Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BLACKWATER UPDATE....Apparently the Blackwater incident is not settling down:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Wednesday demanded that the U.S. Embassy here replace the private security company Blackwater USA because of its involvement in a weekend shooting incident that reportedly left 11 Iraqis dead.

....At a news conference, an angry Maliki said North Carolina-based Blackwater, which has nearly 1,000 employees in Iraq, was also responsible for six similar shootings since being hired by the U.S. State Department to guard its diplomats after the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003...."This company should be punished," Maliki said. "We are not going to allow it to kill Iraqis in cold blood."

UC Irvine professor Deborah Avant points out that Maliki hasn't complained about any of these previous incidents, and may be using this one to help his own flagging political fortunes:

The chance to point a finger at one of the more controversial elements of U.S. strategy and put the United States on the hot seat even while sticking up for Iraqi sovereignty in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad is probably too good for him to pass up.

I suppose compromise is still the most likely outcome of this (as Avant points out, Maliki knows perfectly well that the U.S. can't operate in Iraq without private-security contractors), but the more it heats up the more dangerous compromise becomes. Maliki may be earning some credibility in Sunni quarters right now, but that's nothing compared to the credibility he'll lose if he's seen to back down. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (70)

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(as Avant points out, Maliki knows perfectly well that the U.S. can't operate in Iraq without private-security contractors)

Isn't it conceivable that Maliki seeks to undermine the occupation?

Besides whatever weird internal politics might lead him on that course, the momentum of America is towards withdrawl, when that happens, he'll want to have some anti-occupation credentials.

Posted by: Boronx on September 20, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

As Al will point out, Blackwater just shows the market works. All brown people scare Al, so people should be allowed to shoot them randomly.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on September 20, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

It could also partly be a coded message to the folks in Washington backing Ayad Allawi: back off or I can make things very unpleasant for your little occupation.

Posted by: Jeff S. on September 20, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later, he has to assert himself. Wait till he finds out what power he really has, both legal and political. He's been way too kind.

Posted by: Bob M on September 20, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK
I suppose compromise is still the most likely outcome of this (as Avant points out, Maliki knows perfectly well that the U.S. can't operate in Iraq without private-security contractors)

What, doesn't the US have armed personnel on the government payroll? Some of them, even, in Iraq? It's quite possible for the US to operate in Iraq without private security contractors, even if it is contrary to the preferences of the administration and current US doctrine. Of course, Maliki isn't banning private security contractors, anyhow, he is targetting as specific firm and saying that they should be punished for specific wrongdoing; the only way this seems likely to become more general is if the US digs in in defence of Blackwater, or if there is are subsequent high-profile incidents with other contractors (now that this has been made a highly-visible issue, neither side may be able to prevent subsequent events from becoming public issues on their own.)

Of course, you also seem to presume that Maliki wishes the US to continue operating in Iraq, which may or may not be the case.

You also seem to fail to recognize that, even if the US can't operate without them, and even if Maliki wants the US to operate, your next sentence hints on why compromise may well fail anyway:

Maliki may be earning some credibility in Sunni quarters right now, but that's nothing compared to the credibility he'll lose if he's seen to back down.

Exactly, once a party commits to a position, the political cost of backing down may prevent compromise even if the hope was to pressure the other side into concessions. This is particularly true if the other side digs in initially.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it also possible that Maliki is responding to real Iraqi outrage at the incident and that his stance on this issue is genuine? I mean might he just actually want Blackwater to no longer be able to gun down Iraqi civilians with impunity? I have trouble seeing his position as anything but reasonable.

But no. All behavior by politicians must be analyzed in terms of cynical positioning. This, apparently, is as true of US coverage of Iraqi politics as it is of coverage of American politics.

Posted by: Rob Mac on September 20, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

The story I read about the incident indicates that the Blackwater mercenaries were out of control. Too bad no one will ever be punished for their crimes.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 20, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely is quite right; historically the US never used private security contractors in a war zone.

If, as the article claims, Blackwater has fewer than 1,000 people in Iraq, those people can be replaced. That's less than 1% of the number of troops we have there. The US Marines have long been responsible for the security of embassies abroad; they are very experienced at protecting diplomats on hostile turf.

