Blackwater covered up Iraq shootings

We should not be using mercenary contractors for “security” in Iraq.

Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.

In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.

But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

Read it all. It’s pretty sickening.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

32 comments for “Blackwater covered up Iraq shootings

  1. Nomen Nescio
    October 2, 2007 at 9:11 am

    nitpick: they are not vigilantes in any real sense. they’re mercenaries. and no, that doesn’t make the situation any better.

  2. CBrachyrhynchos
    October 2, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Remember the good old days of the Reagan administration when there was at least one layer of plausible deniability between the U.S. and paramilitary death squads operating in El Salvador, and Nicaragua?

  3. Hector B.
    October 2, 2007 at 11:10 am

    How can the US pay Blackwater $950 a day for mercenaries, when National Guard and Reserves who are foregoing their civilian salaries to be wounded and killed in Iraq can’t afford to pay their bills? Not to mention the inadquacy of the medical care they receive once home.

  4. October 2, 2007 at 11:12 am

    When reading these stories, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who remembers the shitstorm that raged after the four Blackwater guys were killed in Falluja and Kos referred to them as mercenaries. Because OMG it was the worst and most anti-American thing ever to even hint that the US was employing mercenaries against Iraqis.

    Now the administration just says, “Yeah, they’re mercenaries — what are you going to do about it?”

  5. Mike
    October 2, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Just a couple of thoughts on this…

    First, one of the main reasons that the US is utilizing mercenaries is because the military, both active duty and reserves, are spread too thin and inappropriately equipped.

    Second, the reason that they get paid so much is because the aren’t property of the US government. Yes, that is how the government looks at soldiers. If the government looked at soldiers more like employees instead of disposable assets, the pay and medical problem would probably go away or at least get better.

    Third, the UN Peacekeepers have done far worse things that Blackwater over the years. It’s not a big deal to do searches on attrocities committed by UN Peacekeepers and they make Blackwater look like boyscouts.

    The only way to fix the need for private security (mercenaries) is to either get enough soldiers on the ground to provide security correctly or get out so there’s no need. Unfortunately, we broke it so we bought it… we’re not getting out of there anytime soon even if Dems win the Presidency. In the mean time, more control over the mercs would be a good start.

  6. October 2, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Normen-

    Fixed. Thanks!

  7. Mnemosyne
    October 2, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Third, the UN Peacekeepers have done far worse things that Blackwater over the years. It’s not a big deal to do searches on attrocities committed by UN Peacekeepers and they make Blackwater look like boyscouts.

    And your point is … ? Because otherwise you’re saying, “Hey, look at those other armies over there, they do much worse things than Our Boys are doing, so therefore there’s no need to keep Blackwater under control.”

    Also known as, “Saddam did worse things at Abu Ghraib than we did, so everything we did there was fine and people should stop whining about it.” Don’t you think we should have a slightly more nuanced position in the world than, “We did slightly better than other countries, so that makes us the Good Guys and them the Bad Guys”?

  8. Kat
    October 2, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Blackwater doesn’t have “employees”–individuals who work for them are “contractors”. So no benefits for them or their families. The attraction is the high rate of pay; the risk is the if you die or get hurt you are on your own. If you are in this line of work, I doubt you can self-insure at all, or if you can its probably very expensive. Its a huge gamble but former military often are attracted to it to get out of financial problems.

    Military folks get much, much lower pay rates, but have life insurance and medical (although it is up for debate if these programs are adequate to their mission… )

    A couple reason come to mind as to why the money paid to Blackwater doesn’t go directly into the military… 1) even with a significant raise in pay, I doubt the ranks would increase much with the current climate of things; and 2) the gov’t uses their status as “contractor” to their advantage to get things done that the military can’t legally do and then claims no knowledge. Its a way to skirt the rules.

    At the end of the day, Blackwater is in business to make money. Training, leadership, and mission are all secondary to that primary agenda.

  9. Mike
    October 2, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Should we have a more nuanced position? Yes. But the fact of the matter is that War is ugly and bad things are going to happen no matter what you do to try to keep it from happening or what side you’re on.

    One side will burn bodies and drag them through a street to humiliate them. Soldiers will kill innocents after a roadside bomb kills some of their fellow soldiers. An mercenaries will do whatever they want if not held to some sort of accountability.

