The Blackness of Blackwater

How now, you secret, black and midnight hags! - Shakespeare, Macbeth

good news for Blackwater fans is that things are not as bleak as might
at first appear. Blackwater has more lives than the victims of its
blunders. Earlier this year, I erroneously
suggested that Blackwater might very soon be leaving Iraq since it had
been told to leave by the Iraqi government. It turned out that the Iraq
government lacked the authority to tell Blackwater what to do. Herewith
a brief history.

A congressional report found that Blackwater
guards were involved in almost 200 shootings in Iraq between 2005 and
2007. Included among them was a 2007-shooting spree that left 17 Iraqi
civilians dead. Following that event Prime Minister Nuri Kamal
al-Maliki demanded that Blackwater leave the country. Believing
(mistakenly) that he had the authority to determine whether a given
contractor could work in Iraq or not he said: "The Iraqi government is
responsible for its citizens, and it cannot be accepted for a security
company to carry out a killing." George Bush, who was accustomed to
making all the arrangements for the Iraq war, ignored Mr. al-Maliki and
extended Blackwater's contract for another year. Bowed, but not
defeated, Iraq did not give up trying to rid itself of the Blackwater

On January 1, 2009 the new Status of Forces Agreement
(SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraq took effect. That agreement provided
that Iraq had the "primary right to exercise jurisdiction over United
States contractors and United States contractor employees." On January
28, 2009 Iraq said it would not issue Blackwater a license to continue
operating in Iraq. Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the
Iraqi interior ministry said: "Those companies that don't have license,
such as Blackwater, should leave Iraq immediately." Alaa Al-Taia, an
Interior Ministry official said: "There are many marks against this
company, specifically that they have a bad history and have been
involved in the killing of so many civilians." Iraq probably thought
that would be the end of Blackwater in Iraq. It was wrong.

Obama administration said Blackwater is a State Department contractor
and SOFA only gives Iraq jurisdiction over contractors "who are in Iraq
to supply goods, services, and security in Iraq to or on behalf of the
United States Forces . . . ." Expounding on that a State Department
diplomatic security official said: "The purpose and mission of the
Department of State's private security contractors is limited to
protection of US diplomats and diplomatic facilities only and is
defensive in nature." And so Blackwater continued its work providing "aviation services" in Iraq.

worked throughout the spring and early summer and on July 29th its
contract was extended by the Obama administration with an agreement to
pay it an additional $20 million, bringing the total amount it received
for "aviation services" to $187 million and its total for Iraq work to
more than $1 billion. The July extension was to end on September 3 when
its role was to be assumed by other defense contractors. On September 1
it was learned that its contract would be extended indefinitely to
enable the handover of its work to the successor company to proceed
more smoothly. When she learned of the extension, Congresswoman Jan
Schakowsky of Illinois issued a statement
saying: "Given the company's history of massive abuses and misconduct,
I believe it is inappropriate for the United States government to
continue doing business with this firm." One of these days Blackwater
will be out of Iraq. It needn't be depressed at the thought of leaving.
That's because it has Afghanistan at its disposal and Afghanistan is a
gold mine for private contractors.

As of March 2009 there were
approximately 70, 000 private contractors working in Afghanistan
whereas there were only 48,000 U.S soldiers in that country. According
to a Congressional Research Study, the ratio of contractors to soldiers is the highest it's been in any conflict in the history of the United States.

Among the private contractors is, not surprisingly, Blackwater. It
provides diplomatic security for State Department people under the name
"US Training Center" and does Defense Department work under the name
"Paravant LLC. " Paravant has continued the proud tradition established
by Blackwater in Iraq of killing civilians. According to the Nation, one of Blackwater's subsidiaries in Afghanistan is under investigation for the shooting of two Afghan civilians in May.

Congresswoman Schakowsky learned of its contract in Afghanistan she
wrote Secretaries Clinton and Gates urging them "not to award further
contracts to Xe [Blackwater's new name] and its affiliates and to
review all existing contracts with this company." As of this writing
she had not received a response. In her concern she was joined by
Sonali Kolhatkar, author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords
and the Propaganda of Silence. Commenting on Blackwater's presence in
Afghanistan she said: "If they build the same record of killing
civilians in Afghanistan that they had in Iraq, it will cement the
Afghan resistance even further against the U.S. occupation." She's
right. Someone should let the President know.

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