A sensible government, one that really wants to strengthen the Iraqi government and get out, would let Maliki have his way on this. The change can't be done overnight, but the two sides could agree to a transition period. Give the Marines the job of protecting State Department personnel, and transition the other functions either to our military, or if necessary to another contractor with a cleaner record.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 20, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maliki has the power to do something about Blackwater, legal or not.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just curious - do the Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq meet the following criteria?

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Posted by: Wapiti on September 20, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Compromise: Bush says "STFU".

Posted by: steve duncan on September 20, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on September 20, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'd rather have brackwater over there than fight them over here.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on September 20, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wapiti:

(A) and (C), almost certainly.
(B) I don't think so (at least, I couldn't find anything like that in the news video I've seen relating to the Blackwater controversy).
(D) I doubt.

Of course, the areas where those criteria usually matter are interstate armed conflict. The US presence in Iraq as a friend of the government isn't an interstate armed conflict.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

One of the "seven incidents" involving Blackwater the Iraqis are upset about is this:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/19838.html

".... Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al Askari told McClatchy Newspapers that one of the incidents was former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ahyam al Samarrai's escape from a Green Zone jail in December. Samarrai had been awaiting sentencing on charges that he had embezzled $2.5 billion that was intended to rebuild Iraq's decrepit electricity grid.
::
Until now, Iraqi officials hadn't named the private security company that they believe helped Samarrai, the only Iraqi cabinet official convicted of corruption, to escape from a jail that was overseen jointly by U.S. and Iraqi guards. He subsequently was spirited out of the country and is believed to be living in the United States.

The U.S. State Department made note of his escape in its December report on developments in Iraq, saying that "Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) said they believed he fled with the help of members of a private security company."

But the accusation that Blackwater, which earned at least $240 million in 2005 from contracts to provide security to U.S. officials in Baghdad, assisted in his escape raises questions about what American officials might have known about the breakout.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment."

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 20, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

As leader of a free Iraq, Maliki is free to do whatever George W. Bush tells him to do.

Posted by: Nemo on September 20, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

wapiti

As to (d): The CPA made them immune to Iraqi law and they are not under UCMJ either. No accountability to anyone. That's a heck of a deal for armed thugs.

Posted by: tomeck on September 20, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Embezzled $2.5 billion!?

Whoa. You'd need an awful big mattress to hold that kind of loot.

How in the world does one person get private access to those kids of funds? That is unbelievable.

Posted by: Tripp on September 20, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I've just got this teeny tiny little hunch that we are going to have a half dozen or more "Shahs" over here in this country for "medical reasons" that will end up being "legal refugees" of the Shia government. Maybe we are arming the Sunni, hoping they will overthrow the government so we don't have to worry about *lawsuits*?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 20, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

As Wapiti and cmdicely were working on above, there really should be a good hard look at whether international law protects Blackwaterites etc., since our Administration is so interested in denying that such law protects irregulars on the other side.

Posted by: Neil B. on September 20, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I have trouble seeing his position as anything but reasonable.

I agree with Rob Mac. I couldn't care less if Maliki is taking action based solely on cynical political calculations. He is nevertheless doing the right thing, and it is about f-ing time the nominal leader of Iraq exerted some sovereignty regarding the issue of mercenaries. Kudos to him.

Posted by: Disputo on September 20, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK
As Wapiti and cmdicely were working on above, there really should be a good hard look at whether international law protects Blackwaterites etc., since our Administration is so interested in denying that such law protects irregulars on the other side.

Maliki could make things...interesting...by referring the UN Security Council and/or the Prosecutor of the ICC with the intent of getting the case handled by the ICC (and making the necessary single-case acceptance of ICC jurisdiction for an event on Iraqi soil) if he really wanted the Blackwater perpetrators to face accountability.

Of course, the Bush Administration would be inclined to veto any referral by the UN SC, though doing so against the efforts of the Government of Iraq would be a PR disaster for the US presence in Iraq, and wouldn't necessarily stop the ICC Prosecutor from initiating an investigation.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

The more Iraq settles into more of a stable environment, the harder the look they'll take at what Bush did to the country, and the greater will be the hatred.

