Blackwater & the Outsourcing of War

by Laura Snedeker

The specter of irrelevance haunted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last week when the United States refused to obey his government’s order banning an American security contractor from the country.

The Iraqi government demanded that Blackwater USA, a military contractor with the Department of Defense in charge of protecting U.S. State Department personnel, leave the country following a shooting incident on September 16.

According to witnesses and Iraqi government officials, Blackwater’s hired guns fired into a crowded marketplace, killing at least eight and wounding several more. Company spokesmen and embassy officials claimed the dead were insurgents who ambushed a State Department convoy, but other witnesses said the attack was unprovoked.

Early last week, Blackwater was ordered to stand down and the U.S. embassy confined its personnel to the Green Zone, but the Iraqis caved under U.S. objections and the private army was back in business by the end of the week.

Blackwater describes itself as a “professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company” and is not bound by U.S. military law or by Iraqi law.

Blackwater’s government ties go deeper than just a no-bid contract and a license to kill. The company’s vice chairman is none other than Cofer Black, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

Black’s own company, the Black Group, delivered private security services to corporations and individuals operating in high-risk regions. In 2007, it joined two other companies to form Total Intelligence Solutions, a private intelligence company run by the CIA’s former Assistant Deputy Director of Operations.

Total Intel and Blackwater are the CIA’s answer to falling military recruitment numbers and criticism of its performance in the run-up to the Iraq War. Veterans for whom re-enlistment bonuses won’t suffice are enticed by the prospect of earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to protect American diplomats.

These types of operations, which started out as a way for the Pentagon to boost its security abilities without pulling too many soldiers from the front lines or putting more effort into recruiting, eventually take on identities of their own.

The billion-dollar embassy is proof enough that the U.S. has no intention of fully withdrawing from Iraq, but American soldiers need not remain. The evolution of Blackwater from a security force into a clandestine army with an allied intelligence company makes the Pentagon’s plans as irrelevant to the future of Iraq as the Iraqi government.

This information isn’t secret, yet it hasn’t received more than cursory notice in the media. Blackwater’s website unabashedly admits Cofer Black’s CIA employment, and Total Intel identifies its CEO as a former CIA officer. Are the mainstream media too timid to address the implications of CIA-affiliated mercenary armies?

Or will they wait 30 years for the government to declassify outdated and extensively documented material? CNN was ecstatic when the CIA released its papers this year about assassination attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. Will the media again jump on the story in 30 years when it’s too late to prevent disaster?

(Political cartoon from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free. To see what President George W. Bush had to say about military contractors earlier this year at Johns Hopkins University, please go here.)

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Mike Licht said...

Iraqis cannot and should not distinguish between so-called security contractors - our mercenaries - and the official U.S. military. We have let slip these dogs of war, and our nation is responsible for their actions.

The recent Blackwater incident occurred during convoy escort. Most convoys are escorted by private security contractors, who are instructed to get supplies through - no matter what. Review of our occupation will certainly reveal that this is not an isolated incident.

Anonymous said...

If Blackwater do not abide by ( and go on to repeatedly break ) any law, US or Iraqi, then by definition they are criminal foreign militants. The appropriate measures should be taken against them by not just the Iraqi army & police, but the US military as well.

Dont you think its beyond absurd to just raise your hands in resignation and say "Hey our hands are tied! These people are allowed to murder any civilians they want at any time in any circumstances and its totally fine, all legal and correct!".

Such a statement would be proof that the US Govt and military are directly supporting terrorism by Blackwater. And yet this seems to be implicitly what is happening, murderers and killers being protected and harbored from facing justice for the killings and other crimes they are committing.

Mike Licht said...

On 26 September the U.S. Senate voted to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a designated entity of a nation state, a terrorist organization. This is willful ignorance of international law on the part of the Senate. Blackwater and its private, mutli-national ilk qualify under every treaty hands-down. Senate - do your homework.

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