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Blackwater Rising

10 October, 2007

By Anwaar Hussain

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So what are these Blackwater operatives? Peace keepers, law enforcers or dogs of war, armed goons? Or are they the new Stasi?

Kālā Pānī, literally ‘Black water’ in Urdu/Hindi languages, a term for the deep sea and hence exile, was the name of a notorious cellular jail situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India). The prison was known to house many notable Indian activists during the struggle for India’s independence. In March 1868, 238 prisoners tried to escape. By April they were all caught. One committed suicide and of the remainder, British Superintendent Walker ordered 87 to be hanged.

On the U.S. mainland, the Blackwater River of Florida is a 58-mile long river arising in southern Alabama and flowing through the Florida Panhandle to the Gulf of Mexico. The river enters Florida in Okaloosa County and flows through Santa Rosa County to Blackwater Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay. The river passes through Blackwater River State Park.

There is yet another blackwater river in North Carolina that goes by the name of White Oak River. The White Oak River is located in North Carolina’s outer coastal plain province in Carteret, Jones, and Onslow Counties.

Also in the U.S. state of North Carolina is a private military company, the Blackwater USA. It is a self-described private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Messrs. Erik Prince and Al Clark. Blackwater operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world’s largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies.

Blackwater is currently the largest of the U.S. State Department’s three private security contractors deployed in Iraq. At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts. The cost for each Blackwater guard, a foot soldier, in Iraq is estimated to be around $445,000 per year, more than twice that of a U.S. General’s salary with 26 years of service.

On September 16, 2007, more than 20 Iraqis were shot at by Blackwater employees on an intersection in Nisoor Square, Baghdad. At least 11 were killed, including a mother and her child in an automobile. On September 23, 2007, the Iraqi government said that it expects to refer criminal charges to its courts in connection with the Blackwater shooting.

Can the Iraqi government do that? Not really. Two days before he left Iraq, L. Paul Bremer signed “Order 17” giving all Americans associated with the CPA and the American government immunity from Iraqi law. That exemption still holds.

The company markets itself as being “The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world”. In the international media, however, it has frequently been referred to as a mercenary group. The online thesaurus Encarta calls a mercenary a soldier of fortune, dog of war, soldier, legionnaire, freedom fighter, guerrilla etc. while the online calls a mercenary as acquisitive, avaricious, bribable, corrupt, covetous, grabby, grasping, miserly, money-grubbing, selfish, sordid, stingy, unethical, unprincipled, unscrupulous, venal etc.

So what are Blackwater operatives to be called, peace keepers, law enforcers or dogs of war, armed goons?

Let us decide.

Blackwater’s owner and founder is one Erik Prince. A former Navy Seal, Prince sold the idea of a “contractor brigade” at a military conference in early 2005. He said, “There’s consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army”. 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.”

Prince is reported to have contributed $168,000 to the Republican National Committee since 1998, and has also supported the candidacies of conservatives such as President George W. Bush and Senator Tom Coburn etc. Cofer Black, the company’s current vice chairman, was the Bush administration’s top counter terrorism official when 9/11 occurred. Blackwater has become home to a significant number of former senior CIA and Pentagon officials. Robert Richer, formerly the head of the CIA’s Near East Division, became the firm’s Vice President of Intelligence immediately after he resigned his position as Associate Deputy Director of Operations in fall 2005.

Earlier this year, Erik Prince appeared before the House oversight committee. His demeanor suggested as though he were a general of US forces deserving rightful deference from run of the mill civilians. Prince simply dismissed any allegations of wrongdoing about Blackwater’s bloody trail in Iraq: “I believe we acted appropriately at all times.” His royal disdain for his congressional questioners was barely concealed. “If there’s two questions left,” he said, “I’ll take them and then let’s be done.”

Blackwater USA was formed in 1997 to provide training support to military and law enforcement organizations. In 2002 Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC) was formed. Blackwater has reportedly received no-bid government contracts of over one billion dollars so far.

In 2003, Blackwater attained its first high-profile contract: guarding the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Administrator L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, at the cost of $21 million for 11 months. Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones.

In 2006, Blackwater won the remunerative contract to protect the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is the largest American embassy in the world. It is estimated by the Pentagon and company representatives that there are 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq, and some estimates are as much as 100,000, though no official figures exist.

For work in Iraq, Blackwater has drawn contractors from their international pool of professionals, a database containing “21,000 former Special Forces operatives, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents,” overall. For instance, Gary Jackson, the firm’s president, has confirmed that Bosnians, Filipinos, and Chileans, “have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.”

According to The Age, Blackwater has been hiring mercenaries in Chile to replace its soldiers on security duty in Iraq many of whom had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean monster. “We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals” the president of Blackwater USA, Gary Jackson, said. Squads of Bosnians, Filipinos and Americans with Special Forces experience have been hired for various tasks. Their salaries can be as high as $US1000 a day, the news agency AFP recently reported. Erwin, a 28-year-old former US army sergeant working in Iraq, told AFP: “This place is a goldmine. All you need is five years in the military and you come here and make a good bundle.”

