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September 29, 2007

Big Muddy

(This has been crossposted, with edits, from my blog, Better than salt money. and thanks to Linsdsay for letting me vent/increase the exposure)

I've been thinking about Blackwater for a long time.

There's a lot in the news about them now.  Me, I've known about them for years.  When  four guys were killed in Fallujah, a friend and I had a moment of black humor about there being four job openings in Baghdad.  Soldiers are a gallows-humor lot.

But the cowboy aspects of the things I'd herd gave me concern.  That they were singled out in that convoy told me a lot. 

That we used the deaths of a few contractors as cause for a month long battle in Fallujah bothered me.

That I keep hearing they are immune from any and all prosecution well, that bothers me more; because it's not true.

Actually, no one who is a US Citizen is immune to US  prosecution for war crimes.

USC Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 118

§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.€” Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

(b) Circumstances. The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

(c) Definition.€” As used in this section the term war crime means any conduct [emphasis added].

(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;

(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;

(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or

(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

Which has pissed me off since Abu Ghraib broke.  They said the contractors there were immune from prosecution because they weren't in the Army, and it all happened in Iraq.

Which was, in a word, bullshit.  So why didn't they enforce this law?  The only answer I could come up with was  it would do more harm than not prosecuting them; which was damning because the only way I could see that being the case that it was all approved.

And I have to wonder about Blackwater, because the same logic applies.

I also have to wonder why "private contractors" are doing this work, because the Bureau of Diplomatic Security  (Federal Agents; like the Treasury Dept. agents who get detailed to the Secret Service. Marines guard the grounds,  BDS guards the people) ought to be doing the work, but they don't have the budget anymore..  It's not that the money isn't there; hundreds of millions are being ladled out to groups like Blackwater. It's a matter of where/how taxpayer dollars are spent.  I keep asking myself, cui bono, but I digress.

The reports out of New Orleans, that Blackwater had been deputised to provide security, were worrisom.

Then I see things like this piece by Naomi Wolff which is about the ways in which Blackwater is positioning istelf to get more work in the states.

What is Blackwater? According to reporter Jeremy Scahill, the firm has 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries, and maintains a database of an additional 21,000 to call upon at any time. Blackwater has over '$500 million in government contracts — and that does not include its secret "black" budget...' One congressman pointed out that in terms of its manpower, Blackwater can overthrow 'many of the world's governments.' Recuiters for the company seek out former military from countries that have horrific human rights abuses and use secret police and paramilitary forces to terrify their own populations: Chileans, Peruvians, Nigerians, and Salvadorans.

Blackwater is coming home to Main Street, and one of our key constitutional protections is at stake. The future for growth is directed at increased deplyment in the US in cases of natural disaster — or in the event of a 'public emergency.' This is a very dangerous situation, of course, now that laws have been passed that let the President decide on his say-so alone what a 'public emergency' might be.

The Department of Homeland Security hired these same Blackwater contractors to patrol the streets of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — for a contract valued at about $73 million. Does Blackwater's reputation for careless violence against civilians in Iraq, protected by legal indemnification, matter to us? Scahill reports at least one private contractor's accounts of other contractors' abrupt shooting in the direction of American civilians in the wake of Katrina: 'After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped.'

How protected is Blackwater from prosecution for its crimes? The company's lawyers argue that Blackwater can't be held accountable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, because they aren't part of the US military; but they can't be sued in civil court, either — because they are part of the US military.

Add to that a new contract for $15 billion for drug enforcement in a contract issued by The Pentagon (WTF... why is the Pentagon involved in this... DEA, Ok, but there are things which don't seem to be part of the DoD purview, and somethig which touches on US Law Enforcement seems to be one those) and I am less than happy.

Who will this private army be accountable to?  There are allegations of some seriously disturbing conduct in Iraq.

Three days later, Blackwater guards were back in al Khilani Square, Iraqi government officials said. This time, there was no shooting, witnesses said. Instead, the Blackwater guards hurled frozen bottles of water into store windows and windshields, breaking the glass.

Hunh?  What's that supposed to do?

