Hearings start tomorrow in the House. As part of that a release of things the House has found out, and will (one hopes) ask Blackwater's founder, Eric Prince some serious questions.
If they do, I don't really expect him to answer; not past some banal comment about, "If there were violations of company policy I am deeply sorry, but I can't really say, since I was here. I also don't want to second guess the people on the ground."
But some of the details are apalling. Not just for things like Blackwater being the first to shoot in 80 percent of the 194 incidents in which they were involved (that's almost 1.5 per week; not bad for so small a group).
The full report (.pdf) is interesting.
In the vast majority of instances in which Blackwater fires shots, Blackwater is firing
from a moving vehicle and does not remain at the scene to determine if the shots resulted in
casualties. Even so, Blackwater's o\ryn incident reports document 16 Iraqi casualties and 162
incidents with property damage, primarily to vehicles owned by lraqis. In over 80% of the
escalation of force incidents since 2005, Blackwater's own reports document either casualties or
The reports describe multiple Blackwater incidents involving Iraqi casualties that have
not previously been reported. In one of these incidents, Blackwater forces shot a civilian
bystander in the head. In another, State Department officials report that Blackwater sought to
cover up a shooting that killed an apparently innocent bystander. In a third, Blackwater provided no assistance after a traffic accident caused by its "counter-flow" driving left an Iraqi vehicle in "a ball of flames."
So they are doing drive-bys. I'm sure this is winning hearts and minds; persuading the Iraqi public that the US Gov't is here to help them. Or not.
To put this in some perspective, the other two companies which provide support for the State Dept. (Blackwater's only, declared, employer in Iraq... though they have, it seems, been "engaging in tactical military operations with U.S. forces.") don't have as many shooting incidents, combined.
State is the oversight for Blackwater, or not.
Documents provided by the State Department raise serious questions about how State Department officials responded to reports of Blackwater killings of Iraqis. In a high-profile incident in December 2006, a drunken Blackwater contractor killed the guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi. Within 36 hours after the shooting, the State Department had allowed Blackwater to transport the Blackwater contractor out of Iraq. The State Department Charge d'Affaires recommended that Blackwater make a "sizeable payment" and an "apology" to o'avoid this whole thing becoming even worse." The Charge d'Affaires suggested a $250,000 payment to the guard's family, but the Department's Diplomatic Security Service said this was too much and could cause Iraqis to "try to get killed." In the end, the State Depafment and Blackwater agreed on a $15,000 payment. One State Department offrcial wrote: "We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission."
I particularly like the comment that making a large (how does one define large?) payout to the family of a guy gunned down by a drunk bodyguard was said to be too large because, Iraqis would, "try to get killed," as a result.
Costs to Taxpayers. Using Blackwater instead of U.S. troops to protect embassy officials
is expensive. Blackwater charges the government$.I,222 per day for the services of a private
military contractor. This is equivalent to $445,000 per year, over six times more than the cost of
an equivalent U.S. soldier. In total, Blackwater has received over $1 billion in federal contracts
from 2001 through 2006, including more than $832 million under two contracts with the State
Department to provide protective services in Iraq.
This isn't actually a good comparison. Blackwater isn't, in this case, replacing soldiers. They are rather, replacing DSS agents. On the flip side, the base pay for General Petraeus is getting $467 per day (that's pay and allowances, assuming he is getting Housing and Separation allowances; he also gets some personal money for being a general officer, and Hostile Fire Pay. If he's getting Separate Rations; which he shouldn't, you can add about 7 dollars to that) He does get benefits, which the gov't isn't paying directly, and he has a pension/ongoing medical benefits when he retires. Those costs, such as they are, belong to Blackwater, if they choose to set something up.
All in all, it seems soldiers (or DSS agents) might be a more cost effective way to go, esp. if they have better fire discipline.
And what about Mr. Prince, the 37 year old who runs the company.
He's doing well. After he left the Navy (SEAL) his father staked him to the company, ten years ago. In the past 6 years that investment has paid off pretty well, since Federal contracts have brought in more than 1.024 billion dollars. The part behind the decimal point, is 24 million dollars.
Not too shabby.
That doesn't include the part of the 15 billion dollar contract they were given for drug enforcement.
But the details of the contract in Baghdad are what I want to point to.
In June 2004, Blackwater received a second, much larger no-bid contract from the State
Department known as Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS). Under this indefinite
delivery, indefinite quantity contract, Blackwater was paid to provide "protection of U.S. and/or
certain foreign govemment high level offrcials whenever the need arises." Although the
maximum value of the contract was approximately $332 million, Blackwater ultimately received more than $488 million between June 14, 2004, and June 6,2006.' Blackwater was authorized to utilize 482 staff in lraq.
On May 8,2006,the State Department awarded WPPS , the second incarnation of its
diplomatic security contract. Under this contract, the State Department awarded Blackwater and two other companies, Triple Canopy and DynCorp, contracts to provide diplomatic security in Iraq, each in separate geographic locations. Blackwater is authorized to have 1,020 staff in Iraq under this contract. The maximum value of the contract is $l.2 billion per contractor, or $3.6 billion total. Through the end of fiscal year 2006, Blackwater has received over $343 million under this contract.
So, we have spent more than a billion dollars, for a few more than 1,000 guys to be in Iraq, defending the State Dept. I don't think, even rolling in all the benefits a DSS agent earns, it would cost that much (and if it did, the money could be set aside, and interest on the initial capital would reduce some of the pain). We also wouldn't have the black eyes we are getting when Blackwater does a drive-by (and we don't really know if the incidents referred to are all the shootings they were engaged in).
Why, one wonders, has Blackwater gotten so much money?
The cynical among us might think this was part of the reason.
Blackwater is owned by Erik Prince. Mr. Prince is a former Navy SEAL who owns the
company through a holding company, The Prince Group, LLC. In the late 1980s, Mr. Prince
served as a White House intern under President George H.W. Bush.to Mr. Prince's father was a
prominent Michigan businessman and contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Prince's sister,
Betsy DeVos, is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party who earned the title of
Bush-Cheney "Pioneer" by arranging at least $100,000 in donations for the 2004 George W.
Bush presidential campaign." Her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., is a former Amway CEO and
was the 2006 Republican nominee for Governor of Michigan. Mr. Prince himself is a frequent
political contributor, having made over $225,000 in political contributions, including more than
$160,000 to the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional
Blackwater has hired several former senior Bush Administration officials to work for the
company. J. Cofer Black, who served as director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center from 1999
to 2002 and as a top counterterrorism offrcial at the State Department until 2004, now serves as Blackwater's vice chairman. Joseph E. Schmitz, the Inspector General for the Defense Department from 2002 to 2005, is nowgeneral counsel and chief operating officer of the Prince
Group, Blackwater's parent company.'
Go read the report.