Posted by: Luther on September 20, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, in regard to the above, the charge would most likely be a war crime as defined at Art. 8 § 2(c)(i) of the Rome Statute, specifically, violence to life and person committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities in the course of an armed conflict not of an international character.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

as Avant points out, Maliki knows perfectly well that the U.S. can't operate in Iraq without private-security contractors

Maybe hitching our fortune to Dick Cheney's stock portfolio wasn't so hot an idea, after all?

Posted by: scarshapedstar on September 20, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"UC Irvine professor Deborah Avant points out that Maliki hasn't complained about any of these previous incidents." How does she know? Maybe Maliki hasn't complained publicly, but that's not the same thing.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on September 20, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

As others have said:

*It is Maliki's country, so he has the right. Wait a minute; it's really Bush's?
*1000 security people working for one company can be rather easily replaced - & in a short period of time, I would think.

& - wouldn't it be a hoot if Maliki declared them enemy combatants? What is good for the goose . . .

Posted by: bob in fl on September 20, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Bush, nation-building is kinda hard, ain't it?

Posted by: don'tknow on September 20, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Maliki has noticed the we are arming and training his Sunni enemies so it is time for us to go.

Posted by: Th on September 20, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the Bush Administration would be inclined to veto any referral by the UN SC, though doing so against the efforts of the Government of Iraq would be a PR disaster for the US presence in Iraq, and wouldn't necessarily stop the ICC Prosecutor from initiating an investigation.
Posted by: cmdicely

Mr. Maliki needs to remember the "lessons of Vietnam." Keeps up being such a bad "partner," they'll have him "assassinated" like President Diem. Darth Vadar would probably give a Blackwater triggerman the nod just because.

Posted by: JeffII on September 20, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Malichi should declare all Blackwater employees in Iraq enemy combatants. They should be declared enemy combatants in America, too, but with habeas corpus rights.

I definitely want the US to end all of its contracts with Blackwater and to have them leave Iraq yesterday, but I would prefer they never come home to ply their trade here. Blackwater people are among the worst human beings on the planet. They really need an island to be exiled to, which might make for pretty good reality death match TV programming, that Americans love so much.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

The bush government has recently made it clear they believe in retroactive law. In the case for US immunity for the telecom illegal wiretaps. What is to prevent the "Iraqi government" from retroactively making Blackwater behavior a crime? And holding all involved, including management, responsible.

Posted by: joeis on September 20, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

The Government Accountability Office estimates that there are 48,000 employees of private mercenary firms operating in Iraq. Many think this number is too low and suggest 70,000 to 100,000. To understand Blackwater and its relationship to Bush, Cheney, the Republican movement, the privatization of all things governmental including the military is to understand the revolution of the last 7 years. It nothing more than on open attack on the nation-state (here it is the accountable bureaucracy of the military) and the power of the nation-state to limit the ideological and business interests of certain factions.

The War in Iraq is not supported by a majority of Americans. To provide enough troops for the defeat and occupation, and now pacification, of Iraq, and the wars to come, the US would need the draft. But the American people would never stand for this. The alternative is to hire the people needed to run your private war. This also creates a condition of unaccountability. The contractors are not constrained by government, by which we mean Congress, and there is no military code of justice to govern the mercenaries. Their actions are not limited by treaty, laws or international agreement. This is not true to the letter, but in fact it is the case. Privatization also provides money that can be channeled back into the Republican party.

There is a pattern here of centralized power and unaccountability that is now the hallmark of the Cheney Regency. The corporatist model the Cheney Regency uses as a basis for government is in opposition to the nation-state model of liberal democracy. It is a counter-revolution. It is an entirely new historical development although there are plenty of antecedents, none of which are pleasant.

Posted by: bellumregio on September 20, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"To understand Blackwater and its relationship to Bush, Cheney, the Republican movement, the privatization of all things governmental including the military is to understand the revolution of the last 7 years."
________________________

Except that outsourcing of many previously military functions started in the early 1990s. It's a post-Cold War phenomenon.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

wouldn't it be a hoot if Maliki declared them enemy combatants? What is good for the goose . . .

