Iraq: Repugnant Black Water

So says Imad Khadduri.

This post marks the beginning of, hopefully, more frequent and shorter posts around specific subjects that affect Iraqi bloggers. My choice of topic today is the banning of the private security firm Blackwater for killing at least eight Iraqi civilians while driving American diplomats through the streets of Baghdad.

Free Iraq provides a the essential background information to the whole debate on private security firms in Iraq. Imad publishes a translation of an eyewitness account, the law that gave such security firms, basically, a license to kill, links to current articles and his previous posts on the behaviour of private security companies. And his opinion on Blackwater? “war profiteering criminals” he says.

Baghdad Treasure was less diplomatic with his choice of words, “You can’t imagine how happy I am to read the mercenary murderers of Blackwater USA are going to be kicked out of the country,” he writes. And he speaks from firsthand experience:

Watching Blackwater’s mercenary actions in Iraq, I grew not only angry but disgusted with their actions that never respect any human being they come across. When they race in the streets of Baghdad, they behave like beasts even in the calmest areas, terrifying people with their SUVs and machine guns and firing without restraint at anyone.

Baghdad Treasure sees companies like Blackwater as part of the problem facing American troops in Iraq because,

Some people there link these criminals to the US army and to the US itself. That’s how sentiments against American troops themselves increased. Of course, I differentiate who’s who, but there are uneducated people who think that these mercenaries are basically the same as any soldier or marine who “came to kill, take oil, and then leave.”

Raed sees signs that the US State Department is trying to find ways to keep Blackwater in Iraq despite clear orders from the Iraqi government to leave. He calls for people to write emails to the the Department of State and to Blackwater's media relations. He writes:

Mercenaries who go around killing civilians without any accountability are being paid with billions of U.S. tax-payer dollars. It is time to get all private contractors out of Iraq, but let's start by bringing Blackwater first.

Zappy reminds us of Blackwater's mission statement which is, I quote:

To support national and international security policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for all with a dedication to providing ethical, efficient, and effective turnkey solutions that positively impact the lives of those still caught in desperate times.

He recalls a story of a drunken Blackwater guy who shot an Iraqi security guard for no apparent reason and was only sent back to America without any punishment. He concludes:

Blackwater has done more damage in Iraq than Al Qaeda would ever dream of an American company would do.

Good Job Blackwater! Continue your Vision … your doin’ a hell'ava Job!

From my reading of the news there seems little to explain why the Iraqi government acted only now and so decisively, which is a stark contrast to their usual silence on such matters. I have reported too many times in the past stories from bloggers who have lost or nearly lost relatives to similar incidents involving American soldiers.

As this video from Alive in Baghdad shows, public anger in parts of Baghdad over killings of civilians by American troops have boiled over into large demonstrations without a peep of protest from the Iraqi government:

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A possible explanation comes from Al-Ghad which reports:

The deal between the Bush-linked “Hunt Oil Company” and the Kurdish Regional Government has uncovered a major crisis between the Maliki Government and the US, according to well-informed sources. …

It … means that the US has decided to by-pass the Iraqi Central Government, ignoring the constitution and even encroaching on disputed major oilfields outside the Kurdish Region. Because of this, the Iraqi Government finds itself forced to take symbolic and unusual measures to express its anger. This seems already reflected in its vocal reaction to the Blackwater massacre in Baghdad, in contrast to the usual official silence with regards the daily attacks and bombing of civilian targets.

Like Greenspan says, maybe, at the end, it is all about oil.

21 comments

  • Nice attacks. I am willing to stipulate that it is all true and then some.

    But………

    Where are the alternatives? Viable alternatives to Blackwater?

    Who will guard State Dept officals -the Provicial Reconstruction Teams that go out everyday to do the grunt work of building something similar to democracy in Iraq?

    Who?

    Iraqis have every right to want Blackwater held to account. But overstating the problem will not help in Iraq. Bitching about a problem without suggesting an alternative is silly and actually counter productive. An informed alternative would be public admonishment of Blackwater and its members being subject to US courts or military courts. The hyperbolic reactions I have seen on this page illustrate quite clearly why Blackwater’s obvious and horrible mistakes can’t be left to Iraqi’s to adjudicate.

  • Uh one logical solution would be not to allow private security contractors fight wars so that thousands of people don’t leave the military for exponentially more money. I called the ban not lasting because the Iraqi gocernment not being sovereign and the sheer numbers of Blackwater people in Iraq, I’m not “bitching” about anything, be respectful or don’t comment at all.

  • The hyperbolic reactions I have seen on this page illustrate quite clearly why Blackwater’s obvious and horrible mistakes can’t be left to Iraqi’s to adjudicate.

    Oh my bad, I rescind my first reply, I didn’t notice this was a joke comment.

