

I think you're right, Stranger.

However, it does not provide them immunity from this:

If large portions of the Shiite population become convinced that Blackwater is a menace then you could have a situation where Iraqi security forces start direct combat engagement with Blackwater mercenaries.

Which could become a problem ...

Posted by: kenga on September 17, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

. . . the mandarin bureaucracy. Posted by: bellumregio

That's the problem, we don't have a mandarin bureacracy - the SOB ends up spinning endlessly in the wind every time a new department head is appointed by the president. This is understandable for certain departments, but when you put political stooges in charge of one like FEMA, you're way off the tracks.

To see how a reliable less-politicized (though not necessarily hermetically-sealed) bureaucracy functions, you must look to Japan and France. A government may fall apart, but never the state.

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, bullshit.
Posted by: Gregory

Geez, I even threw you a bone via a link to the USMC's exact mission wrt to the State Department. Allow me to quote...

MSGs focus on the interior security of a diplomatic post's building(s). In only the most extreme emergency situations are they authorized duties exterior to the building(s) or to provide special protection to the senior diplomatic officer off of the diplomatic compound. MSGs carry a certain level of diplomatic immunity in the performance of their official duties.

The point stands that the United States Government has no business employing mercenaries, and that the evidently have to seems like a pretty extreme fucking circumstance.

Mercenaries to fight their war? I agree.

Security details? Rent-a-cops are all over the government, including lots of military bases here in CONUS. The DoS recently let a contract for security services and personal protection for 27 of their embassies.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Even if Blackwater does pull out they'll simply sub-contract their mercs to another security company at a fat premium which will go on our bill.

The real story here is that the strong-on-defense Republican administration has to hire mercs because our uniformed forces are insufficient in number to do the job in Iraq. They've known this for a few years now and yet they've done nothing about it.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 17, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well no wonder Bush doesn't understand what sovereign means. Iraq is the basis of his understanding.

Posted by: Ferruge on September 17, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Way to miss the point, Mike. I called bullshit -- obviously -- on your claim that the Marines are not trained to provide security for individuals.

I pointed out, and you did not contest, that the Marines clearly do provide security for their officers, and their own various convoys, so don't try to imply they couldn't play a similar role in Iraq -- again, a pretty fucking extreme circumstance thanks to the incompetence of the Party you succor. That dog won't hunt, Mike.

But them, you're obviosuly pretty sanguine with the notion that the United States government outsources its security duties, so it's hjardly surprising you'd stoop to dishonesty -- yet again -- it its defense.

You recently showed yourself capable of embarrassment, so it's amazing that you'd relate the US employing mercenaries on a wholesale basis with not the slightest evidence of the appropriate shock, outrage or dismay.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Dobbs: "If you're the police, where are your badges?"
Gold Hat Blackwater: "Badges!? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!!"

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 17, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

The real story here is that the strong-on-defense Republican administration has to hire mercs because our uniformed forces are insufficient in number to do the job in Iraq. They've known this for a few years now and yet they've done nothing about it. Posted by: Dennis - SGMM

What so stupid about this is that costs more to contract this than simply to up the number of active duty personnel to fill the same positions.

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, I stand corrected on the Marines' official role of guarding physical structures, as pointed out by Mike.

That fact, however, does not come close to justifying the US governemnt employing mercenaries.

Posted by: Gregory on September 17, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

What so stupid about this is that costs more to contract this than simply to up the number of active duty personnel to fill the same positions.

Blood from a turnip.

Posted by: shortstop on September 17, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Blackwater needs to pack its bags"...No way!..Even if there were to be some sort of face-saving event where this outfit gets "kicked out", they'll probably use one of their overseas shell corporations as the contractor of record to keep the money-tap flowing. Get set for all of those mercenaries to start working for a company with a name like "SchwartzWasser", based in Palau or somewhere like that.

And if that happens, this will probably mean some additional opportunities for Blackwater to screw the US out of corporate taxes. Changing the company stationary costs money, doncha know.

Posted by: oh_please on September 17, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory @ 3:12 - Amen!

A couple other thoughts. I wonder how many troops & mercenaries combined we have on the ground in Iraq? Also how many sailors. airmen, & marines sitting offshore waiting for a call to action? I would bet enough to inflate the official 160,000 number considerably.