Or this,

BAGHDAD €” The Blackwater incidents cited by Iraq's Interior Ministry as reason for the security firm to be barred from operating in Iraq include the deaths of four people with ties to Iraq's government-funded television network.

The first of those was the Feb. 2 shooting death of Suhad Shakir, a reporter with the Al Atyaf channel, as she was driving to work. She died outside the Foreign Ministry near the Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work.

Five days later, three Iraqi security guards were gunned down inside the fortified compound that houses the government-funded Iraqi Media Network, which is also known as Iraqiya.

Habib Sadr, the network's director general, said the three guards, members of Iraq's Facilities Protection Service, were at their post at the back of the complex. A towering blast wall was a short distance in front of them to protect the compound from Haifa Street, which is notorious for car bombings and drive-by shootings.

According to Sadr and Interior Ministry officials, the three were picked off one by one by Blackwater snipers stationed on the roof of the 10-story Justice Ministry about 220 yards away on the opposite side of the street.

Nibras Mohammed Dawood was shot first as he stood in a sand-bagged guard post. Azhar Abdullah Ali was shot when he ran to help. Sabah Salman Hassoun was shot when he, too, tried to aid his wounded colleagues. All were between the ages of 20 and 25, Sadr said.

I was amazed, actually, that the problem of Order 17 (Paul Bremer's diktat that contractors were immune from Iraqi prosecution) didn't come to a head sooner, when this happened.

In December, a Blackwater employee shot and killed one of the vice president's guards without provocation, Iraqi officials say. The employee left Iraq and no longer works for Blackwater.

Imagine that happening here (one of Dick Cheney's Secret Service detail being  shot dead by the private bodyguard of the Ambassador of anywhere), and the only thing happening is the guy, "is no longer in [the United States], but the company is still working here; in that same capacity."

Yeah, right.

I'm spending more time at the range than I used to, and if Blackwater comes to my part of town, well that's it, you'd better believe there's a civil disturbance, because at that point I'll be in revolt.

Before it comes to that, we might want to remind our congress critters, our senators, the newspapapers; and everyone we can think of, that USC Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 118 § 2441 is out there, and see about using it.

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Comments

It's safe to assume that a fair number of people who are attracted to the kind of employment offered by Blackwater are complete psychopaths.

I do not want them in my neighborhood any more than I would welcome violent gangs or organized crime family members.

"Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy."

Machiavelli

majik: Good overview. I've posted http://welcome-to-pottersville.blogspot.com/2007/09/period-of-consequences.html>my own thoughts about Blackwater right around the same time as you (I was directed here by one of your readers, soitgoes).

I've been on their case since this year and was very disturbed by what I read in the Scahill book. I'll also be reviewing it shortly.

Something to ask the Dem candidates if given a chance: "What will you do to end the use of Mercenaries by the US government?"

Since the legislation above references another Act for the definition of "national of the United States," I thought it might be handy to post the definition from the other Act. Subsections 21 and 22 of s. 101 read as follows:

(21) The term "national" means a person owing permanent allegiance to a state.

(22) The term "national of the United States" means:


(A) a citizen of the United States, or


(B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.

Because the Whitehouse is run by Freidmanites. The best thing old Milt did was go and die. Everywhere his so-called 'Economic Restructuring' has been forced on people there is deaths on a massive scale.

Little Georgie genuinely believes that he has been appointed by God to rid the world of infidels, bad enough - but he is surrounded by a cluster of Milt's followers. They believe that the purpose of Govt. is to sub-contract all their endeavours to private (Pirate) contractors like "Blackwater".

The fact that Blackwater et al are "above the Law" has to be settled in an international court because thier actions are being done internationally.
As stated above their personel are mostly psychopaths who simply would not fit in a quiet society.

How come that Dandy Donny Rumsfeld, who resigned as SoD is still running the Pentagon?

One of the things that is driving me crazy is how the MSM keeps repeating that Blackwater has "around 1000 employees in Iraq." Their sole source for this info? Why Blackwater of course! Blackwater appears to now have the lion's share of the plum (read: expensive), exclusive assignments like guarding State Dept. personnel and military commanders. A relatively small number of mercenaries may be all they need to fulfill Blackwater's huge government contracts. Still, how can we accept their word on anything? Time and time again they've proven themselves to be liars, murderers, war profiteers -- a thoroughly amoral bunch from the top on down.