I think that Maliki could declare them an illegal armed organization and legitimately demand the US Army engage them. I don't want this to happen, and I don't think Maliki has that kind of brass. But I don't think we should be hiring Hessians, either. The use of force should remain a monopoly of the state.

that outsourcing of many previously military functions started in the early 1990s.

Yup, under Secretary of Defense Cheney.

Posted by: Wapiti on September 20, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Many military officers have mixed emotions about Blackwater. While they don't want to pick up the body guard business (it wouldn't be proper in many cases, anyway, since the mercs are protecting non-government people and assets), the idea that Blackwater can offer large sums of money to hire their best troops is annoying in the extreme. Then too, no commander likes the idea of armed people who are mostly unaccountable to him doing God-knows-what in his sector of operations.

Blackwater knows this and - usually - keeps the American military commanders informed about what they are doing.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"'that outsourcing of many previously military functions started in the early 1990s.'

Yup, under Secretary of Defense Cheney."
________________________

That's correct, and it continued under each of his successors. The "Peace Dividend," don't ya know.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Is Blackwater a subsidiary of Halliburton?

Posted by: Jenna's Bush on September 20, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

"former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ahyam al Samarrai"

The new head of Bonneville Power? Or was he that guy heading the electrical outfit in Ohio?

Geez, just replace Blackwater with the "Gators campus police" - Thugs for thugs, even up.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 20, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Blackwater is not associated with Halliburton. It was formed in 1997, almost five years after Cheney left the Pentagon.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK
Except that outsourcing of many previously military functions started in the early 1990s. It's a post-Cold War phenomenon.

It began far earlier than that, and its pretty much been an ebb-and-flow for the entire history of modern militaries (which are, themselves, the product of centralization of what was previously a function provided by quasi-private "contractors"); however, the incoming G.W. Bush administration, and particularly Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, made a point of advocating a particularly radical acceleration of the existing trend, which itself was largely, as Wapiti notes above, largely the product of policies of the G.H.W. Bush administration and Secretary of Defense Cheney, so its not at all inaccurate to look at the present trend as one pushed first and foremost by Republicans over the past couple of decades.

Many military officers have mixed emotions about Blackwater. While they don't want to pick up the body guard business (it wouldn't be proper in many cases, anyway, since the mercs are protecting non-government people and assets)

The entire point of having a military is to protect non-government people and assets. It is hardly "improper" for the military to do that, in general; specific cases of it might be improper as corrupt practice or de facto government subsidies to narrow interests that are not serving (or contrary to) the national interest, but that's a pretty fair description of the entire fiasco in Iraq to start with.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Maliki could declare them an illegal armed organization and legitimately demand the US Army engage them

At least then the US Army would finally be fighting against some bad guys.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I would also add to cmdicely's point that outsourcing has been around since before the 1990s.

From my viewpoint, as an Army officer at the time, before the 1990s both the Air Force and Navy had significant cadres of contractors. This was in part because those branches of the service had the most cutting edge equipment and therefore had technical contractors to support that equipment. While the Army no doubt had some contractors to support equipment, it was not as widespread.

In the 1990s, after the Gulf War, there was significant draw-down of the Army. The growth of contractors used by the Army after the draw-down included the following:

1. Security personnel to provide gate guards and other security for some military posts (the direct precursor to security forces like Blackwater).

2. Contractors to recruit and train young officers in ROTC.*

3. Use of retired generals as trainers for high-level command and staff training.*

4. Contractors used for many logistics functions previously handled by Department of the Army Civilians (DACs) (possibly to bypass the DAC union).

* In my opinion, this was the most insidious contracting. When the Army chose to not dedicate sufficient personnel and time to train its officer corps, it seemed to say that it had surrendered to the business model. Money was more important than developing leadership, and long-term development of a self-sustaining force was just crazy talk.