And 4 years later, the Iraqi government cannot muster up enough security people to protect their own politicians so they must hire American mercenaries, yet according to Bush, they are meeting some benchmarks? Progress? I think not.

Posted by: bob in fl on September 17, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Without going into specifics, the setup of the blackwater personnel in Iraq is designed to increase the chance that we will have to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will be favorable to the Iraqis. They are trying to gain leverage with the US by targeting for exclusion the most prominent of the actual "shooting" mercenary companies. This is all bluster--if they were serious about kicking them out, the Iraqi government would already be in exile and would already have tens of thousands of ex-Russian special forces types already in place. Wouldn't that be the battle royal? All those ex-Russian special forces guys need cash, too.

Blackwater is, for all intents and purposes, a "mercenary" company. They hire from international sources all the sort of people that, for the most part, couldn't even get into the United States to work in Iraq. Their dealings are kept secret for a reason--they don't want the US public to know who they're paying to send to Iraq and they don't want to be held accountable.

If you recall, the company Custer Battles was just eviscerated with fines; could blackwater stand up to that kind of scrutiny? Probably not.

You pull 20,000 blackwater employees out of Iraq and you'll have to find 30,000 US troops to fill the security gap they will create. You'll have to pull troops out of every nook and cranny and send people to Iraq that we have no business sending. You'll have to find MPs and what few Special Forces trained people are left in the Reserves to send.

Why? Because virtually everyone with an SF or Ranger tab has been getting out to go work for blackwater. Shut down blackwater and some of the most highly trained people in the history of our military will suddenly feel a slight bit of resentment and disgust for the people who just cut them off from their lucrative paychecks.

Mercenarie? To the nth degree...

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Also how many sailors. airmen, & marines sitting offshore waiting for a call to action? I would bet enough to inflate the official 160,000 number considerably. Posted by: bob in fl

I guess you haven't been following the story much. Stop-loss orders ring a bell?

The U.S. military, more precisely the Army and the Marines, are tapped-out. We don't have thousands of spare folk cooling their heels for a contingency like replacing Blackwater's mercenaries or in holding to invade Iran. Pretty much everyone that is available for duty in Iraq is there, just came home or awaiting orders for, in some cases, their fourth tour there.

Posted by: JeffII on September 17, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

And don't let the door hit them in the ass on the way out.

Wasn't it cowboying by Blackwater that led to the Fallujah incident?

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 17, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, let's teach them flyboys and skimmers to shoot a rifle and send them into action.

Posted by: Disputo on September 17, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Why am I not surprised that someone who laughs at the deaths of innocent women and children would be defending the use of hired killers by the State Department. Sure, the idiocy of hiring out security rather than using our bloated military is a bipartisan one, but that doesn't absolve Bush of attempting to fight "WWIV" on the cheap.

Yes, it was Blackwater mercenaries whose deaths resulted in an attack that cost the United States another 40 Marine lives. The faux outrage over the deaths of four hired killers would be funny given the terrorist attack on Baghdad (called appropriately enough "Shock and Awe") using more than 500 bombs in a failed attempt to assassinate that nation's ruler, but only a sociopathic goon finds slaughter and more slaughter amusing.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

In an npr ATC interview it was stated that "blackwater" is the name of the region of South Carolina where the company Blackwater has its 7500 acre training facility. Black water is the salty organic water that fills any hole you dig in that region.

Blackwater is in the news? Oh goody!

Posted by: slanted tom on September 17, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Why am I not surprised that someone who laughs at the deaths of innocent women and children would be defending the use of hired killers by the State Department.

Who would that be?

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and here is a fun fact about Black Water :

wastewater from toilets, garbage disposal, and industrial processes.
Which is not a synonym for brackish.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Blackwater is named after the color of water in that region, and also the Blackwater River and Blackwater Swamp which are all in or near Northeastern NC.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

As digby astutely observed, Blackwater will disband and reform under a new name with the same employees. How about Whitewater? heh. Hillary would love that!

