Hired guns

2007-09-20

in Bombs and rockets, Daily updates, Law, Politics

I heard a lot fair amount about mercenaries when I was at Oxford, but this is the most interesting thing to happen in relation to them in decades. The degree to which war has been privatized would probably shock Eisenhower.

What remains to be seen is the degree to which the United States will respect the sovereignty of the democratic government that all the entire second Iraq war was meant to create.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Bug September 20, 2007 at 8:14 pm

What did he say about ‘democratic processes?’

In other news

Bug September 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

“The privatisation of military functions, from logistics to maintaining weapons, has reached the point that the Pentagon now regards contractors as an integral part of its “total force”. America could not go to war without them.”

Milan September 21, 2007 at 9:50 am

My friend Antonia has posted a bunch more links about this.

Milan September 21, 2007 at 1:17 pm

This didn’t take long:

Blackwater working again in Iraq

The US security firm Blackwater has resumed limited operations in the Iraqi capital Baghdad four days after a deadly shootout involving the company.

Clay Corry September 23, 2007 at 8:04 am

These are dirty, unpleasant jobs, but someone has to do them, or operations like them; including, apparently, me. Please extend my greetings and best wishes to your parents, and family, especially your mother and your Aunt Mirka; I’ve been out of touch even more than usual since your grandmother moved from Kensington to NC; I hope that she is still doing well. I’ve enjoyed flipping thru your blog for the few moments available here, very glad to see how well you’ve done, and what you’ve done with it. And where you’ve been, too.

You all take care,

(SGT) Clay Corry
2-183 Cavalry
U.S. Army
Camp Beuhring – Udairi Airfield, Kuwait

R.K. September 23, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Private Military Firms object quite harshly to being called ‘mercenaries’ and try hard to develop an air of respectability.

That said, the degree to which they seem to be exempted from both American and Iraqi law, in terms of their behaviour while over there, seems like excellent cause for concern.

In terms of the degree to which their heavy-handedness can create anger within the population, I would suspect that at least some members of the uniformed military would have their doubts as well.

Milan September 23, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Most of what I know about organizations like Blackwater is from presentations Sarah Percy gave at Oxford, including to the Strategic Studies Group. I also read Peter Singer’s Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry

Both raise a number of questions about their regulation, as well as the reasons for their existence.

Anon September 23, 2007 at 4:01 pm

” This incident [on Christmas eve, 2006] highlights the lack of control and oversight our government has over the 140,000 private contractors in Iraq. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Price of North Carolina, and over 15 other legislators have co-sponsored the Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007 (HR 369) that requires accountability for personnel performing private security functions under Federal contracts, and for other purposes.

For now it remains as it was last year when Rep. Dennis Kucinich asked Pentagon officials under oath if the US Department of Defense would prosecute a private contractor who murdered Iraqi civilians. He was told repeatedly,

“Sir, I can’t answer that question.” Finally Rep. Kucinich said: “Wow. Think about what that means. These private contractors can get away with murder…They aren’t subject to any laws at all.””

See: Blackwater Employee Commits Murder and Receives a Free Ticket Home

. October 1, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Report Depicts Recklessness at Blackwater

By DAVID STOUT and JOHN M. BRODER
Published: October 1, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report to a Congressional committee said today.

. October 1, 2007 at 4:41 pm

“The report adds credence to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have adopted an aggressive, trigger-happy approach and displayed disregard for Iraqi life.”

. October 2, 2007 at 10:50 am

“In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.”

NY Times

. October 5, 2007 at 10:45 am

Bill Applies U.S. Laws to Contractors

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 — With the armed security force Blackwater USA and other private contractors in Iraq facing tighter scrutiny, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law. The measure would require the F.B.I. to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing…

Even if enacted, the House bill would have no retroactive authority over past conduct by Blackwater or other contractors.

