Thursday, September 20, 2007

Muddied Blackwater

Have you guys heard about this on the news? One thing that really bothers me about the war in Iraq is the "private security firms." I really don't think these guys are much better than mercenaries. Technically they are supposed to keep American diplomats safe in Iraq but this company, Blackwater, has made the news a second time. The first big time would be when some of its guys were "attacked" in Fallujah, killed, cut up, hung over the river... etc. That was big news. 2004.

But now in 2007 the Blackwater boys apparently were in a little skirmish, I'll call it, in Baghdad. Blackwater says they were attacked, and they were shooting "armed insurgents." Iraqi witnesses say that the Blackwater boys were shooting at the crowd and that eight innocent civilians were killed. The Iraqi prime minister said they were killed "in cold blood." He actually said that this was the 7th such incident with Blackwater.

This issue brings up what I think are a number of problems with the perspective of the war. What is the difference in an "insurgent" and a "civilian?" Well an insurgent is whoever they have to shoot at, I think. That would be, as we say, a practical definition, wouldn't it? They (B-boys) were shooting at a crowd... oh wait, here comes sarcasm... they couldn't have been shooting at civilians could they?? Oh no... they must have been insurgents!! Why? Just because they were shooting at them and they're, what, on our side? (Our "American" side.) That's what Americans would say. But they don't know these boys, I think. So anyway, problem one, ambiguity about who these boys, any of these boys in Iraq even in the military but especially in the security firms, may actually legitimately target.

Another problem, I think, is who these boys actually are. And yes I keep calling them boys as a sort of off-hand insult. I think they want to play a video game in real life. They sign up because they aren't interested in a commitment to the military. Despite the heroism which tends to be associated with the military, it doesn't pay so well, and requires a commitment of at least a few years. But they do want to "kill ragheads." That's it, they want to get those Mozzzlems, those terrorists, blah blah blah. I used to know (I say I "used" to know because he's not someone I would talk to again) a "boy" who thought he'd join up. They money, for them, is great. Assuming they live anyway, the money is great. Money most of these guys couldn't make any other way, not having high prospects for a high-paying job, and the lure of money in this society is strong. I kinda hate to say it, but I really think they are the bottom of the barrel. How terrible of me to say, but who would kill for money?

Another problem, and this is an issue to deal with immediately, and it's why this will make news now and why I think it might continue to make news, is the law for the firm. What law do they follow. This is a problem, to whom are they accountable? When Nouri al-Maliki says that civilians were killed in cold blood... don't you think that there should be some kind of investigation, prosecution, somebody punished if that's what actually happened? I mean, killing innocent people is wrong, yes? Well in 2004, private security firms like Blackwater were granted immunity from Iraqi law!! Um... hello!?

So these boys (who are not in the US Military and being held to its code) can shoot Iraqis and they aren't going to be held responsible by the government charged (or which should be charged) with protecting those civilians!? They can't be held responsible by the Iraqi government? Okay, that's a problem.

But it gets worse. Blackwater and firms like it are in Iraq (and other countries too, by the way) because of contracts it has made with the State Department. Yup! That's where they are getting their money, from American taxpayers more or less, and paying these tremendous salaries. War is a big business!! And who profits? Blackwater, to start with. So can the American government hold them accountable if they start causing trouble? Well, in previous cases there has been no attempt to do so... and there have been previous cases.

A NC Representative to Congress, who I'd like to add has made a point in the past to attend the MAPAC (Muslim American Public Affairs Council) annual fundraiser dinner to speak to members of the Muslim community in part of his district, has written a note to US Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) asking her whether these boys can even be prosecuted. He's asking if she even plans to investigate the issue!! Ultimately he's asking for support for legislation allowing that such security contractors may be prosecuted under American law, since it's doubtful (thanks to the UN) they can be prosecuted by Iraqi law (which is really unfair) and perhaps not even legitimate they be prosecuted under American law (which is an outrage).

The last thing these types of people need is free license to shoot people. I did not comment on Blackwater as being a firm held by radical Christian right-wing types, but if you're interested in that side of the story, here is a nice article by Chris Hedges, called America's Holy Warriors.

Article in Canadian Press
Article in BBC News


brnaeem said...

AA- Amy,

"I really don't think these guys are much better than mercenaries."

First of all, these guys are TOTALLY mercenaries. No difference IMO.

Second, about the State Dept funding these security firms, Naomi Klein has a great excerpt from her new book that highlights what she calls Disaster Capitalism - capitalist ventures thriving on natural and man-made disasters. Its a bit long, but really worth your time.

Amy said...


You're right, they are mercenaries... I was too kind.

I read the piece by Naomi Klein. Took a while, it's going to have to "digest" in my head a bit before I can comment on it... I'm not sure I agree... I just need to think about it. Thanks for the recommendation, it was definitely an interesting read.

MrEspy said...

Other than hardcore Christian Jihadi's, I don't think that MANY Americans really sign up for military service OTHER than for monetary reasons...

I have COUNTLESS classmates (coming from an "urban" neighborhood) that went into the military simply because they didn't have any other realistic option at "getting ahead". So in my highschool you either went to college (20% maybe?), the military, got a job, sold drugs.

with that said...why WOULDN'T you apply for a job at Blackwater and other mercenary for hire firms out there after putting in years of service for military?

I'm sure many of these merc's have paid their dues and feel like they're entitled to this "bonus"...

Ahhh...the dogs of this wonderful thing we call capitalism...

Hopeful said...

Iraq is looking to end the immunity that such contractors hold. I do hope they will be successful in this.

''The new code would require contractors to be subject to Iraqi law and to be monitored by the Iraqi government.''

sorry sis, can't figure out how to hyper link in

Amy said...


Sorry I didn't comment sooner, I think you could be right... but down where I live know a lot of people that go out for the military just out of patriotism, family tradition or pressure.

And then they want to settle down and earn a living instead of go back to fighting.

I think the ones who want to fight have a bizarre fascist kind of opinion about America and really do want to just kill people. The last place they need to be is the military or places like Blackwater.

Amy said...

Sis Amilah,

I think it's great Iraq is trying to eliminate this immunity that the contractors have. From an Iraqi perspective it makes no sense at all--and it makes them out to just be a hired foreign army that is effectively occupying the country. No good.

So like you, I hope they are successful.

And maybe I should stick to not linking my HT addresses since I seem to keep screwing it up! lol... maybe write myself a sticky note and post it on my PC in case I forget!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy,
Most people who work for these security firms in the field are ex-military. It's rare they hire someone just off the street.

God Bless,


Amy said...


For one thing, I live in North Carolina, and know people involved with the firm. I know that these security firms DO just hire people "off the street" who aren't necessarily ex-military, because I know a guy who was never in the military, just had some firefighter training, who spent at least one year in Kuwait (and after that I wouldn't talk to him anymore, so how much more time he spend working for the first I don't even know.)

And honestly, any company that hires someone like him I have a hard time respecting, but when a company like it is found to be... well, doing what Blackwater is doing, I just would rather spit.