Posted by: Dawn on September 17, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

And yet given the fact that it is the name of a company whose hired killers have provoked the razing of a city, the deaths of more than forty marines and their expulsion from Iraq owing to their apparent policy of wanton murder - it seems rather fitting that their name is synonymous with waste water from toilets.

But there is hope for these goons. As many others have already commented, they won't really be leaving. They will simply reorganize and be back under "new" ownership. Much like Cheney's history of trading with Hussein through cutouts.

Never imagine that the Weak On National Security Republicans and the swaggering jingos who support them will allow anything to get in the way of their glorious slaughter of foreigners.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Blackwater isn't going anywhere. al-Maliki has no way to enforce the order. Two BW links for your enjoyment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cJlJudDtVE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N83BdpNPvgw

Posted by: ww on September 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

And yet given the fact that it is the name of a company whose hired killers have provoked the razing of a city...

It was the *deaths* of the company's employees that provoked the razing of the city. It was the sight of their dead and mutilated bodies strung up from bridge girders that led to the follow-on combat.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is just the *beginning* in a tit-for-tat struggle between Maliki and the US Government. His coalition is very thin now which only includes his party and the Kurds. It may not be immediately substantive (i.e.-Blackwater isn't going to just jump up and all leave en masse) but I think this is possibly building up to his government telling us to get out (as a primarily political weapon-in extremis) in order to bring back people that have left his coalition, such as Fadhila and the Sadrists, and possibly some Sunnis. The nationalist appeal is geared to sandbag the possibility of Allawi getting a coalition that will replace Maliki.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 17, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

The limited number of troops is certainly one of the reasons contractors were hired to fight, organize and supply the Iraq war. The Cheney Regency also puts a high value on rewarding their supporters with government contracts. But privatization across the board gives them room to maneuver and room to avoid government oversight and even laws. Dick Cheney would prefer to run everything, including wars, without public input but on the public dime. Movement conservatism with its think tanks and private contractors has tried to create what amounts to a private pool of governmental expertise parallel to the mandarin university and liberal democratic, or republican if you like, government (yes I know it is seriously ailing these days). Their loyalties are not to the nation but to ideology, their careers and ultimately to their employers. The war in Iraq should be seen as a product of the AEI and the ideology that is fostered there, not as an American war of American national interest.

The contractors embody an unseemly lack of civic spirit and national purpose. When movement conservatives say they are at war with the state and everything it stands for they mean it. They want to replace republics and democracy and any semblance of mutual assurance with their own centralized power. It is, after all, what security demands.

Posted by: bellumregio on September 17, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

It may be the beginning of the end of the global appeal of Anarcho and Crony Capitalism.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 17, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just dead Iraqis over there. Citizens of western countries have relatives there who are dying and they aren't US soldiers or US mercenaries. I had a student whose 15-year old cousin was shot dead in the street over there, he says for nothing. I couldn't offer him any consolation, and I sure as hell couldn't defend the shooting under the circumstances.

How would you like some mercenary to shoot up your relatives? Take a good look at a fellow citizen on the street next time and you may see someone in that position.

Posted by: Bob M on September 17, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

It is odd that the deaths of four murderers for hire should cause the razing of a city but the placement of 500+ bombs in the capital city in an attempt to assassinate the head of state is not, in fact, an act of terrorism, but an act of "self-defense".

I guess if you are the kind of coward who would mock the death of innocent victims of an extra-judicial murder (while I'm sure SJRSM is a different poster, there was some sick thug who compared it to a venereal disease) that make sense. In the real world the deaths of innocents is a far greater crime than killing armed thugs who have invaded your nation.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

If Blackwater finds a way to stay then Iraq's government is nothing more than a puppet of the U.S. and has no legitimacy and nothing any U.S. soldier should be dying for.

If they go, the surge comes to a grinding halt because the military will have to take up much of the duties Blackwater was carrying, perhaps even increase the number of troops in Iraq. I doubt if U.S diplomats are going top let Iraqis guard them.

Between a rock and hard place so to speak...

Posted by: Sean Scallon on September 17, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Heavy, these men that you equate to "wastewater from toilets, garbage disposal, and industrial processes...waste water from toilets" were Americans. All four were former vets who had served more than honorably, one a Navy SEAL and three Army Rangers.

