We May Be Thugs, But We're Profitable Ones

Abby Zimet

This week's announcement that Iraq has denied Blackwater Worldwide an operating license to provide so-called security protection to U.S. officials there seemed
like promising news. But Blackwater, known for its history of excessive force and its 2007
killing of Iraqi civilians, is doing just fine, thanks, pretty much
everywhere else.

Iraq barred Blackwater in large part because of the September 2007 noontime shootings in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 civilians dead, including children, women, and a man whose arms were raised in surrender. Another 18 people were wounded in the bloodiest of several violent incidents involving Blackwater and other American security contractors that had stoked anger among Iraqis.

After the shootings, the Iraqi government demanded Blackwater's ouster; last spring, the Bush administration renewed the company’s contract anyway. Earlier this month, five Blackwater guards pleaded not guilty to American charges of manslaughter in the shootings, and a sixth pleaded guilty.

But Blackwater had remained in Iraq until recent negotiations over an agreement governing the presence of American troops there, during which the Iraqis made the legal status of Blackwater and other security contractors a key issue. In the end, the Iraqis gained enough power to force Blackwater out.

Still, the North Carolina-based Blackwater isn't exactly about to close up shop: there's a reason that a couple of years ago they added "Worldwide" to its name. While it has 1,000 security contractors in Iraq, each year it trains somewhere between 25,000 and over 40,000 people – there are conflicting reports – for an ever-expanding global operation expected to bring in $1 billion in revenues in the next year or so, according to the Associated Press.

Functioning as a private military force, Blackwater runs what it boasts is the world's largest tactical training facility, instructing primarily American and foreign military and police personnel in offensive and defensive operations. Despite persistent controversy over its violent methods, it remains the largest of the U.S. State Department's three private security contractors.

Soon, it seems, it will no longer be working in Iraq. But it will continue working, often with little or no oversight, in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Japan, West Africa and scores of hot spots around the world.

Blackwater has said that, if banned from Iraq, they can leave within 72 hours. "If they tell us to leave, we'll pack it up and go," said one executive Thursday.

Oh, yeah. They also said they remain on track for that $1 billion. 

Read the full A.P. story here

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