Those Indispensable Mercenaries

September 20, 2007

On Sunday, the news broke out of Baghdad that a few security guards from Blackwater USA were ambushed and wound up killing some Iraqi civilians in a shootout.  Then, Tuesday, the NYT reported this:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 18 — A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.

The report, by the Ministry of Interior, was presented to the Iraqi cabinet and, though unverified, seemed to contradict an account offered by Blackwater USA that the guards were responding to gunfire by militants. The report said Blackwater helicopters had also fired. The Ministry of Defense said 20 Iraqis had been killed, a far higher number than had been reported before.

The story went on to say that Blackwater has had their license to operate inside of Iraq pulled. A license, incidentally, that they didn’t have.

The part of the story of interest in my mind is not the fact that it happened, or that it has outraged the Iraqis, or that it’s resulted in a dispute over who did what and why, or whether or not it turns out that it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding… but this:

In a sign of the seriousness of the standoff, the American Embassy here suspended diplomatic missions outside the Green Zone and throughout Iraq on Tuesday.

If that doesn’t raise an eyebrow, I followed a link on Attywood yesterday that pointed to a report detailing how even the CIA people can’t go anywhere without Blackwater guys watching their back.

My take?  Regardless of the outcome, the incident just might expose how major a role private security firms like Blackwater play in our mission in Iraq (whatever it is this week), as well as the fact that this particular element of the game-plan seems to be missing from the mainstream debate here at home with regards to discussing or supporting the overall strategy there.  For example, I don’t remember anyone in the presidential debates thus far even mentioning the subject, let alone offering an opinion on whether or not this kind of thing is a good idea.

So, it begs the question(s):  Just how privatized is our overall effort in Iraq?  If the security contractors are really that vital to success in our mission, why are the details of their role kept in the background or even downright shadowy?  Is their presence significant to the point that these guys’ actions could actually “lose it” for us as well?  And, finally, Can you really be truly patriotic and pro-“victory” by supporting the mission and the troops without sporting one of these as well?


Previously in the Chamber: 

Update: An interesting Op Ed in The Nation: Blackwater: Hired Guns, Above the Law

Tip of the iceberg. 


  1. […] by Gerald on September 22nd, 2007 News stories this week and a post over at ChenZen’s Chamber got me […]

  2. I think it’s unfortunate that Blackwater’s role in Iraq is used as evidence in arguments against private security companies (PSC). If anything, force protection operations are about as legitimate as private security gets, and often necessary. A big reason why there are so many contractors in Iraq is that the US underestimated the number of troops it would need. So the private sector stepped up to fill the gap with retired veterans. And frankly, the problem isn’t with PSC’s as such, but the fact that there is limited governmental oversight in some cases. From my understanding, this is more a result of the ad hoc way in which PSC’s were integrated into the US military’s efforts than anything to do with the nature of PSC’s. PSC’s can be a really great solution to some very tricky problems.

    If you want to muster evidence against PSC’s, then look to companies like Executive Outcomes and then pretty much anything Tim Spicer ever touched. That is genuinely scary stuff, and makes Blackwater’s bodyguards look like babysitters.

  3. […] I say “just another thread”, because I did have a thread about the incident after it happened last year.  And in the spirit of the other post, […]

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