Posted by: Wapiti on September 20, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"the incoming G.W. Bush administration, and particularly Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, made a point of advocating a particularly radical acceleration of the existing trend...."
_________________

Can't argue with that. Secretary Rumsfeld's ideas about "military transformation" held sway, despite the objections and reservations of many.
_________________

"The entire point of having a military is to protect non-government people and assets."
_____________________

Only in the most general of ways, cm. Protection of non-government people and assets is usually a lower order item in any commander's operations orders, if it's mentioned at all, and it's almost always limited to only that which can be done without jeopardizing his primary mission(s). Usually, that means the comander's immediate responsibility ends with trying to limit collateral damage while he conducts his operations. In some cases, such as Bosnia, protection of civilians and property is intentioally place higher on the task list. But that is not normally the case in any combat campaign.

You won't find protection of civilians and property on any Service's assigned Roles and Missions. It might be listed somewhere as a sub-bullet under OOTW - operations other than war.

Feel free to peruse the guiding documents:

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-doct.htm

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Wapiti wrote:

"In the 1990s, after the Gulf War, there was significant draw-down of the Army."
__________________

Of all the Services, actually. What you mentioned was only part of the outsourcing of many Combat Service Support (CSS) and even Combat Support (CS) functions. Many units were removed from the TO&E altogether. So no more kitchen units, fewer engineering units, fewer logistical units, etc. They say it's all cheaper. But cooks hired from KBR can't be given a rifle in a pinch and told to man the perimeter.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK
Protection of non-government people and assets is usually a lower order item in any commander's operations orders

That's irrelevant to whether it is an improper use of the military, which was your initial claim. That it may be outside of current operational doctrine is completely orthogonal to whether or not it is proper.

Please keep track of what the discussion is about.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Maliki needs to remember the "lessons of Vietnam." Keeps up being such a bad "partner," they'll have him "assassinated" like President Diem.

JeffII, are you a "Truther", too? Some conspiracy theories never go away.

Posted by: TJM on September 20, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

trashhauler:

jobs like peeling potatoes and, well, trashhauling tend not to work well in a volunteer military. Who's going to sign up for two years of KP duty?

Posted by: northzax on September 20, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Please keep track of what the discussion is about."
________________

Oh, quit digging so hard for clods to throw, cm, you'll pull a muscle. I meant improper in the sense that it would divert assets from the primary missions. Bottomline is, the Army doesn't want to get in the guard business unless it's absolutely necessary. Sometimes it is, often it is not.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Buck

"The US Marines have long been responsible for the security of embassies abroad; they are very experienced at protecting diplomats on hostile turf."

This was touched on in a previous post - the Marines don't do nearly as much of this as is commonly assumed. External security is the responsibility of the host nation. That isn't to say that they couldn't - but they don't have nearly the leg up on the Army, or Blackwater, or anyone else as you think. The better candidate for this would be Diplomatic Security -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_Security_Service

which, in its entirety, isn't much bigger than Blackwater's Iraq detail. Given the kind of places we should be sending our diplomats, we should be building up this service. So far as I know - we haven't, though I'm hardly an expert.

Posted by: hotrod on September 20, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

There are also any number of reasons why someone might not want to be guarded by American soldiers, at least, all the time. The Press, for one. Anyone who wants to travel unemcumbered by US military timetables and rules. NGOs. Foreign diplomats and businessmen. But they might hire Blackwater or a competitor.

Is that back on track enough for you, cm?

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Protection of non-government people and assets is usually a lower order item in any commander's operations orders, if it's mentioned at all, and it's almost always limited to only that which can be done without jeopardizing his primary mission(s). Usually, that means the comander's immediate responsibility ends with trying to limit collateral damage while he conducts his operations. In some cases, such as Bosnia, protection of civilians and property is intentioally place higher on the task list. But that is not normally the case in any combat campaign.

You won't find protection of civilians and property on any Service's assigned Roles and Missions. It might be listed somewhere as a sub-bullet under OOTW - operations other than war. "


Used to be that way, trashhauler, but things are changing. And I'm glad they are. The population IS the objective. Pick up a copy of FM 3-24. Seriously - they have it at Barnes and Noble. You all have touched on the really revolutionary aspect of counter-insurgency operations - the move from a fires heavy, enemy focused framework to a framework focused on securing the population.

Posted by: hotrod on September 20, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Our office has a copy, hotrod, thanks.