Anon October 9, 2007 at 5:04 pm

The Geopolitical Foundations of Blackwater
By George Friedman

For the past three weeks, Blackwater, a private security firm under contract to the U.S. State Department, has been under intense scrutiny over its operations in Iraq. The Blackwater controversy has highlighted the use of civilians for what appears to be combat or near-combat missions in Iraq. Moreover, it has raised two important questions: Who controls these private forces and to whom are they accountable?

The issue is neither unique to Blackwater nor to matters of combat. There have long been questions about the role of Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, in providing support services to the military. The Iraq war has been fought with fewer active-duty troops than might have been expected, and a larger number of contractors relative to the number of troops. But how was the decision made in the first place to use U.S. nongovernmental personnel in a war zone? More important, how has that decision been implemented?

. August 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Blackwater’s dark heart
Aug 21st 2009 | WASHGINTON, DC
From Economist.com
New revelations about an American private-security contractor

THE “war on terror” has left many blots on America’s reputation—weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay—and one stain continues to darken with time. This week the New York Times reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had once hired Blackwater, a private-security contractor, in connection with a plots to assassinate al-Qaeda operatives. It was the latest in a string of controversial news. This month Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder and chairman, was accused of facilitating or committing murder. Blackwater released a statement calling the allegations “unsubstantiated and offensive”.

Blackwater is not the only security contractor in the Middle East. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that America spent between $6 billion and $10 billion on the services of these firms from 2003 to 2007. But Blackwater is the most prominent. In 2004 insurgents in Fallujah killed four of its employees, burned their bodies and hung two from a bridge over the Euphrates. The sight of charred American bodies caused uproar at home. Marines stormed Fallujah days later. By 2007 Blackwater was accused of being a perpetrator. The company’s employees opened fire on a busy square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqis. The incident strained America’s relations with Iraq. Blackwater exemplified an American effort gone terribly wrong.

. August 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Is Blackwater Too Big to Fail?
— By Daniel Schulman | Fri August 21, 2009 8:14 AM PST

Erik Prince’s security enterprise has a division for pretty much everything. Need planes or choppers? See Aviation Worldwide or Presidential Airways. A compliment of Colombian mercs? Greystone at your service. For-hire spooks? Total Intelligence Solutions—emphasis on total—is standing by. And for the super-double-secret covert work—the kind that the CIA keeps even Congress in the dark about—Prince has a division for that too. According to the New York Times, it’s called Blackwater Select.

. September 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

Erik Prince, recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, has gained notoriety as head of the military-contracting juggernaut Blackwater, a company dogged by a grand-jury investigation, bribery accusations, and the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees, set for next month. Lashing back at his critics, the wealthy former navy seal takes the author inside his operation in the U.S. and Afghanistan, revealing the role he’s been playing in America’s war on terror.

By Adam Ciralsky
January 2010

I put myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.

Erik Prince has an image problem—the kind that’s impervious to a Madison Avenue makeover. The 40-year-old heir to a Michigan auto-parts fortune, and a former navy seal, he has had the distinction of being vilified recently both in life and in art. In Washington, Prince has become a scapegoat for some of the Bush administration’s misadventures in Iraq—though Blackwater’s own deeds have also come in for withering criticism. Congressmen and lawyers, human-rights groups and pundits, have described Prince as a war profiteer, one who has assembled a rogue fighting force capable of toppling governments. His employees have been repeatedly accused of using excessive, even deadly force in Iraq; many Iraqis, in fact, have died during encounters with Blackwater. And in November, as a North Carolina grand jury was considering a raft of charges against the company, as a half-dozen civil suits were brewing in Virginia, and as five former Blackwater staffers were preparing for trial for their roles in the deaths of 17 Iraqis, The New York Times reported in a page-one story that Prince’s firm, in the aftermath of the tragedy, had sought to bribe Iraqi officials for their compliance, charges which Prince calls “lies … undocumented, unsubstantiated [and] anonymous.” (So infamous is the Blackwater brand that even the Taliban have floated far-fetched conspiracy theories, accusing the company of engaging in suicide bombings in Pakistan.)

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