Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blackwater, or How to Privatize the Army and Mess Things Up Even More



I know something about Blackwater USA. This opinion is both intellectually driven as well as moderately emotional. You see, during my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point.
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As we approached one semi-infamous intersection along the main route used by Blackwater between the International Zone (a.k.a. the Green Zone) and the Ministry of Interior, one of Blackwater's convoys roared through. Apparently, Blackwater's agents did not like the look of us, the main body of cars in front of them. Their response was, to say the least, contrary to the best interests of the United States effort in Iraq. Barreling through in their huge, black armored Suburbans and Expeditions, they drove other cars onto the sidewalk even as they popped off rounds from at least one weapon, though I cannot say if the shots were aimed at us or fired into the sky as a warning. I do know one thing: It enraged me ... and Blackwater is, at least nominally, on our side.
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Iraq operates on the basis of an honor culture. Honor is, arguably, more important than Islam. Being dishonored, in word or deed, or even by implication, is enough to set the average Iraqi man to plotting his revenge. This is a culture in which political assassinations (usually based on honor issues) are not an abstraction but an everyday occurrence. Every time one of those Blackwater convoys drives an Iraqi civilian off the road because the most important thing in the world is the protection of their "principal," they make a new enemy for the United States. Every time they ram another car to clear the way (and, yes, I've seen them do that), so that they could maintain their own speed and thereby minimize their exposure to "improvised explosive devices," they make another enemy. Every time they kill innocent civilians, or wound them, they make whole families of new enemies.
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Blackwater USA has already taken in more than $1 billion from the public coffers.

All in all, that's not a bad take for Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and a Naval Academy dropout who served less time under the colors of the nation, in uniform, than my most recent pair of boots.

More.

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