Protection of certain targets does become more important in COIN operations, but there are always too many to protect and too few soldiers to guard them. At least, if you still want to conduct offensive operations. Hence, our emphasis on building up the local defense forces.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK
I meant improper in the sense that it would divert assets from the primary missions.

I don't understand why you are blaming me for not instantly assuming you were abusing the language. Clearly, adding a new mission to the military is going to decrease the relative priority of existing missions. But using "improper" to describe the suggested change merely because it does so, and not because there is anything actually improper about doing so, is bizarre.

I suspect you meant to imply it was in some way wrong as the word "improper" suggests to any reasonable reader, but were hoping not to be called on that indefensible suggestion.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII, are you a "Truther", too? Some conspiracy theories never go away. Posted by: TJM

I'm not sure what you mean by "Truther." But it's pretty well-established that the CIA whacked or allowed Diem to be whacked because he really didn't want the U.S. there any longer, had bad land policies, he was a Catholic (thus too Franco-fied for most Vietnamese and antagonizing the Buddhist majority) etc., etc. We needed a new puppet.

Posted by: JeffII on September 20, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK
There are also any number of reasons why someone might not want to be guarded by American soldiers, at least, all the time. The Press, for one. Anyone who wants to travel unemcumbered by US military timetables and rules. NGOs. Foreign diplomats and businessmen. But they might hire Blackwater or a competitor.

Yes, there are all kinds of people who might wish to have private armies. There are equally many reasons (as Blackwater is demonstrating) that soveriegn states would not want private armies operating in their territories however convenient it might be to other third parties.

Anyhow, the real issue with Blackwater and the US ability to operate in Iraq isn't protection of non-government persons and assets, it is protection of government (including government contractor) personnel and assets performing functions that are essential to what the administration has decreed is US policy in Iraq. So the whole discussion of the mission of protecting non-governmental personnel and assets is mostly tangential to the central issue here.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't understand why you are blaming me for not instantly assuming you were abusing the language."
_____________________

Oh, please, cm, you do this all the time. I guess I should feel flattered that you simply must parse every word I say, presumably to keep me on the straight and narrow. So, I used the wrong word, so sue me. You got the general drift of what I meant and you did't like it. You knee jerks wildly whenever I'm within range.

Funny, you manage to restrain yourself quite handily when any of your supposed ideological chums screw the pooch linguistically. Must be an example of that "inclusiveness" and "respect for all viewpoints" I keep hearing about from your side of the church.

Well, I'm off to Germany tomorrow night, so you can let your guard down (so to speak). I'll be back in a few days. Cheerio.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

The entire point of having a military is to protect non-government people and assets.

I think this was meant to convey the historical underlying reasons why people come together and live in societies and create a defensive military as a public good. That the military, for some, exists for other reasons, demonstrates how far away from that ideal our society has moved.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK
I don't understand why you are blaming me for not instantly assuming you were abusing the language."
_____________________

Oh, please, cm, you do this all the time.

What? Assume people who are using strings of English words strung together in things that look like sentences are actually using the words in those apparent sentences to mean what they would in English, in a sense that makes some sense given the context?

Yeah, yeah, I do that all the time. What's wrong with that?

I guess I should feel flattered that you simply must parse every word I say, presumably to keep me on the straight and narrow.

I wasn't "parsing" (except in the sense that parsing is a logical necessity for reading) anything. I simply responded to what you said in the only sense that made any sense in the discussion.

You then ducked into some bizarre abuse of the word "improper" in which anything that changed the existing mission would be "improper" to defend your statement rather than admitting that you had no real basis for characterizing the proposed change as "improper" in sense of the word that made any sense in the discussion.


So, I used the wrong word, so sue me.

No, you didn't use the word wrong. You clearly meant it to mean exactly what it normally means, and didn't expect anyone to challenge you on the characterization of the change as "improper" and had no defense for that characterization. Your dodge about the bizarre meaning pretty clearly wasn't what you actually meant, because if you just meant that it would change mission priorities you wouldn't have said anything because that was an empty statement in the context of the discussion. It was a desperate dodge to avoid admitting you had nothing backing up the "improper" characterization.


