The very public and very outrageous shootings in Baghdad on September 16th by members of the mercenary organization Blackwater were but the latest in a long history of abuses and criminality by members of the group. Blackwater, for those who don’t know, is an American corporation dedicated to winning contracts in war zones or disaster areas. The company is most infamous for its involvement in New Orleans after the Katrina disaster and Iraq as part of the continuing disaster wrought by the policies of the Bush Administration. The group is headed by an American Christian fundamentalist with very close ties to the White House. It is headquartered in North Carolina.
Because of those “close ties,” the group was allowed to return to business as usual in Iraq only four days after the civilian killings of September 16th, even after the Iraqi government had called the conduct “criminal” and promised responsible Blackwater operatives would be prosecuted and the company would no longer be able to operate in Iraq. Guess the quick change of policy shows who really is in charge in Iraq, huh? No wonder it’s a debacle.
Blackwater in Iraq is a functionally a “Praetorian Guard” for American diplomats and others designated as needing their protection. Their actions don’t fall under the laws of America, and because of an order by Paul Bremer just before he left Iraq, they can’t be held accountable there either. But more than just being gunslingers with automatic weapons, the operatives of Blackwater represent something dark that shouldn’t be sponsored by the American government. Blackwater personnel are mostly ex-military, former fighters that seem to have developed a fondness for those special things one can only experience when given the power of life or death over others. It’s one thing to have a capable and effective military, it is quite another to have professional Rambo wanna-be types under government contract.
The Bush Administration tells us again and again that the Iraqi government is viable and worthy of life and limb to support. Then they go around the wishes of that government to protect hired guns. And now there are allegations that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. Remember, mercenary groups only make money when there is conflict. Without that conflict, there isn’t a need for them, and what happens to profits? It seems some might want to make money from all sides of the Iraq debacle. This is an example of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. When we need wars to support entire industries. War for no other reason except to have war.
We need to demand that no contractors are involved in anything that requires patrolling the streets or spending time among the people while armed. The government should be able to contract out services like cooking and laundry, but not soldiering. And especially to a company that has been a big campaign supporter for Mr. Bush and whose leadership quite possibly shares his apocalyptic vision. Hired soldiers is a symptom of empire, not of any legitimate defense need. If we don’t want to be perceived as colonial and imperial, we shouldn’t act like we are.