Their mission the day they were shot, burned, dragged through the streets behind cars, decapitated and dismembered, and hung up for viewing from bridge girders by electric wire, was to "escort three flatbed trucks for a European food service company called ESS to a U.S. military base west of Fallujah, a city of 280,000 about 35 miles west of Baghdad." These are jobs that the military contract out for, right or wrong. They all left family behind.

The men, Zovko, Scott Helvenston, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague worked on contract for Blackwater USA of Moyock, N.C., each earning about $600 a day to escort food convoys and ESS workers." Not hunt down bad guys.

Here is their story.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Blackwater is a monied stakeholder in George and Dick's tragic adventure, empowered beyond belief with "privatized military services" ----likely transmitting in a macho way the vibe of U.S. military superiority and imperialistic ways.
No crackdown by the Justice Department for corrupt or questionable practices of this overseas company.
That's probably why Iraq reacted.
THIS WAR MUST END.

Posted by: consider wisely always hopefully on September 17, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm sure the Iraqi's thought they told Blackwater to get lost, but after a few phonecalls from US embassy this afternoon, I'm sure they'll understand that they misspoke. Poor guys think they actually control their own country.

Posted by: jonas on September 17, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

they should just change their name to Whitewater... how fucking ironic would that be

Posted by: mrt on September 17, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

"The war in Iraq should be seen as a product of the AEI and the ideology that is fostered there,.."

If you replace "fostered" with "festered" you're closer to the truth.


It wouldn't matter if every Blackwater employee was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient: mercenaries are reviled in every nation in every historical era for good reason. They are virtually always beyond the reach of any semblance of true control, and in the aggregate have a long historical record across the world of excessive brutality, even by wartime standards. That they fight primarily for money, not for country or creed, engenders especial contempt among the foreign populations they're amongst.

With respect to Iraq, Blackwater employees are particularly hated by Iraqis for their swaggering contempt for any and all local customs, bullying arrogance, and inclination to pull out the heavy artillery at the slightest sign of trouble. Sooner or later, Blackwater and all other mercenaries in Iraq will become very tempting targets for Iraqi insurgents.

Sure, not all mercs in Iraq are like the worst that Blackwater can offer, but as with anything else all you need is a small percentage of thugs to poison the well. Or water.

Posted by: bluestatedon on September 17, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

I was in Iraq in 2006 as a DoS employee that used Blackwater Personal Security Details (PSDs). They hired former USMIL personnel to provide the service. They were always professional, and provided the best service because there are not enough DoS Diplomatic Security personnel to provide the required service. The mission of the PSD is different then the USMIL. PSDs are defensive and reactionary. They do not, and are trained to not, seek confrontation, esp. if it does not "win the hearts and minds". Friends of mine have been protected by Blackwater personnel when they came under fire by AIF; with one getting shot by a .50 cal round through a concrete wall and his PPE.

Before you keyboard warriors start attacking, let at least an investigation occur. The Regional Security Officer will do a through and fair assessment, for he is not a political appointee, but a Foreign Service Office.

Posted by: tex1984 on September 17, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Poor "RSM" or whatever he calls himself.

What a false equivocation:

Their mission the day they were shot, burned, dragged through the streets behind cars, decapitated and dismembered, and hung up for viewing from bridge girders by electric wire, was to "escort three flatbed trucks for a European food service company called ESS to a U.S. military base west of Fallujah, a city of 280,000 about 35 miles west of Baghdad." These are jobs that the military contract out for, right or wrong. They all left family behind.

First of all, they were each making about $219,000 a year to do what E3s and E4s have done every day of this war for the last four and a half years for sometimes less than $19,000 a year, and the deaths of anyone engaged in hostilities in Iraq are a tragedy, no matter what. I don't accept that they "got what was coming to them" but don't sit there and make it some selfless and noble pursuit to take $219K per year to wear a gun overseas for a private company. They were professionals and they knew the risks.

The lawsuit AGAINST blackwater is about whether they were given the right gear and the right force protection. Clearly, they weren't.

Between your ridiculously jingoistic paean to their noble cause and the makes-me-want-to-retch comments about how these men deserved to die because they were the personification of some evil, I don't know exactly where the truth lies.