Funny, you manage to restrain yourself quite handily when any of your supposed ideological chums screw the pooch linguistically.

You didn't "screw the pooch linguistically", you flat out made up the "improper" thing with nothing to back it up, and made up the implausible linguistic gymnastics as a feeble defense.

And, anyhow, I'm pretty well known here for picking actual linguistic nits (rather than flat out mischaracterizations like yours) from both ideological friends and foes, so even if what you had done was "screw the pooch linguistically", your suggestion that the only reason I would point to such a linguistic error is ideological is, well, evidence of pretty amusing selective ignorance, given how long you've been around here.


Must be an example of that "inclusiveness" and "respect for all viewpoints" I keep hearing about from your side of the church.

I doubt you've ever been in my church, much less have any idea which side of it I sit on. Your attempt to paint me as hypocritical for acting inconsistently with other people's stated views is pretty amusing to start with, made moreso by the fact that neither what I actually did nor the linguistic nitpicking you accuse me of is inconsistent with either of the values you try to suggest I'm betraying.

If you want to call me a hypocrite, trying showing something I've actually done that's inconsistent with something I've actually advocated.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

"You didn't "screw the pooch linguistically", you flat out made up the "improper" thing with nothing to back it up, and made up the implausible linguistic gymnastics as a feeble defense."
_____________________

Well, "I know I am, but what are you?" Sheeeeit.

You know, cm, you can be a right burke at times. By the way, Funk and Wagnall, the use of military assets to guard non-government assets can be a courtmartial offense, especially if it leads to failure to complete your mission, so perhaps "proper" was...proper. Apparently, my mistake was that I thought I had erred - hanging around you too much, no doubt.

I don't think you are hypocritical at all. I think you do what you do quite intentionally, with malice aforethought, gnawing, little weasel that you are. To be hypocritical, you'd have to gave made some pretense of being evenhanded or considerate or, I don't know, human, maybe?

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon me, the word was supposed to be "have," not "gave." Don't want to risk another go-round with Turabian's nightmare.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: :Truthers believe the government/GwB/Cheney knew of the attack on the WTC or planned by them.
There's this:The generals (The coup was led by General Minh, the most respected of the senior generals, together with Generals Don, Kim and Khiem) made repeated calls to the palace offering the brothers safe conduct out of the country if they surrendered, but the two held out hope until the very end. Sometime that evening they secretly slipped out of the palace through an underground escape passage and went to a hide-away in Cholon. There they were captured the following morning after their whereabouts was learned when the palace fell. Shortly the two brothers were murdered in the back of an armored personnel carrier en route to JGS headquarters.

He and Nhu were taken prisoner shortly thereafter by General Mai Huu Xuan, a long time enemy, who according to most accounts ordered or permitted their murder in the back of an armored personnel carrier enroute to JGS headquarters.

Really? The CIA?

From the Pentagon Papers

Posted by: TJM on September 20, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Compromise what?

Their democracy?

Maliki said Blackwater must leave - either Bush cares about democracy or he doesn't.

Which is it?

There are so many other security contactors in Iraq, so this shouldn't be a issue.

AND there is nothing wrong with trying to pull Iraqis together on an issue even if this incident increases Maliki's popularity. So that if Bush wants to fight Maliki than the cost may well lead to Maliki telling the entire US to leave. It will give the Iraqis common cause and fighting about this issue could well lead lose of Western oil contracts in the region.

Maliki is entitled to act on humanitary issues - as this issue will demostrate that this war is about oil AND not about democracy.

AND unlike what Kevin believes - there is no right of US citizens to kill people for oil, gold, money or their economy security - that is criminal act.

Posted by: Me_again on September 20, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

You know, cm, you can be a right burke at times.

Unless you were comparing him to Edmund, the word you're fumbling for is berk.

Posted by: Funky Wagnalls on September 20, 2007 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Never happen. They pay plenty of bribes in the form of campaign donations to Republican'ts.