    Blackwater does need supervision by the military/government and they need to answer for anything they do wrong.

    As for the whole Good Guy/Bad Guy thing, that is simply a matter of perspective.

  10. Mike
    October 2, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Kat, agreed on all counts. I have a friend that worked in Saudi for a number of years on a contract basis. He did, however, have medical insurance… but the lure was the money.

    In those 2 years, he made over $200K per year and most of it was tax free. That’s why contractors go over to obviously hostile areas.

    As for the military, I agree that raising the pay won’t help. Short of activating the draft I don’t see things getting any better as far as numbers are concerned.

  11. Shankar Gupta
    October 2, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    When reading these stories, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who remembers the shitstorm that raged after the four Blackwater guys were killed in Falluja and Kos referred to them as mercenaries.

    If memory serves, that shitstorm was not touched off by Markos referring to them as “mercenaries,” but rather saying that he “[felt] nothing” over their deaths, and “screw them.”

  12. Mnemosyne
    October 2, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    If memory serves, that shitstorm was not touched off by Markos referring to them as “mercenaries,” but rather saying that he “[felt] nothing” over their deaths, and “screw them.”

    In light of the current evidence, do you still feel really, really sorry for those poor innocent Blackwater guys in Fallujah?

  13. Shankar Gupta
    October 2, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    In light of the current evidence, do you still feel really, really sorry for those poor innocent Blackwater guys in Fallujah?

    Burned alive, strung up, and splashed across the front pages?

    Yep.

  14. zuzu
    October 2, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    They use mercenaries because they don’t have the political will to open up the draft.

  15. Nomen Nescio
    October 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    weird thing is, historically the whole point of using mercenaries has been that they can be treated as disposable. the understanding is of course that they won’t take on suicide missions — certainly not for any amount of money they expect their employers to be able to pay up front, at least — but short of that, they’re traditionally employees one doesn’t have to attend the funerals of, or even send flowers.

    (well, that, and they can be sent to do dirty work that would be politically unpalatable for either a professional or a drafted army. as has been mentioned, of course.)

    so Markos’ reaction was, if anything, the historically accurate and proper one. cold and ruthless, yes, but that’s what you have to be to hire mercenaries in the first place.

  16. Shankar Gupta
    October 2, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    weird thing is, historically the whole point of using mercenaries has been that they can be treated as disposable.

    Where are you getting that from? Mercenaries have been employed throughout history because they’re more skilled than levy troops, come with their own equipment, have no connection to the local aristocracy and therefore are considered less corruptible, etc., etc. The Swiss Guard, which provides security for the Vatican, was originally a mercenary company, and it’s not because they were expendable.

    Zuzu’s explanation for why mercenaries are hired is pretty much spot-on:

    They use mercenaries because they don’t have the political will to open up the draft.

    Getting more troops through a draft is right out, so hiring them is in.

    so Markos’ reaction was, if anything, the historically accurate and proper one.

    Those are some impressive moral gymnastics. Even the Russian judge would give you a 10.

  17. Hawise
    October 2, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Mercenary troops were often better skilled than levies, not always but often enough. They sometimes were better led and were required to provide for themselves out of their pay or spoils. They were generally used because the leadership of the country couldn’t trust their own military to do what was asked of them In general mercenaries are called upon because of existing bad governance, past bad goverance or bad goverance yet to come.

    Mercenaries were considered disposable by the people who hired them, they were considered pests by those that opposed them and were considered better than the levies by themselves. Anyway you do it their presence is a destabilizing influence guaranteed to foul up the works.

  18. Mnemosyne
    October 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Burned alive, strung up, and splashed across the front pages?

    And that’s worse than what happened to Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy L. Johnson, Army Sgt. Robert T. Ayres III, Army Staff Sgt. Donnie D. Dixon, and Army Sgt. 1st Class James D. Doster?

    Oh, wait, all of those guys died in combat for a mere soldier’s pay. They weren’t making the big bucks like the Blackwater guys, which is what makes the death of the Blackwater guys much more tragic than that of a mere soldier.

    Nice to know that you can weep for four mercenaries but don’t give a shit about the soldiers who are getting killed every day for a quarter of the pay.