What a shitty outlook for all parties concerned. It's a tragedy that anyone has to die in Iraq, and that takes me back to the root of the argument--should we have gone there in the first place? No. Is it worth staying? No. Is Iraq worth another life? No.

I don't care if they were escorting Saddam's gold or a pile of wool blankets for the homeless--that they had to be there at all is a failure to anticipate what this war was really about and how shitty it could turn out to be. Hey--I was right about the war in March 2003--when do I get to go on Meet the Press? I was right about it since day one and pretty much everything I have been saying has come true, unfortunately. When do I get to take the seat of some jackass who has been wrong about everything since before anyone can remember?

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have the story SJRSM, for the woman and child killed because they happened to be near the victim of a bombing plot? Do you think those two innocents who were torn limb from limb by American ordinance didn't a family? Or are you in agreement with that sociopath who suggested that they got what they deserved because they were too close to a suspected criminal?

What about the 40 or so Marines that were killed in the little revenge spree that followed? I guess they didn't have families either?

And how many of the victims of the March 19, 2003 terrorist bombings of Baghdad do you have links for so I can read their stories? Do you even know how many there were? How many of them were getting $600 a day to kill anyone who got in their way?

A humanitarian whose only concern is for those like him isn't a humanitarian. The Iraqi victims of George W. Bush's unprovoked assault have families too. Why should I feel more for American victims of Bush's war than I do for the his more numerous Iraqi victims?

See, this is the problem with playing the sympathy card. You have to have some kind of moral high ground to make it stick. The characters in your little morality play weren't innocents. They made a choice to take part in a war against the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people weren't given a choice.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm not sure where the "comments about how these men deserved to die because they were the personification of some evil" are. I certainly haven't said anything about anyone deserving to die. Anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to point me to something I posted defending their murder or welcoming their deaths.

There is a huge difference between 1) providing context for hired killers being killed by comparing that to the slaughter of innocents and 2) saying someone deserved to die.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Between your ridiculously jingoistic paean to their noble cause and the makes-me-want-to-retch comments about how these men deserved to die because they were the personification of some evil, I don't know exactly where the truth lies.

The truth is these fellow Americans, who weren't over there as hired killers but instead were contracted out to escort NGAs around Iraq, don't deserve to be equated to "the waste water from toilets". Since none of you had the integrity or decency to point out to heavy how disgusting those comments were, I did. And if I hadn't said it, it would never have been said.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 17, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I bet the Saudis could tell poor old Maliki some real horror stories about US occupation and oilfield control. Something along the lines of "never let the US set-up a military base in your country because once they get a hold of your oil - they think it's all theirs and they will label it "our vital national interest" or "our economic security".

Do the Bushies really give a rats *ss about Iraqi democracy - I bet not.

Posted by: Me_again on September 17, 2007 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think the first comment is correct. Blackwater ain't going anywhere. Who's going to make them? The Iraqi military? The police? They don't have the power.

Posted by: Shawn on September 17, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Since none of you had the integrity or decency to point out to heavy how disgusting those comments were, I did. And if I hadn't said it, it would never have been said.

Oh, whatever. False indignation much? I DID condemn those type of comments and if I spent all day doing that I'd tear my hair out. I ignore the vast majority of these comments because I think they're planted there by freepers to run up a false flag on these threads. I watch them do it all the time on various blogs; they also get caught all the time doing it. The blog Jesus' General has caught freepers posting outrageous leftist rants and threats against the President--they traced the IPs back to young Republicans. Comments like "toilet water" don't pass the smell test.

And your comment about "these fellow Americans" is certainly true in the case of these men who died a horrible death no one should suffer; however, regardless of their nationality--ALL life has meaning. We tend to forget that. If there's one great ethical lesson of war, one great teaching moment, it might be that no matter who dies or what color they are, all deaths are tragic in their own way. Killing bad guys and killing good guys--depends on which side you're on. What is the value of a human life then? And if you kill all the bad guys, does the war automatically stop? We've done a lot of killing and I don't see us one day closer to the end of this war.

