Monday, January 29, 2007

Blackwater USA as the Bush Praetorian Guard

Blackwater USA is a contractor providing security services in Iraq. Of course, security services in a war zone are ordinarily provided by the army. What we have is a mercenary organization operating without public oversight.

David Bromwich discusses Jeremy Scahill’s new book on Blackwater USA
… Euphemistically called a "security force" by the journalists who mention it at all, this mercenary army has come into the news of Iraq irrepressibly on a few occasions. The first was the lynching of the four "civilian contractors" in April 2004 in Fallujah--the grisly incident that triggered the siege and the street-to-street devastation of that city by the American forces. The most recent was the death of five people on January 23 in the crash of a Blackwater helicopter in Baghdad.

Blackwater grew out of an exploration launched by Dick Cheney when he was still secretary of defense. Cheney commissioned from Halliburton a study of "how to privatize the military bureaucracy." Soon after, Cheney himself became the CEO of Halliburton; and when he returned to government, the Iraq war gave him the chance to reduce to a practice the lessons of that study. Scahill leaves the reader to infer how many of the necessary phone calls Cheney today is thus in a position to make, to relevant officers in the defense department and in the two corporations at the heart of the war effort. He himself laid down the conditions for creating one of the corporations, led the second for many years, and has had a hand in rebuilding the government department twice over.

Some facts and figures. Blackwater was founded by ex-Navy Seals and other former fighters in the special forces, and it is located near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. It is headed by Erik Prince, a far-right Christian activist and ex-Navy Seal who made large contributions to Republican causes in the 1990s and is a significant donor to President Bush. Blackwater has 2,300 men actively deployed in various countries. It has 20,000 soldiers prepared to fight when paid for, and "the world's largest private military base" from which to launch them. In the war in Iraq, most of Blackwater's actions are unreported, and its casualties are not counted among the military dead. Among its present employees are Cofer Black, the planner of the extraordinary rendition program, and Joseph Schmitz, the former Pentagon inspector general. Fred Fielding was its lawyer until he was summoned by the White House to replace Harriet Miers as the personal lawyer for President Bush. Its current lawyer of record is Kenneth Starr. Not without reason does Scahill refer to Blackwater as "the Praetorian Guard" for this administration's present and future wars. For a president who has taxed beyond precedent the usual prerogatives of the commander-in-chief of a standing army, it must give uncommon assurance to have at his absolute command, as well, a private army whose reach is enormous and whose operations are secret.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes amidst all the noise and fog of contemporary political life in America, I get a frighteningly vivid glimpse of the demise of our "democratic Republic," and the emergence of an Imperial Plutocracy driven only by a lust for greater wealth, greater power and the ideological domination of the rest of the world. And I am terrified. Simply terrified....

Anonymous said...

I believe that Blackwater is vital to the War on Terrorism and will continue to be a great ally in the hunt for Al Qaeda. Private contractors make over $160,000 doing operations ranging from delivering medical supplies to a hospital, rescuing civilian hostages in Iraq, and protecting building materials for an Iraqi school. These people are not soldiers or mercenaries.

Anonymous said...

"Private contractors make over $160,000 doing operations ranging from delivering medical supplies to a hospital..."

The equivalent of a UPS delivery man making $160,000 a year? You Republicans are doing a heckuva a job looking out for the taxpayer's nickle. BTW, I love what you folks did in New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

There is no republic any longer; the military can no longer afford that.

Empire is here, and will remain until it can no longer support itself.