  19. exholt
    October 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Mercenary troops were often better skilled than levies, not always but often enough. They sometimes were better led and were required to provide for themselves out of their pay or spoils. They were generally used because the leadership of the country couldn’t trust their own military to do what was asked of them In general mercenaries are called upon because of existing bad governance, past bad goverance or bad goverance yet to come.

    They also had a nasty tendency to break and run if the battle turned against them or rebel/pillage the local communities if they felt they aren’t being paid to their satisfaction as their first priority was looking out for number one. Not surprisingly, they were much harder to control and supervise at times for those reasons. As other commenters have noted, mercenaries can be destabilizing politically as the Italian states of Machiavelli’s time and other employers have found to their great regret.

    It is surprising the administration and congress/senate failed to take this into account by not instituting adequate regulations and safeguards to ensure that firms like Blackwater could be held accountable for any misconduct.

  20. October 2, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Zuzu’s … is pretty much spot-on

    Sweet Jesus, Shankar and Zuzu agree. The world has stopped spinning on its axis.

  21. October 2, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    And that’s worse than what happened to Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy L. Johnson, Army Sgt. Robert T. Ayres III, Army Staff Sgt. Donnie D. Dixon, and Army Sgt. 1st Class James D. Doster?

    Oh, wait, all of those guys died in combat for a mere soldier’s pay. They weren’t making the big bucks like the Blackwater guys, which is what makes the death of the Blackwater guys much more tragic than that of a mere soldier.

    Nice to know that you can weep for four mercenaries but don’t give a shit about the soldiers who are getting killed every day for a quarter of the pay.

    Wait a minute, Mnemosyne, no one said that. No one is saying that the Blackwater guys being killed in Falluja is worse than soldiers being killed. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as much as I abhor this mercenary system and I think the Blackwater guys were clearly out of control, they’re still human beings who I suspect are mostly trying to do what they think is best for themselves and their families. I still think it’s tragic that they were killed. That doesn’t make the system any less fucked up, but I think it’s perfectly fair and entirely possible to weep for four mercenaries and to grieve for all the soldiers who are killed for a quarter of the pay.

  22. Shankar Gupta
    October 2, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Nice to know that you can weep for four mercenaries but don’t give a shit about the soldiers who are getting killed every day for a quarter of the pay.

    I was going to come and post more or less what Jill said, but less friendly-like, but she beat me to it by about two hours. That’s what I get for going for cocktails after work.

  23. Justin Ellis
    October 2, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    As of April 2005 an estimated 240 of 20,000 “contractors” had died in Iraq. (Blackwater doesn’t publicly release their casualties so current statistics are not available as far as I know) These folks are doing some very dangerous jobs for the pay that the military should be getting anyway. I don’t think they should be there but its important to keep in mind they’re not our enemy, just a bunch of guys trying to make a buck with the only skills they had after spending the prime of their lives serving us in the special forces. A lot of them anyways. Just restating what most people here seem to think already I suppose.

  24. S.H.
    October 2, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    “Third, the UN Peacekeepers have done far worse things that Blackwater over the years. It’s not a big deal to do searches on attrocities committed by UN Peacekeepers and they make Blackwater look like boyscouts.”

    I think if you’re gonna use a comparison more apt would be U.S. soldiers have done things in Iraq that would make Blackwater look like boy scouts. Like for instance raping a 14 yr old and slaughtering her family. Now I wouldn’t say that’s a reflection on the US Army as a whole. Nor are any atrocities by individual soldiers from individual countries who make up the UN peacekeeping force a reflection on the UN. Nor on the important work that they do (or at least try to do) in places where horryifying genocides take place (when this country doesn’t ever seem to give a damn).

    “But the fact of the matter is that War is ugly and bad things are going to happen no matter what you do to try to keep it from happening or what side you’re on.”

    Last time I checked there was such a thing as war crimes. Using this line of logic pretty much justifies the Holocaust, the My Lai Massacre and the current genocide in Sudan to name a few. But hey, shit happens!

  25. Kat
    October 3, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Not surprisingly, they were much harder to control and supervise at times for those reasons.

    The head of Blackwater alluded to this in the Congressional hearings, saying of the Blackwater contractor who killed the Iraqi VP’s guard, that the worst they could do was fine him and fire him but they couldn’t “flog him”. In contrast, the military can (and literally, I think “flogging” is still on the books… ).

