BLACKWATER-- BACK IN THE DRIVERS SEAT
Blackwater is the most hated symbol of Bush's regime of mayhem and destruction in Iraq. Every self-respecting Iraqi, no matter how they feel about anything else, wants to wipe out the mercenary savages the Bush Regime has loosened on their country with a license to kill randomly and at will-- and with no oversight and no accountability. It is a clear war crime and hopefully one day we will all watch Bush being handed a last cigarette and a blindfold after his war crimes tribunal for this alone. Better than that than having to deal with a savage Republican private army in our own country.
My friends in Iraq-- some military, some civilian-- all agree on the brutality of the Blackwater mercenaries. "They use Iraqis for target practice," one friend told me. "The Iraqis all fear them and hate them." Most people who know of former CIA field officer Robert Baer know him for the film Syriana (which was based on his books Sleeping With the Devil and See No Evil and starred George Clooney playing him). This week he also has an article in Time, Why Blackwater-- and More-- Should Leave Iraq.
Baer points out that Iraqis "look at Blackwater as trigger-happy mercenaries, and Iraqis don't want any armed foreign security contractors in their country. Do we let Iraqi embassy private security contractors race around Washington or New York, machine guns sticking out the window, to prevent carjackings?"
Granted, Washington and New York aren't Baghdad. Still, the fact is security contractors are a daily reminder for Iraqis that their country is occupied, and they are second-class citizens. The insult is not just that security contractors are allowed to use lethal force and not worry about going to jail; a Western security contractor will make in a week what an Iraqi might make in a year. Private security contractors are a humiliation equal to the humiliations that provoked the Boxer Rebellion in China or drove Iranians to overthrow the Shah. Security contractors may be keeping our officials alive, but they are not winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.
Papering over the problem by expelling Blackwater from Iraq leaves dozens of other companies working in Iraq, with their fingers on the trigger. With anywhere from 25,000 to 48,000 security contractors in country, we're bound to have another incident like Sunday's.
What the Administration should do is rescind Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, the decree that puts foreign security contractors beyond the reach of Iraqi law. This would effectively close down private security companies. There is no reason the State Department cannot provide its own security; State security officers are under diplomatic immunity. If there's a questionable shooting, the Iraqi government at least will have the satisfaction of declaring the shooter persona non grata under the Vienna Convention.
Bush's response was to get Condi to tell the Iraqi puppet government in the Green Zone that tried to expel Blackwater that they should back down. Lucas at The Battle School says she succeeded and Maliki has backed down. "Blackwater," writes Lucas, "was suspended, in total, for four days. Which equals out to be a half day for each civilian killed. So if you're Iraqi you should know that your death isn't worth a full 24 hours, just a petty 12. And if you're a mercenary in Iraq, you'll only get suspended for 12 hours for every Iraqi killed (so if you want a week off, then kill ten Iraqis).
UPDATE: ERIK PRINCE'S INVESTMENT IN THE GOP SURE HAS PAID OFF
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.