Blackwater USA has sprayed more bullets over Baghdad than any government contract killers, er, cowboys. Nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, mostly from moving vehicles, no stops for body counts, let alone helping the wounded. This according to a new report from Congress. In fact, Blackwater is almost an insurgency unto itself. Whatcha think?
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed up by scrappy Henry Waxman, delivered a 15-page report for Tuesday's committee hearing. It was based on no less than 437 internal Blackwater incident reports as well as State Department correspondence, saying Blackwater's force was "frequent and extensive, resulting in significant casualties and property damage." Yet State loves them, to the tune of nearly $1 billion in contracts hither and yon so far.
Nevertheless, the boyz have a thing for being drunk and stoned on the job and premature ejaculation of bullets (firing first) to spread their own terror or errors. But they're not all bad. They have also involved themselves with the military (a no-no) and on strategic missions (a no-no-no), delivering a helping handful of bullets all over Baghdad.
But Miss Condi doesn't want anybody nagging the boyz. They're just high-spirited guys, revolving door cowboys headed to the CIA. By the way, Blackwater outguns its two pardners, DynCorp International in the North Country and Triple Canopy in the South Country, combined. They be bad, mad, a sad commentary on the war in Iraq and King George's desperate need for results.
In a couple of cases, Blackwater bribed families of victims who spoke up. Other mishaps included attempted covered-ups of boo-boos. Blackwater even tried to 86 a drunken shooter out of Iraq 36 hours after he killed the bodyguard of one of Iraq's dual vice presidents, on Christmas Eve no less. Guess he got a little too merry. Now we know for sure who's naughty and who's nice.
What's more, on September 16, the Blackwater boyz were involved in a gunfight in Baghdad square that left some 17 Iraqis dead, a spree that still has a cloud over its head. Outraged Iraqi officials called it "cold-blooded murder" and wanted them out of the country, pronto. But nooooooo, they will continue. In fact, despite three FBI investigations of the shooting, we have no word from the State Department or Blackwater yet. Yes, Blackwater runs deep and quiet. Just like their founder, ex Navy Seal, press-shy guy, Erik Prince.
Prince, founder and CEO, not the rock star
In a decade, Prince guided Blackwater from a small company training local SWAT teams to the not-so-invisible right hand of US Iraq ops. He remained behind the scenes till 9/11, when a lot of strange faces emerged from the cracks in security. His father Edgar was a big wheel in auto parts, a moving force behind the Family Research Council (FRC), a right-wing fundamentalist Christian group close to the Bush administration. What else is new?
Edgar Prince's widow remarried after his death and served on the boards of FRC and another heavyweight Christian right organization, Dobson's Focus on the Family. God help us. She runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. According to IRS filings, son Erik is a vice president. The foundation gave big loot to some big names on the Christian right, $670,000 to from July 2003 to 2006 and $531,000 in the same period to Focus on the Family, a little fuzzy.
According to Salon.com, they have been connected to the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive Christian conservative organization whose meeting guests have included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer, and whose members include the late Jerry Falwell, the live Ralph Reed and Dobson. The Prince Foundation gave the old CNP $80,000 between July 2003 and 2005. What goes around seems to come around, God's bidness as usual.
For the full resume and cast of characters and the gigs that worked them up to being billion dollar contractors, check the above link; also thanks to Ben Van Heuvelen for his research.
You will find Blackwater's directory to be basically a hawk's nest of neocons, conservative Christians, CIA types, renditioners, White House staffers, and Pentagon military contract overseers from hell. These folks even helped Blackwater get $73 million security contract in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while New Orleans drowned. In the name of the father, son, and black Holy Ghost, they're just in time for Halloween and the scare of your life.
Back to the bad deeds of Blackwater
In the case of the Christmas Eve killing, ho ho ho, Waxman's report blows the whistle on a United States Embassy official in Iraq who advised paying off the family of the dead bodyguard to the tune of some $250,000, something for under the tree or the scimitar. A lower ranking kadoodle, as the Times tells it, didn't want to set such a high pay-out precedent. After all, people would try to get killed by our Blackwater boyz to guarantee their family's financial future. It's better than Charles Schwab.
So Blackwater, the K-Mart of killers settled for paying the family fifteen grand. Cheesy.
In another fatal shooting, an unidentified State Dept. official in Iraq told Blackwater to pay a victim's family five grand. Then he wrote, "I hope we can put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly." All heart, these guys. Then there were three other shootings where Blackwater just filed cover-up reports to avoid responsibility, fiscal or other. And these are the guys responsible for guarding American diplomats in and around Baghdad. I'd rather take a streetcar, even a rickshaw.
But then the boyz from State claim that Bleakwater, sorry, Blackwater, ran more than 1,800 escort convoys for American diplomats (almost a contradiction in terms) and other "senior civilians" (past 65?) this year. Its boyz "discharged" their pieces 57 times. Blackwater was into 195 instances of gunfire from 2005 until early September. That's a rate of 1.4 shootings a week (almost as high as US cops in black neighborhoods), the report said. As said earlier, in 163 cases, Blackwater boyz shot first. Oo-ah, do it again, it feels so good to kill, even though the boyz are supposed to use their pieces for defensive purposes. Defensive is the opposite of offensive, guys.
Lethal force (aside from Bruce Willis movies or they're takeoffs) is supposed to be used only to prevent "imminent and grave danger," to themselves and the people they're paid to protect. But the report says, "In practice, however, the vast majority of Blackwater weapons discharges are preemptive (oops, too soon again guys), with Blackwater forces firing first at a vehicle or suspicious individual prior to receiving fire."
Jeez, sounds like an insurgency to me. Just go shoot some asses on the street. That'll keep them indoors and under the couch. Ah, but conscience, conscience!
Blackwater has fired 122 of its boyz over the past three years for misuse of weapons, drug or alcohol abuse, lewd conduct or violent behavior. Well, I'm for standards, too. It also dumped workers for insubordination, failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company. What about embarrassing America? And where are they recruiting, at Max Security in the Florence, Colorado, prison facility?
But hold on. Monday, the Senate gave final okay, 92 to 3, to a "defense policy bill" that carried the establishment of an "independent commission to investigate (what, like the 9/11 Commission?) private contractors at work and play in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill, which needs to be "reconciled" with a House version, faces a veto threat. No? Because it contains an expansion of federal hate-crimes laws. Well, there you have it. We're on the case again.
When it comes to Blackwater's bullets over Baghdad, just, well, duck, dummy, before you get your bum shot off. So hooray again for democracy. And ladies and gents, good night and good luck.