    As of April 2005 an estimated 240 of 20,000 “contractors” had died in Iraq.

    There are a lot of contractors over there, putting their people in harm’s way to make a buck. I work for a company that makes a lot of money from federal contracts. They put the word down at a recent staff meeting that the company was looking for employees who would want to go over to Iraq, live in “austere” conditions but receive premium pay. To do environmental cleanup. Some of our local employees were LIVID that the company was so eager to make a buck that they were willing to do this work before the conflict ended and a safe work environment for our environmental scientists was secured. One guy made the point that our people might not understand the depth of the danger they were putting themselves in (we are not defense contractors and most folks are not former military… ). The announcement was not made again at our local staff meetings, but the job reqs are still posted.

  26. Mike
    October 3, 2007 at 11:12 am

    S.H.

    You aren’t following what I was trying to say. I was referencing these things in response to Mnemosyne asking if we should have a more nuanced approach to war. I wasn’t condoning them, merely pointing out that no matter how one side or the other tries to take the high road, bad things will happen.

    The point about the UN is for those who seem to think that Blackwater is the worst offender on earth. Blackwater has it’s problems, the US Military has it’s problems and the UN has it’s problems. (Far more than the others as far as I’m concerned but that’s another arguement)

    Should they be prosecuted? Yes. Will they? Who knows. Lots of stuff gets covered up in a war zone, unfortunately. Military commanders aren’t happy being held accountable for many bad things so a lot is kept quiet and prosecutions are rare. Many more bad things are happening than we’re aware of because it doesn’t make the mainstream media.

  27. yugenue
    October 3, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    have you heard that Blackwater may be deployed here in the US?
    http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/09/27/blackwater-are-you-scared-yet/

  28. Roy
    October 3, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    they’re still human beings who I suspect are mostly trying to do what they think is best for themselves and their families.

    Exactly. Some of them are, in fact, trying to deal with the psychological fallout that serving combat duty can create. They spend their lives working and bleeding for the military, living in situations that are life-threatening and getting used to them, and then they’re expected to just go home and pick up their former lives like nothing has happened, and, shock of shocks, it doesn’t always work out that way. Becoming a “contractor” for a firm like Blackwater gives them a chance to use the skills they were taught, make a lot of money, and get back into an environment that, while dangerous, is familiar and, in some twisted way, comfortable.

    The sorrow I feel for them and their families does not diminish or taint the sorrow I feel for the soldiers who died and their families, and none of that diminishes or taints the sorrow I feel for the many innocent people who’ve died.

  29. S.H.
    October 3, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    the US Military has it’s problems and the UN has it’s problems. (Far more than the others as far as I’m concerned but that’s another arguement)

    I don’t want to thread drift too much here but I actually did do what you suggested and googled “UN Soldiers’ atrocities”. And honestly I didn’t get much. I did get alot of World Net Daily crap and sorry I’m not considering that journalism no matter how far you can stretch the word. I know the Congo stuff and I found some Somalia stuff. And I just want you to bear in mind as I said before, the way the UN peacekeepers work is each country donates their soldiers. Their is no UN independent force, their probrably should be and if anything they need a stronger madate to use force. Your concentrating on the ugly incidents when the even bigger horror to me is that in two cases (Yugoslavia and Rwanda) they stood by and watched helplessly as people literally were slaughtered in front of them. As far as I’m considered Kofi Annan has alot more blood on his hands from the deaths he failed to stop than the ones committed by rogue soldiers.

    But getting back to Blackwater, there’s been some talk in the hearings (as covered by Talking Points Memo) that Blackwater is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the War Crimes Act. As such they should be held accountable, period. Any past actions by UN soldiers is completely irrelevent and amounts to a very weak “well they did it too!” argument often used by those trying to defend the indefensible.

  30. zuzu
    October 3, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    ave you heard that Blackwater may be deployed here in the US?

    They have, already. They were used after Katrina.

  31. October 4, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Is it even a cover up when no one’s held accountable?

  32. October 4, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    First, one of the main reasons that the US is utilizing mercenaries is because the military, both active duty and reserves, are spread too thin and inappropriately equipped.

    You don’t think a hundred grand+ people working for private contractors that pay a few times more what the military does has any affect on that?

Comments are closed.