Monday, September 24, 2007

The Sons Of Blackwater

Original Movie Tag:
From the four winds they came,
...their eyes smoking and their fingers itching...


In the old Western "The Sons of Katie Elder", John Wayne and his ne'erdowell brothers are in jail on false charges. While they are there, the deputy informs them that brother Dean Martin is wanted for a murder in another town. Dean Martin explains to his siblings that he was winning at cards and the guy he killed got mad and claimed he was being cheated. The guy pulled a gun, but Martin was faster. So his brothers ask then why did he run? Answer: "Because it was his town and I was a stranger."

Now Dean Martin's character was no angel. He might have been lying or shading the truth. But truth or lie, he had a point: Typically, when a local is killed by a stranger, there are a lot of people around who are really mad, and, among those who aren't, there is no one who considers it his business to rush to the stranger's defense.

This is what I thought of when reading the Iraqi bloggers who chose to write about the Blackwater scandal:

Iraqi Mojo: People who murder 10 year old kids belong in JAIL.

Treasure of Baghdad: Blackwater’s latest crime killed eight Iraqi civilians. Their convoy was attacked first. Instead of aiming their shooting at the attackers first, they shot randomly killing the civilians in the streets...None of Blackwater’s murderers were brought to justice. There is no law that restricts them from committing crimes.

Healing Iraq: And of course, the Iraqi government is "sovereign" only when it suits the U.S.(i.e., go to hell, puppet. Who are you to complain?)
[Zeyad doesn't really expand on his own opinion on the matter beyond starting his post with an editorial from the Communist rag, The Nation.]

Hammorabi: The aim of these mercenaries is to get money and without the lack of security they can not work or in other word no one will need them at least in such a scale in Iraq. They therefore play a major role in destabilizing the security in Iraq so as they can exist.

Hammorabi's comment [as a pro-Hezbollah Shi'a Iraqi] is a good example of what I'm talking about. Almost two years ago, when US forces discovered a torture shack where Iraqi detainees by were being tortured and executed with power tools by members of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Hammorabi DEFENDED THE POLICE. Actually, so did I...unlike Hammorabi I didn't defend those particular acts, but I argued against using this event to compare the Pro-Iraqi forces to al-Qaeda or even the so-called "secular insurgency". But you can see how it makes all the difference to a "townie" if the accused is an "out-of-towner".

Confederate Yankee examined the quite varied reports on what went down in Nisour Square.

Is it true that Blackwater is "Above the Law" in Iraq?

Well, for what it's worth, Blackwater says "no". Chris Taylor, vice-president for strategic initiatives said:

"Everybody says that Ambassador Bremer signed a piece of paper that makes contractors immune. They can't be charged with crimes in Iraq. Horse doo-doo. That's not what Order 17 said. Order 17 is the Coalition Provisional Authority rule Bremer issued that governs security contractors. According to Order 17, contractors are subject to registration with the Iraqi ministry of the Interior. However, the order also says that in fulfilling their contracts, PSCs are not subject to Iraqi said any action that is required to fulfill an authorized and/or legal contract cannot be considered a crime under Iraqi law. Okay, rape, murder, smuggling, sex abuse, child molestation, are never actions tht are required to fulfill a contract. Therefore they could be tried under Irai law, under a military territorial jurisdiction act, under the war crimes act, under the victims of trafficking and violences protection act, I can go on...It made nobody immune to the law."

We shall see. If this is true, and Blackwater employees are found guilty of weapons smuggling in Iraq, then they will be sentenced appropriately.