Blackwater is a company run by a right wing conservative Christian; that does not automatically mean they get condemned but it also doesn't mean we can't criticize what they do. That company has abandoned its responsibilities to these men and they have a track record of shooting up shit; whether its Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever else they've been operating, they have an image problem and a perception problem.

Got strawmen? Jeeeeezus.

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I bet the Saudis could tell poor old Maliki some real horror stories about US occupation and oilfield control. Something along the lines of "never let the US set-up a military base in your country because once they get a hold of your oil - they think it's all theirs and they will label it "our vital national interest" or "our economic security".

How do you figure that, dumbass? We LEFT Saudi Arabia and we have no major military presence there. We pay through the goddamned nose for the oil they sell us. They don't do us any favors. They cut production, they manipulate the prices and they undercut us every chance they get.

The only reason why we're not occupying Saudi instead of Iraq is because of the Bush family ties to the royal family. THe US is getting the shaft in this arrangement, not the Saudis.

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

I've long thought that one way to "kneecap" Bush's war in Iraq was to refuse to fund contract mercenaries. Since the US has to reason moral or practical to emplyee mercenaries it would be easy enough to get people to sign on the the idea of defunding "them" which continuing to fund the army. And without the contractors extending the boots on the ground the army won't be able continue their mission -- whatever that might be

Posted by: beb on September 17, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Mary, when are you going to post the stories of the innocent dead? Not the well paid mercenaries hired to kill, but the innocent Iraqis who were victimized by your glorious little war?

I guess you don't have the integrity or decency to admit you don't really care about human life if they aren't "fellow Americans."

(it isn't my fault Black Water chose such a horrible name - even Gray Water would have been less disgusting)

Pale Rider, I'm curious as to where you found these comments. Mine, rather, reflect the position that life is precious and that concentrating on the deaths of four Americans to the exclusion of the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of Bush's War is immoral.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, I'm curious as to where you found these comments. Mine, rather, reflect the position that life is precious and that concentrating on the deaths of four Americans to the exclusion of the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of Bush's War is immoral.

Uh huh. And you get there by a curious route. ALL life means something, even the lives of the people we disagree with.

This country used to be founded on the rule of law, whereby even the most reprehensible speech and the most reprehensible characters were accorded protections they would never have gotten anywhere in the world. THAT'S the America I miss the most. You're just an extreme version of a wingnut, blinded by a hatred that is misplaced.

I hate the policies and the decisions and the choices and the lies told by the people who run this country; them personally? I could give a shit. I am not blind with rage. My eyes are open and I'm trying to control my rage as best I can. I usually fail. But at least I'm not ridiculous and one-dimensional.

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, you still fail to point to a single post celebrating the deaths of anyone. You can't point to a single place where I said their lives were worthless. I did compare them to the innocents and suggest that those lives were, both by virtue of being innocent and far more numerous, more precious. But that's nowhere near the same thing.

While you recognize Mary's strawmen, you fail to recognize your own. Your ability to mis-characterize my posts rivals hers.

My anger is hardly misplaced. It is towards those like Mary who have done everything in their power to promote death and destruction around the world - even (and in this case especially) when it destroys what is good about America.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, you still fail to point to a single post celebrating the deaths of anyone.

I'll let my htm l do the talking for me.

The faux outrage over the deaths of four hired killers would be funny given the terrorist attack on Baghdad (called appropriately enough "Shock and Awe") using more than 500 bombs in a failed attempt to assassinate that nation's ruler, but only a sociopathic goon finds slaughter and more slaughter amusing.

You have the exact same kind of false indignation as "RSM" but it is expressed through the opposite ideological slant.

Everything you write reads like a freeper trying to throw up a false flag; that's why I ignore you and your ideological antecedents on this blog.

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 17, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

TMP sez...

But under this interpretation, his claim to having worried about the Strait of Hormuz would be, then, either a smokescreen or a particularly spurious recollection.

Yeah, getting on Bushie shit-list means having to make something up to extract yourself - but I'm pretty sure Bush doesn't know where the Strait of Hormuz is, but as for Cheney - that is a different story.

And isn't this "smokescreen" a comment about how nasty this adminisration truly is?


Posted by: Me_again on September 17, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's primary loyalty is to business interests, and Blackwater is certainly part of the Washington crony network.

