Follow Up To Blackwater

In case you’re still wondering as to how exactly we’re empowering the Iraqi people to be sovereign over themselves, one need only revisit the Blackwater scandal.

It began over last weekend when members of the Blackwater private agency opened fire seemingly at random and killing nearly a dozen civilians as well as injuring another dozen.  Almost immediately Iraq had called for the mercenary group’s ouster.

But if they were expecting a prompt withdrawl of the Blackwater personnel, they would be sorely disappointed.  While the flailing Maliki calls for the agency to be replaced by one that does not have the taint of killing innocent Iraqis on it, the US looks as though it’s going to pigeon hole our little colony into a long and drawn out investigation.  Meanwhile, without even stopping to consider the impact on Iraq’s citizens, the US will go on using Blackwater until the investigation yields its results.

Now, I’m all for investigations.  I like them thorough and conclusive if you want to be honest, but there’s something else at work here; Iraqi Sovereignty.  They pretty much made it clear that they wanted Blackwater out immediately, and if this was, as the administration so often attempts to frame it, a joint excercise where we are working with the Iraqis, then the only decent thing to do, the only common sense thing to do would be to pull blackwater out.

But almost as quick as the call for Blackwater’s ouster came the defense from the US on Blackwater’s behalf.  Blackwater was, apparently, indispensible, and without the services of the several hundred strong force, all of our efforts in Iraq would collapse.

Again, more questions, and more holes in the rose colored goggles Bush is still trying to force upon the American people.  How real can the progress be if the absence of a small force from Iraq would result in chaos?  If it’s truly that fragile, can we really call it progress at all?  Or are we merely, as I have been asserting for some time now, just plugging up the hole in the dam with our finger?

The evidence points to the latter.

My colleague Mick yesterday put up a must read post, and it most definitely needs to infiltrate the public consciousness on Iraq.  As reported by the BBC, the Anbar Awakening upon which the Bush administration has been betting the house is in truth little more than a fraud, and the US is getting gamed but good

While war defenders have been pointing to the Anbar model as the solution to Iraq, I’ve been asking, with scant few answers being offered, how that model for an atypical community can be translated throughout the rest of Iraq.  But according to Mick’s post, it’s already been happening, just not in the shiny happy way that people would expect.

But the peace they’re buying has a price: the Shi’ia minority. The Anbar tribes’ alliance with the US military has effectively given them control of the province and they’re using that control to “cleanse” the Shi’ia population. As Rowley reports, there isn’t a Shi’ia family left in Anbar. Whole families have been murdered, and the rest have fled for the protection of Muktada al-Sadr. They are now living in refugee camps without water, sanitation facilities, or much food, in areas considered too dangerous for NGO’s to operate.

The real key to the miracle in Anbar was not the bottom up reconciliation, let’s work together to get rid of AQI kind of feel good story that the Bush Administration has been trying to sell nearly as much as it was merely a result of ethnic cleansing.  And there is no shortage of ethnic cleansing throughout Iraq.

One has to wonder when you take into account the lack of action on behalf of the US in regards to Blackwater.  In fact, as opposed to acting like a responsible party, holding a moratorium on Blackwater operations, replacing the units, and making amends, the administration is forcing the company down Iraq’s throat whether they like it or not.  Meanwhile, they are gaming us telling us that they need Blackwater on the ground or else everything goes to hell.

But they missed the memo.  Their shining light of hope in Iraq, the Anbar Awakening, was itself little more than a game, and it would seem that much of the progress Blackwater’s absence would destroy can hardly be called progress at all.

UPDATE: While the US continues to drag its feet, Iraq has already determined that the gunfire from Blackwater came unprovoked.  The article goes on to mention the desire of the Iraqis to have the Blackwater agency as well as other private contractors replaced by Iraqis which reminds me of a point I had intended to make in the original post.

This is another mistake the US continues to make in regards to Iraq, the most prominent analogy in my mind being that of the Bremer walls.

The large concrete blast walls that protect the green zone, aka Bremer walls, had the potential for helping the Iraqi’s out economically.  We are there, after all, for them, right?  Concrete, as luck would have it, is a significant export of Iraq, and enlisting Iraqis to supply and construct the Bremer walls would have provided some Iraqis with gainful employment, not only helping to replenish their coffers but also to bolster personal pride.