Posted by: merlallen on September 21, 2007 at 6:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin has mischaracterized what Prof. Avant said. She wasn't specific about Maliki, she said: "the Iraqi government has reacted mildly to the dozen or so previous incidents that have reached the Western press"

One of these was the fatal shooting, around Christmas, of an Iraqi by a drunk Blackwater merc in the Green Zone. The merc was shipped home and faces no charges. The Iraqi government's response was "mild" only by comparison to what it should have been.

Posted by: Nell on September 21, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK
By the way, Funk and Wagnall, the use of military assets to guard non-government assets can be a courtmartial offense, especially if it leads to failure to complete your mission, so perhaps "proper" was...proper.

No, it wasn't. It would be, if we were talking about individual military officers deciding to do so on their own, rather than discussing a change of the mission assigned to the military.

Again, try to pay attention to the subject of the discussion, rather than tossing up irrelevancies and personal insults as distractions.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Argh. Each time I read Prof. Avant's too-cool-for-school "analysis" of the Maliki govt reaction to the Blackwater massacre in Mansour, I get angrier:

But the Iraqi government has reacted mildly to the dozen or so previous incidents that have reached the Western press, making Maliki's outraged calls for the expulsion of Blackwater and a review of all PSCs working in Iraq seem puzzling at first. One wonders, though, if Malikis reaction to this incident is driven by a desire to take the spotlight off the Iraqi government's failures and buy it some bargaining room, both in domestic circles and with the Americans. Practically, the United States cannot operate in Iraq without PSCsand Maliki knows this. The chance to point a finger at one of the more controversial elements of U.S. strategy and put the United States on the hot seat even while sticking up for Iraqi sovereignty in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad is probably too good for him to pass up.

Maliki's outrage isn't the least bit puzzling, at first or otherwise. An unaccountable private army has been killing people, in at least a dozen incidents, for years, and then they kill 11 to 20 people on a public street in a firing spree they initiate -- and the government response is purely a political stance? There's a "media frenzy"?

Avant is understating previous response to merc atrocities, in Iraq and here, and failing to make the most basic effort at looking at things from the human, and Iraqi human, point of view.

Everyone has a limit. African-American neighborhoods that have endured years of ongoing, onesy-twosy incidents of police humiliation and brutality have been known to explode when, finally, one incident manages to reach a wider public in an undeniable way. Think Rodney King in L.A., Amadou Diallou in N.Y., Cincinnati (don't remember the name of the person whose shooting sparked the upheaval there). There's a sadly long list.

I'm trying to compile a list of the merc incidents of killing Iraqis that have reached the press here; if anyone runs across coverage, particularly a story that makes an effort to list more than one, I'd appreciate a pointer. Email me or put a comment on my blog. Thanks to the commenter above for the pointer to the McClatchy story.

Posted by: Nell on September 21, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, the US government has decided that the "soveriegn" Iraqi government can take a flying leap at itself and put Blackwater back to work.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Blackwater is finally beginning to get some mainstream media attention, but it deserves a lot more attention. Read the Wikipedia article, which includes this sentence: “The [April 19, 2006, The Nation] article discussed the removal of the word ‘armoured’ from already-signed contracts, and other allegations of wrongdoing.”

Here are the three paragraphs in the The Nation article that expound on this issue:

All this was shady enough--but the real danger for Helvenston and the others lay in Blackwater's decision to cut corners to make even more money. The original contract between Blackwater/Regency and ESS, obtained by The Nation, recognized that "the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations" would remain "consistent and dangerous," and called for a minimum of three men in each vehicle on security missions "with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements." [Emphasis added.]

But on March 12, 2004, Blackwater and Regency signed a subcontract, which specified security provisions identical to the original except for one word: "armored." Blackwater deleted it from the contract.

"When they took that word 'armored' out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," says attorney Miles. "These men were told that they'd be operating in armored vehicles. Had they been, I sincerely believe that they'd be alive today. They were killed by insurgents literally walking up and shooting them with small-arms fire. This was not a roadside bomb, it was not any other explosive device. It was merely small-arms fire, which could have been repelled by armored vehicles."

So what became of Helvenston's mom's lawsuit? You can find that out in this City Barbs story of July 13, 2007, or from this Norfolk Virginian-Pilot story of May 20, 2007.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on September 22, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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