Pat Dollard probably reflects the opinion of the Blackwater "mercenaries" wrt what this is really all about :

Bad blood between Blackwater and the people of Iraq doesn’t run very deep at all. Bad blood between the Mahdi Army and Blackwater runs very deep Blackwater friends assure me that back in the day they defended themselves very aggressively against Mahdi Army attacks - read: to the tune of an extraordinarily high Mahdi Army body count - and many Mahdi-connected/sympathetic people in Maliki’s government have long had a boner for the security firm...all the “evil mercenary” hype is Leftist propaganda. They’re just easier to smear than the troops. These guys take some of the biggest risks in Iraq on a daily basis, battle the enemy, and keep the wheels of the entire Iraq operation humming. All the good that is happening in Iraq happens with Blackwater as part of the team making it happen. That’s just a fact. And they do it in SUVs. Let me see you get your ass out there and do that, regardless of the money.

On the other hand, the Washington Post rebuts the claims of both Dollard and Taylor regarding Blackwater's immunity and the lack of disaffection Iraqis have for Blackwater's operatives.

My Opinion

Mercenaries are used for offensive operations. Blackwater in Iraq only has a defensive role. Calling Blackwater security people in Iraq "mercenaries" is a load of crap. They are no more mercenaries than a mall security guard is a mercenary for protecting assets that don't belong to him. They are no more mercenaries than a bodyguard for a movie star. They are less mercenary than a bouncer in bar. Actually, since Blackwater says they will not work for entities counter to U.S. interests, they are less mercenary than any of those.

Possible Scenarios

I have no idea what happened at Nisour Square. Here are some possible scenarios:

Some things to drop in the hopper when reading about this story:

  1. The difficulty in being able, after the fact, to suss who among the bodies were hostiles and who were not

  2. It is so common, after any fire-fight in a hostile town or neighborhood in Iraq, for "eye-witnesses" to crawl out of every worm-hole to assure credulous reporters that that US military acted irresponsibly or murderously.

    The so-called Haditha Massacre is a good example of this. Consequently, I have not been surprised to see the charges against the Marines dropping like flies.

    Nabil has claimed [in the comments which have been lost for some reason, sorry] the US forces shoot wildly in every direction at the least provocation. Apparently, when insurgents are firing at US forces, the insurgents bullets never find their way to his house.

  3. The story of the war for a free and secure Iraq is cluttered with stories by US Marines and soldiers reporting seeing men, boys, and women carrying little children acting as "spotters" for hostile forces. They consistently report that their rules of engagement prohibited them from shooting unarmed combatants, so they just ignored them at great personal risk. Maybe...maybe...some soldiers don't always follow their rules of engagement as they should and shoot spotters. But, frankly, should Americans or pro-Iraq Iraqis lose sleep worrying about that?

    Maybe that's what what the Blackwater did in this case. What are Blackwater's rules of engagement? Are they less stringent than the Marines? That could have been a problem in this case, or maybe not.

  4. The story of the war for a free and secure Iraq is also replete with reports of people packing the children in the the family car and rushing checkpoints in a suicide propaganda mission...sometimes with explosives, and sometimes not.

  5. One should consider what a coup it would be for the anti-Iraqi forces to murder a US diplomat in the streets of Baghdad. Talk about shooting wildly in every direction, this is what Prime Minister Maliki (the head of the freely elected Iraqi government) is most famous for.

Other pertinent articles I've been reading:


Iraqi Mojo has done a capital job following the Blackwater story.

Blackwater Watch (host is hostile to Blackwater) has a good list of links to articles and blogs for this.

The Blackwater website has a list of sites dedicated to its activities. I presume they are all favorably inclined to BW. (ooh! I'll probably get one of those Blackwater hats!)

Sharon Weinberger at writes a hostile but generally open-minded post about pro-Blackwater blogger White Rabbit.

Personally, I think Blackwater could have worked through the Nisour Square mess if the US had followed through in prosecuting Blackwater employee, Andrew Moonen, when he got drunk and killed the Iraqi VP's bodyguard for no justifiable reason.

I'm beginning to form an opinion that the fault here is not BlackwaterUSA (which is bound to get some bad apples from time to time) or even its employees (who are doing a very dangerous job that needs doing). The fault is with the US Defense Department, the US State Department, and the FBI for not holding the company and its employees accountable for mistakes and bad-to-evil behavior.



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