  • No it wasn’t a joke and that was not an alternative you gave. Your’s was a hypothetical because Blackwater is there already. Wishing they were not is just that… wishing. So, I ask again…does anyone have any suggestions for alternatives for Blackwater. Again, I ceed you your point “…not to allow private security contractors fight wars so that thousands of people don’t leave the military for exponentially more money.”

    But that is not an alternative to the facts on the ground now.

    I can’t make it any clearer.

  • A blindingly obvious alternative is to replace them with American soldiers who are at least a little more accountable for their actions.

    But I guess it is expedient for the politicians to deal with unaccountable mercenaries than admit to their people that they need more troops in Iraq.

  • Iraq has received every troop it is going to get. The numbers will only fall from here. Not rise.

    Anyone who pays attention to the situation there knows this. they know that the US military can not sustain its current numbers. So no it is not blindingly “obvious.” It is actually factually inaccurate.

    Let me ask one more time. WHO will replace Blackwater?

    Iraqis can’t.

    The US can’t(physically) and if it could -would not(politically).

    There are no more Multi-national troops to do the job.

    The UN can’t because it is a paralized structure.

    Who?

    Please believe I am not trying to be difficult. I am just trying to facilitate a useful conversation. In the begining I stipulated that Blackwater was bad. But unless there is a replacement for Blackwater… to remove them all together would be worse. That would cripple State Dept provincial reconstruction efforts. It is easy to extropolate that without the PRT teams (secured by Blackwater) Iraqi hardship would rise… not fall.

  • Benjamin, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. America cannot sustain its current policy in Iraq. It is reduced to relying on private contractors to make up the shortfall so that they do not have to declare a draft to make up the numbers. This is a bad place to be.

    As far as I can see, whether or not to keep Blackwater is no longer the issue. The Iraqi government started something that can not be put back. Blackwater will have to go because Iraqi public opinion will not tolerate them staying.

  • I think you might be reading for confirmation rather than content. The “nail” you speak of was not the point.

    The reliance on PMCs was part of the original plan as I understand it. It was a horrible plan and I am cautious to even call it a “plan”.

    I don’t think Blackwater is going anywhere. Iraq can not survive without State Dept PRT teams. It can however survive the political embarassment of having to settle for something other than the total removal of Blackwater. If Blackwater does go. Then a new PMC will take its place. (no real change) And that Private Military Company’s members will be the exact same people that were in the Blackwater PMC because they have the experience and the training.

    Nadia or someone mentioned the notion that the US military is hemoraging troops to Blackwater and PMCs and that is not accurate. A more accurate picture would be to say the US military is loosing some special operations troops to PMCs. The average military guy can’t work for Blackwater because they don’t have the skill sets.

  • Michael

    Perhaps this is a dead stream but a potentially viable alternative is for the U.S. to establish transparent and accountable policies and procedures. The Blackwater Mission Statement was quoted in the post:

    “To support national and international security policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for all with a dedication to providing ethical, efficient, and effective turnkey solutions that positively impact the lives of those still caught in desperate times.”

    Sounds like an appropriate mission statement…yes? But the reality (seemingly as a result of abhorrent accountability) is that Blackwater, and other private companies operating in Iraq appear to be enriching themselves at a cost of Iragi and western lives, a failed reconstruction effort and billions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers. Simply put, these private companies are not being held accountable. And if these companies (not only security, but those involved in the alleged reconstruction efforts and those supporting the military) can be provided with billions of dollars in contracts, the contracts can certainly be fashioned to allow for accountability and detailed reporting to ensure accountability.

    What’s missing? A genuine effort to hold companies accountable, and this can be attributed to a variety of “justifications”. Such as:

    – It will take too much time and hinder the process to accomplish mission goals and objectives
    – Adequate staffing is not available
    – Add your justification

    Without transparency of western/U.S. policies, programs and actions in Iraq, and public accountability of efforts made to support the programs, policies and actions that are fashioned in the best interests of all Iraqi’s, little can be done to avoid corruption, exploitation and at best, the negative perceptions held by Iraqis and other countries throughout the world.

    There have been many that claim that financial gain and the exploitation of Iraqi oil, is the basis of our involvement in Iraq. And that inflated, inaccurate and even fictitious billings (by PMC’s to the U.S. Military) is common practice. I, for one, believe this to be more accurate than inaccurate.

    I agree with Nathan that there is no viable alternative to the presence of PMC’s in Iraq. But I cannot accept that a serious effort cannot be made to hold all aspects of U.S./western involvement in Iraq accountable.

    It seems important enough, just do it. We owe it to ourselves (to justify the lives of thousands of American soldiers and the use of billions of tax dollars) to Iraqis (to justify our intentions to facilitate a free will to govern themselves and rebuild their country) and to humanity (to justify the value of true democracy).

  • Well put Michael.

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