Friday, January 26, 2007

Blackwater Security in the News

Last week we read that five civilians employed by Blackwater Security died in the Baghdad crash of a helicopter owned by the company. I've written about Blackwater and its Michigan ties before - here, here and here - so I thought I'd share a couple of articles I ran across, although you won't read this in any of Michigan's GOP-controlled papers.

The first article is from the Seattle PI and the only word I can use to describe it comes from the article itself - appalling:
Private security contractor Blackwater USA is seeking $10 million from the attorney representing the estates of four employees killed and mutilated in Iraq, arguing their families breached the security guards' contracts by suing the company for wrongful death.

Blackwater also has asked a federal court to move the dispute into arbitration, having failed so far in its ongoing efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Arbitration is necessary "in order to safeguard both (Blackwater's) own confidential information as well as sensitive information implicating the interest of the United States at war," attorneys for Blackwater Security Consulting, a unit of Moyock-based Blackwater USA, wrote in a petition filed December 20.

Dan Callahan, a California-based attorney representing the families, called the claim "appalling."

"This is a shock-and-awe tactic," Callahan said Friday. Blackwater's attorneys declined to comment.

The four families, represented by estates administrator Richard Nordan, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackwater in January 2005 in state court. Family members argue Blackwater broke contractual obligations and used cost-saving measures that ultimately led to the deaths of the four men.
Yeah, like telling the men they would provide armored vehicles, but then failing to do so. The company pocketed $1.5 million and those men lost their lives as a result.

The second article comes from Jeremy Scahill writing in the LA Times [emphasis added]:
Bush made no mention of the downing of the [Blackwater] helicopter during his State of the Union speech. But he did address the very issue that has made the war's privatization a linchpin of his Iraq policy — the need for more troops. The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years. He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.

"Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush declared. This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

The president's proposed Civilian Reserve Corps was not his idea alone. A privatized version of it was floated two years ago by Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, conservative owner of Blackwater USA and a man who for years has served as the Pied Piper of a campaign to repackage mercenaries as legitimate forces. In early 2005, Prince — a major bankroller of the president and his allies — pitched the idea at a military conference of a "contractor brigade" to supplement the official military. "There's consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army," Prince declared. Officials "want to add 30,000 people, and they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier." He added: "We could do it certainly cheaper."
We saw what "cheaper" cost those four men in Falluja, and we've seen Iraq go from bad to worse in spite of help from those private contractors. The only one gaining anything from this arrangement is Erik Prince.


abi said...

Appalling it is. But that's what happens when you privatize war. Bottom line trumps lives.

Troll Watcher said...

That wouldn't be Betsy's bro, would it?
Privitization of the military is so not a good idea. That's all we need is another eason for rich bastards like Prince to send more people to their deaths so he can make millions.

Kathy said...

Abi, you're right, and just think - the "morally superior" Republicans are responsible.

Troll, absolutely, Erik is Betsy DeVos's brother. Both families donate huge amounts of money to the GOP because they depend on the party to throw business their way.