They stay.

Posted by: Luther on September 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Well good job Pale Rider, you managed to demonstrate that I didn't find the either group of deaths amusing and thought that anyone who did was a sociopathic goon. The attached apology needs work though.

Is your inability to grasp the depth of my sincerity based on the fact that I consider an unprovoked assault on a sovereign nation outrageous? Or perhaps it is because you don't think that using hundreds of bombs in an attempt to assassinate the ruler of a nation is the very definition of a terrorist attack? That is, the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes. Hell, they even called it "Shock and Awe." The fact that this particular act was carried out by guys wearing matching outfits doesn't make it any less an act of terror.

Real human beings died because of this assault. There is no justification for their deaths.

Posted by: heavy on September 18, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

The Blackwater people will be coming home. Their leaders have grafted billions of dollars to be used to promote their political values. Some of America's most dangerous enemies are Blackwater employees, owners and clients. They have the money, the ability and the mentality to create a lot of trouble when the Iraq contract ends and they look for something to do back home. I fear them and wish this type of capitalistic para militarism outlawed. Making mercenaries a growth industry imperils our way of life.

Posted by: Brojo on September 18, 2007 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, everybody, listen to Elmo's song! Link given in Elmo's post, 2:40 PM. Coool, Elmo.


Posted by: nepeta on September 18, 2007 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

Well good job Pale Rider, you managed to demonstrate that I didn't find the either group of deaths amusing and thought that anyone who did was a sociopathic goon. The attached apology needs work though.

Priceless

Posted by: SJRSM on September 18, 2007 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

This graph describes how the Iraqis feel about Blackwater. For the record...

"BAGHDAD (AFP) - Hated by Iraqis who refer to them as "Mossad," Blackwater contractors are also mistrusted by fellow private security guards operating in Iraq who say they are arrogant, rude and dangerous."

Posted by: nepeta on September 18, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Blackwater employees go to Iraq for the money.

US soldiers go to Iraq because W. Bush ordered them there.

Iraqis are in Iraq because it is their home.

Only one of these groups has a legitimate reason for being in Iraq.

Posted by: Brojo on September 18, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

The story in McClatchy newspapers today is bit more detailed:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/19804.html

The witnesses said the shooting began after a convoy of four gray armored vehicles drove into Al Nisour Square, a major intersection in central Baghdad. Iraqi police stopped traffic to let the convoy pass, the witnesses said. One car, however, drove up from behind the traffic to squeeze into a spot at the front. As it did, the security contractors opened fire, the witnesses said.

The young driver was killed instantly, but the shooting continued. The witnesses said they believe a grenade was launched at the car, which burst into flames, killing a young mother and baby in the back seat.

When Iraqi police approached to help the people in the burning car, the contractors started shooting at them. They also shot at a minivan and a bus, the witnesses said.

On Monday, the charred white vehicle where the man, mother and child were said to have died was pushed to the side of the road.

Police said 15 people were wounded. None of the dead and wounded was an armed insurgent, police said.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 18, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

You do not want any Blackwater murderers to be your neighbors. That would be almost as bad as having Ted Nugent as an in-law.

Posted by: Brojo on September 18, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK
….Not hunt down bad guys…. SJRSM at 7:01 PM
Mercenaries with itchy trigger fingers, a license to kill and immunity are the bad guys.
….Before you keyboard warriors start attacking, let at least an investigation occur….tex1984at 8:40 PM
How many 'honest' investigations have their been in Iraq as opposed to cover up investigations? How open and honest is the data coming from the military and the civilian agencies in Iraq? Given the history of the propaganda efforts of the Bush administration of the past 4-plus years of war, no rational person should have any expectation of this being any different. Posted by: Mike on September 18, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Are the Blackwater contractors treated differently for the same crimes than our Soldiers?

Soldiers come home to get courtmartialed for exactly these kinds of Iraqi civilian deaths. (excepting that Soldier who got 90 years for rape). They didn't just get sent home, there were serious charges brought against them and they were submitted to full process.

Will these "contractors", responsible for retalitory civilian deaths, be held to the same accountability that our military is?

Posted by: Zit on September 18, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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