So what do we do?  We outsourced the job to Turkey.

Now, with the purpose of these private security companies being to protect foreign officials, we had the opportunity to hire Iraqis, or at the very least use our own military that would have been capable to hold to account for their behavior, but instead we outsource the job to our own private agencies who enjoy a wide latitude that goes too far.

Every step of the way, it would seem, we continue to send the wrong message to the Iraqi people.

5 Responses to “Follow Up To Blackwater”

  1. mick says:

    I’ve been doing some research on Blackwater that I don’t have time to post today – I’ll try to post it this weekend when I can be sure no one will read it – and apart from the fact that the company is a CIA-linked revolving door, that they have layer after corporate layer that’s linked to various member of the Bush admin, that they’ve hired dozens of ex-members of death squads from the Chilean and Colombian military, and that its CEO, in a rare interview, claimed that their contract with the Bush govt required them to do so (a startling statement the interviewer didn’t pick up on, and so goes unexplained), what’s most interesting to me about this incident at the moment is that it doesn’t really matter whose version of the story you believe. They’re both bad news for Blackwater.

    In Version 1.0, the Iraqi govt claims that Blackwater, returning from an assignment to guard state dept diplomats, interfered in a traffic stop without either permission or provocation. Simply because a car by-passed the checkpoint, they got out of their vehicles and began firing indiscriminately on it.

    That isn’t good for Blackwater. It makes them a rogue operation whose employees are little more than gunslingers who act on their own, without orders, regard for the law, or interest in the safety of civilians. Bad.

    In Version 2.0, Blackwater was the target of an insurgent attack in which a bomb of some sort was the trigger to set off small-arms fire from snipers. Blackwater merely returned that fire in order to defend itself.

    This isn’t any better. It means that the insurgents have decided to make war on Blackwater in exactly the same way they make war on US troops because they’ve decided there’s no difference between them. Very bad. If this develops, it means the company charged with protecting govt officials has itself become a target, thereby endangering those officials even more.


    About the same as the chance that Halliburton will be exiled to make way for Iraqi companies to take on the reconstruction with Iraqi workers. And for the same reasons.

  2. First, yes, weekend posting here is good. Me, Mike and Mac typically don’t besides our music posts and other malarchy, so some serious stuff might help (like last week was GREAT)

    Second. If you’re going to do the next follow up on Blackwater, I won’t step on your toes, just merely offer a link that a friend sent to me, if it helps.

  3. mick says:

    In the first place, what I’m doing isn’t “follow-up”, it’s more like background: who are these people? how are they connected, to each other and to the Bush admin? what’s their history? how are the lawsuits progressing? That kinda stuff. It won’t get in your way, just hopefully provide some context and background info (like, did you know Blackwater’s corporate counsel is our ol’ buddy Ken Starr? I didn’t).

    Secondly, even if I was, there’s plenty here to discuss, altho we maybe might do a little co-ordinating so we’re not all covering the same shit.

    Thirdly, the CSM story is interesting – I didn’t know they’d changed the UCMJ last year so contracters could be prosecuted, missed that somehow – and somebody ought to bring it up but it’s not really background. Go for it. (Did get one nugget I might look into: the Lexington Institute is a new on on me. Don’t know how – if – it relates but I’d like to find out who they are.)

    Fourth: some serious stuff might help

    Or sink out of sight entirely. I tend to write longer, more cohesive pieces on the weekend because I have more time. Naturally, my readership nosedives practically into single digits between Fri afternoon and Mon morning. I wouldn’t want to do the same thing to CFLF, which I have come to enjoy writing for. Might be better if I posted it at Witness and then just linked to it at some point.

    Anyway, Michael only invited me for a few days and I’ve been hanging around for 2 solid weeks. I’m already risking serious guest-blogger-overstaying-welcomeness. Sending your weekend numbers down the stackpipe would be, like, “Jeez, man, don’t you know when to quit? Haven’t you done enough damage? Can’t you, like, find someplace else to haunt?” I wouldn’t want to do that. I’d like to be invited back sometime. Michael said something about maybe the first 2 weeks in Oct while he’s off water-skiing in the Channeled Scablands – if he can’t find somebody better. (Michael! Doghouse O’Riley! Forgot to mention him, and he’s a dynamite writer, one of the best whether he’s being funny or serious. Bats Left Throws Right. Check it out.) Wouldn’t want to risk that.