The size of Blackwater's force in Iraq should be a matter of public knowledge. C'mon, we're paying the check. I don't want to hear the tired "national security" excuse. If there's no harm in releasing the troop levels in Iraq, there's no valid justification for withholding the number of mercenaries we're paying an almost exponentially greater price for than we pay our soldiers.

This is but a symptom of a greater malady. The Bush Administration is the most secretive in our nation's history. They are overly fond of claiming executive privilege or national security particularly in instances where, if divulged, information would damage them politically. This must stop if we are to remain a republic. Having abandoned their oversight responsibility for the bulk of Bush's presidency, Congress needs to force the Executive Branch to respond to the many
subpoenas already issued. If it takes holding up the confirmation of a new Attorney General then so be it.

AF

The question is did Blackwater work out some kind of deal where they were included in the SOFA agreement with the new Iraqi gov.

Not that I think they should be included but that would have saved their asses legally.

Order 17, of the CPA, is, in effect, a treaty provision. It was part of the hand-off.

Until the Gov't repudiates it (which they just failed to do) all the contractors (be they military, or not) are exempt from Iraqi law.

There are a lot of ways that can be abused. I can think of several ways to exploit that to steal from the money the US is shipping over there, and be in the clear from US law as well.

As stated above their personel are mostly psychopaths who simply would not fit in a quiet society.
____________________________________________

That statement is simply not true. That would be like my saying this site is full of liberal effeminate tree hugging pansies! Not true and I would hope that you all would see straight through the stereotyping!

>That would be like my saying this site is full of liberal effeminate tree hugging pansies!

But you have said this, more or less.

However, since you differentiate between "effeminate" and "pansies," I will gladly accept the categorization "butch pansy."

As to the Blackwater mercenaries, fine -- none of them are psychopaths and they would all fit into quiet society. How does that change any of their outlaw behavior?

It certainly does not change the atrocious behavior of quite a few of them,


but not all of them are like that.

Sorry that above post should read:

Dock "Butch Pansy" Miles,

It certainly does not change the atrocious behavior of quite a few of them,

but not all of them are like that.

Well, the statement being referred to as, "above" doesn't say their personell are mostly psychopaths, but rather that it's safe to assume a fair number are.

This is, IMO, a distinction with a difference, and I can't; based on my knowledge of the type, disagree with it.

The subset of people willing to join the military are, arguably, more prone to violence than the run of the mill person (though Grossman, despite the flaws, argues otherwise, in "On Killing" and that aspect of it [that pretty much anyone can be trained to pull the trigger] seems fairly solid.

Those who don't get enough of whatever it is they seek in the military, go on to join mercenary outfits (some manage to short cut that step).

So some disconnect from, "normal" mores seems to be a reasonable assumption.

Pecunium, you have never served have you?

Most are run of the mill kids looking for college money.

Some get a taste of things they never had at home such as a sense of belonging to something important, a sense of family, a sense of true brotherhood. Some actually believe the propaganda that they are doing the right thing.

No one joins the military hoping to go to war. Those who have been to war pray that they will never have to return to it.

As for the blackwater clowns, there are without a doubt many in that organization that need help but on the whole most are professionals. They are all mostly special forces like seals, rangers, and delta. They have been lured away from the armed forces because the paychecks are bigger working for blackwater vs. the U.S. military. They came about as a bodyguard service for journalists. As time went on they were also hired as protection for other civilian contractors. As Iraq grew into a modern day wild west(Thanks to the USA) so did their attitudes, not that I condone what they do, and actions. I do think that it is a joke to have them in there beyond being a body guard service, but I also think it is a joke to characterize the entire company by the actions of a few bad apples.

Dave:

Go look at my blog, hell, read the line in this post which reads, "soldiers are a gallows-humor lot."

I have fifteen years in uniform. I was in Iraq for the shooting war and the occupation. I was evacced to Walter Reed before the hand-off, and then to Madigan, where I was sqd leader in a Medical Hold Company.

