Profit-Chasing Guns-for-Hire Are Killing Us in Iraq and Afghanistan
Drunken shootouts and debauchery, meaningless death and mayhem -- the "Wild West" atmosphere created by the Bush Administration's criminal initiation and execution of the Iraq War is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks in part to the rapacious greed injected into war-fighting by the liberal use of for-profit armed "security" companies, a brutal, unaccountable and unreliable swagger is increasingly the face of the U.S. in conflict zones around the world. The latest Wikileaks dump adds a sickening granularity to what Brave New Films showed in our documentary, Iraq For Sale: the use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan makes a few people very, very rich, but it's making the rest of us -- Americans and local civilians alike -- much less safe.
Summarizing the logs released by Wikileaks, the New York Times on October 25 made it clear that fat cat war junkies like Blackwater/Xe's Erik Prince have sold the American people a toxic bill of goods:
For all the contractors' bravado -- Iraq was packed with beefy men with beards and flak jackets -- and for all the debates about their necessity, it is clear from the documents that the contractors appeared notably ineffective at keeping themselves and the people they were paid to protect from being killed.
In fact, the documents seem to confirm a common observation on the ground during those years in Iraq: far from providing insurance against sudden death, the easily identifiable, surprisingly vulnerable pickup trucks and S.U.V.'s driven by the security companies were magnets for insurgents, militias, disgruntled Iraqis and anyone else in search of a target.
Shorter version: people died, are still dying, because of these Humvee-chasing war tychoons' ineptitude and brutality, and the toll includes their own employees. Worse, even when we know that these Gordon Geeko's of the war industry oversee a machine that's killing and maiming innocent people (including U.S. soldiers!), our governments seem unwilling to do anything about it:
...But whatever the constellation of reasons -- from war-zone jumpiness to outright disregard for civilian lives -- the security companies are cited time after time for shootings that the documents plainly label as unjustified. This has blackened their reputation, even if it has not lessened the military's dependence on them.
...Many of the companies apparently felt no sense of accountability. Contractors with a Romanian company called Danubia Global killed three Iraqis in Falluja in 2006, another report said, then refused to answer questions on the episode, citing a company policy not to provide information to investigators.
Lest you think this is an attitude unique to Romania, remember that the effort to prosecute Blackwater/Xe is collapsing right here in the U.S., and many of the companies cited for the worst abused continue to get paid to provide their brand of "security" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some of these gun-wielding mercenaries seem to be doing their best to give the Cowboy gang from Tombstone a run for their money in alcohol-fueled carnage:
...And still more recently, in July 2009, local contractors with the 77th Security Company drove into a neighborhood in the northern city of Erbil and began shooting at random, setting off a firefight with an off-duty police officer and wounding three women, another report said.
'It is assessed that this drunken group of individuals were out having a good time and firing their weapons,' the incident report concluded.
I'm sure the women injured by the bullets didn't have a very good time.
Because the U.S. has utterly failed to reign in the hired guns under their authority in Iraq, the saloon-and-pistols atmosphere has spread unchecked to Afghanistan. Remember Wackenhut? If you don't remember the name, I'm sure you remember the photos of the great job they've done "protecting" the U.S. embassy there:
I'm fed up with being humiliated -- of seeing our troops in combat zones humiliated! -- by the behavior of these unaccountable, brutal mercenary companies. That's why today, I called 202.224.3121 and told my representative that I want them to support the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act and phase out the use of armed security contractors. I hope you'll do the same.
You can learn more about the danger posed by these war profiteers by watching Brave New Foundation's documentary, Iraq For Sale.
© 2010 Robert Greenwald