    All in all, might be smarter to quit while I’m marginally ahead.

  4. Are you joking?


    I feel pretty safe in saying your welcome doesn’t wear out here. Nuff said on that.

    Also, usually our weekend numbers drop to the seventies over the weekend. Last Saturday we cleared two hundred, and sunday we were over three hundred, and I attribute that to the fact that you and Matt both had some more substantive posts through the weekend than our typical lighter fare.

    But that’s between you and Mike honestly. Personally, I’ve loved having you around, and wouldn’t mind it continuing.

  5. mick says:

    Yes, I was kidding. That was me attempting to be humorous and apparently not getting very far. It was, of course, as all humor inevitably is, based on some truth. For example, every one of those “questions-I-expected-to-hear-any-minute” are questions I have in fact been asked. Asked so often I now anticipate their coming. I appear to be someone who wears on people rather quickly, and I understand that. I’m gracious about it. Also modest, brave, compassionate, understanding, tolerant to a fault, and not the least bit arrogant. It’s just that I’m right all the time and that’s sometimes confused with arrogance by people who are thin-skinned and jealous. But that’s alright. I forgive them. That’s the kind of guy I am.

    And I am NOT pissy. That’s an unsubstantiated rumor spread by my enemies (who are everywhere, like lice), and I deny it completely.I was generous enough to allow them to speak to me without the usual obligatory designation (Your Masterfulness, which is but my due) and they repaid me with scorn and reproachment. Don’t you find that lesser beings aren’t properly grateful for all the enlightenment we bring into their lives?

    But that’s OK. I forgive them. That’s the kind of guy I am.

    But to be serious for a moment (not that I wasn’t before), thanks for the encouragement, and of course it’s up to Mike. But it’s true that he invited me just as a fill-in. My understanding was that he wanted to give a number of different voices from smaller blogs a chance to be heard, and I fully support that. There are a lot of great writers with blogs – Doghouse Riley is one and I gave Michael the names of a few others I thought he ought to check out – who deserve wider recognition and bigger audiences either because of what they have to say or the way they say it.

    There’s James Clay Fuller for instance, an ex-Minneapolis reporter, retired now, who I don’t think a lot of people know about but should because he does both. He doesn’t post all that often but when he does, he means it.

    Too many of us get locked into our little circles and locked out of the larger blogosphere, and some of us really ought to be better known. There’s Doug at Doug’s Darkworld who keeps trying to find meaning in apparent senselessness. In yesterday’s post, for example, he wrote about our ignorance of how many civilians have been killed in Iraq. After noting that a study shows most Americans think there have been only about 10,000 fatalities when the most optimistic studies show a minimum of several hundred thousand, he writes:

    How is this even possible in this day and age of the Internet, cable TV, and the like that so many Americans are so wildly off about their assessment of the death toll in Iraq? I’m not quite sure, though I have a few ideas. Some people just don’t really care, I mean, Iraq is on the other side of the planet, doesn’t have a pro football team, and has never been visited by Britney or Paris. So news of Iraq will never get to these people, so be it. Many people should know better though, and I think that’s where cognitive dissonance comes into play. Basically when presented with information that conflicts with a person’s belief and/or actions, they resolve the issue in the easiest way possible, which in many cases is simply by not believing the conflicting information. Or managing it so as to make it more palatable, I suspect when confronted with the civilian death toll in Iraq a lot of Americans simply do what Bush is doing, they blame the Iraqis.

    Very few people are even talking about the civilian death toll, but that’s Doug. He insists that attention must be paid, to steal a phrase from Arthur Miller, and he’ll do it even if no one else will.

    So I think what Mike’s trying to do is great and I agree with him: Diversity, diversity, and let’s have more of it. I only wish the Big Box Bloggers felt the same way.

    But having said that, I have to add that I appreciate the friendly reception from y’all, and the way you accepted the new kid on the block without qualm or quiver. You were generous with me and tolerant of my idiosyncrasies. I felt at home right away, which doesn’t happen often, especially online. In the words of Thomas Mitchell, playing yet another drunk, “Yr awwwwright, yrrr alllright.”


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