I've been, in uniform, to Ukraine, Korea and the UK. I've been to/taught schools in Ariz, Utah, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts and Calif.

I've known a lot of people, from Viet-nam vets who stayed/came back to the Guard, to guys who got out as objectors (look up Michael Sudbury, and his relative; whom I didn't know, but of whom I heard, from Michael).

I know grunts, tankers, gun-bunnies, MPs, truck drivers, CI agents, engineers,Interrogators, recruiters, Psy-ops guys, scouts, forward observers, chopper pilots, JAG officers, doctors, medics, nurses, cooks, SF, SEALs, and more I can't recall right now. I have worked with people from all four branches.

I can tell you, some of them joined to go to war. Some of them wanted to go back. Some of that was a sense of duty to fellows, , some of them still believe. Some of became adreniline junkies, and for some it was a desire for revenge because of things which had happened.

And those in the last two catgegories join groups like Aegis and Blackwater and all the rest.

Go look at my blog, it covers a lot of that. If you want, you can go back to Feb 2003 and see what I thought of it; as it happened.

But I have, most decidedly, served.

Terry Karney
SSG CA-ARNG
OIF-1

Oh, and I don't think I said it was the actions of a few bad apples.

What I said was I don't thin one can make the blanket statement that they are mostly psychopaths.

I did say it's more than justified; based on my personal knowledge and investigation, to say a fair number of them are.

>They came about as a bodyguard service for journalists.

Where'd you come up with that bullshit?

Bodyguards for journalists?

No. Blackwater came into being as a training company for cops and the military (though I've yet to see what they could provide which other aspects of the military couldn't).

And, uh, "Dave" are you gonna back up your service record as explicitly as pecunium has? You sure like to beat people over the head with it and claim whatever you say about the military is definitive. Be nice to know your service isn't a total fantasy.

Dock Miles: Ah, I didn't know Dave was of that ilk.

He's done the I-served-and-you-didn't-so-you-don't-know-whatcher-talkin-about routine several times that I know of.

Bodyguards for journalists?

From the few guys I know that went that route, that was how the merc. companies came into existance.

That is some damn resume and I won't dog the ARNG thing either.

As for you dock have you ever served?

I started with the Reseves and just missed Desert Storm, started basic at Ft. Mclellan, the day they started bombing Iraq, 1st time.

Finding out the reserves was a joke I went active duty assigned to the 10th MP Co. where I was deployed to the MFO in the Sinai, then to Hurricane Andrew relief ops, then to Somalia Dec 92 to Mar 93 and again in Sept 93 to Nov 93.

From the 10th I PCS'd to Sato Cano Airbase in Honduras, where I got to visit Panama on a monthly basis. Did R&R trips to Roatan Island, hoping to go back there someday.

From Hondo I went to Ft Eustis, Va where I became a member of the SRT and completed 2 live missions. One had a happy ending the second not so happy.

From Ft. Eustis I went to K9 school at Lackland before a PCS move to Korea, the second worst place on earth. I was stationed at Camp Humphries and made numerous trips to Osan AFB and Seoul. I also made 3 trips to the 2nd ID up at the DMZ to perform H&W searches. I made two TDY trips to China.

From Korea I went back to Drum and was assigned a bomb dog, which meant I was TDY for numerous VIPs and heads of state before I ETS'd after 10 years in Service.

Is that enough for you Dock, still waiting for your service record.

Dave: The guys you know may have told you that, but before I enlisted I was a journalist (I was 25 when I joined). I don't believe it.

One, journalists don't tend to hire bodyguards, even if they did, the market for bodyguards is small, and not enough to keep a company afloat. Two, most papers don't have the budget to pay what a company like Aegis/Blackwater/CACI charges.

From what I took from those conversations it was mostly for news crews for big comapnies like CNN and the like. For one contract my friend was working while he was there he was making damn near $1500 a day. That is the draw for the guys that leave the service and join theses places, I am sure you already knew that though.

For the record I am all for bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age but I am 100% against the illegal war in Iraq.

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