On Christmas Eve, 2006, a security guard of the Iraqi Vice-president, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was killed by one Andrew J. Moonen, a drunken Blackwater mercenary. Moonen left Iraq days after the killing, returning home to Seattle, Washington in the United States, where the United States Attorneys are investigating currently. The United States State Department and Blackwater USA had attempted to keep his identity secret.

In late May 2007, Blackwater contractors, “opened fire on the streets of Baghdad twice in two days… and one of the incidents provoked a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi Interior Ministry commandos, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.” And on May 30, 2007, Blackwater employees shot an Iraqi civilian deemed to have been “driving too close” to a State Department convoy being escorted by Blackwater contractors.

On the whole, between 2005 and September 2007 Blackwater security staff was involved in 195 shooting incidents, in 163 of those cases Blackwater personnel fired first. 25 members of staff have been sacked for violations of Blackwaters drug and alcohol policy and 28 more for weapons related incidents.

Iraqi blood is cheap. That goes without saying. Rivers of it can be spilled. Americans are killing Iraqis, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. The mayhem goes on with no end in sight. But have the Americans imagined what would happen when the chickens finally come home to roost. Consider the Blackwater goon squad shooting at citizens of Washington DC who might accidentally get “too close” to a presidential motorcade. It may be recalled that Blackwater USA was deployed at New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The residents there were told by gun-toting guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your homes and we’ll arrest you.”

So what are these Blackwater operatives after all? Peace keepers, law enforcers or dogs of war, armed goons? Or are they the new Stasi?

Or have they, with the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 gun-slinging soldiers at the ready, become the elite, rapidly deployable, avant-garde Praetorian Guard available to the highest bidder at the forefront of the global ‘war on terror’?

Any one?

Copyrights : Anwaar Hussain

Reader Comments:


Anwar, finally you write an article that contains some facts and is not a 'death to America' piece. Good job.

While not crazy about Blackwater, it is a neccessary force that is needed. However that does not give them free rain, and I am all about putting those people in jail if shooting unprovoked....however being provoked is a tough definition. With women blowing themselves up, then when you say STOP you have to shoot if they do not stop.

The one thing I've never liked with law enforcement of any kind is the deadly force rule. If these police, contractors, military are so highly trained then put a bullet in the leg and then wait.

Regarding New Orleans, the US is prohibited from using military for any country (on-land) issues. There are not enough police so private security must be brought in to protect against looters and such. New Orleans is such a criminal town (from the mayor all the way down) even the local police were stealing items!

ryan, United Kingdom - 11 October, 2007

atrocities of war

I agree with Ryan when he writes that Mr. Hussain's latest was a good article and not just another "death to America" piece. Mr. Hussain has written a good, informative article.

So. Out of the ashes of Iraq rises Blackwater. Some U.S. citizens didn't even know Blackwater existed and I'm afraid I'm one of them.

Perhaps it would have been better to just let Uday and Qusay, the two psycopathic sons of Mr. Saddam Hussein inherit the Country when the time came. The torture and murder would have been at a slower pace. It would have been quieter and more organized too.

Let's face it. Most of the world knew of the crimes of Saddam Hussein against his own people. As long as it remained orderly and unthreatening to the rest of us, we all allowed it to happen - just as we allow the tragedy of the Sudan or Chechnya.

Mr. Bush is fighting a war very much in the public arena under the gaze of average people who know nothing of combat. He fights in the public eye before those who don't know that there are always atrocities in war. Pick a war, any war, and you will find atrocities.

If Mr. Hussain expects perfection in a theater of war, he is expecting the impossible.

Still, Blackwater must not be allowed to use the chaos that is combat as an excuse to brutalize and kill Iraqi citizans. Neither must Blackwater combatents be denied the opportunity to defend themselves.

Our enemies have been told that is is their "sacred duty to kill Americans." Do Americans just submit or do we find a way to fight back?

We all, right along with Mr. Hussain, very much wish that war was gentle and kind and its causes easily solved.

But we shouldn't hold our breath, wating for that to happen.

Just look at history...

Ayasha, United Kingdom - 12 October, 2007

Good work

Anwaar,"Black water" is a book written by Jeremy Scahill.
There is a good book review that appeared in Crescent International and can be read on line
It is a shame that today America is identified as a death merchant,seller of war machines,tools of torture and of cancer causing foods due to use of hormones and chemicals all over the world.For US actually non whites are not equal humans so situation will never change.

JSPindiwal, United Kingdom - 12 October, 2007

Counter action plan needed

This is a good informative article. My immediate reaction after reading the article is, perhaps Blackwater may be an equivalent of our Al-Rasheed Trust which basically supplies food and other humanitarian supplies to the terror stricken people.The Trust has recently been added on the US's list of terrorist organizations, not accepting its purely humanitarian charter.
USA is a wonderful place of paradoxes. There is an institution in the US, named, "School of the Americas", at Fort Benning, Georgia, nicknamed by critics, "School of the Dictators", which is specially established to train the US operatives as well as those, they select from their foreign partner establishments, about how to conduct and sustain coups, using all possible means and tactics. Carefully selected pro-American soldiers from the anti-American states are invited for training on lucrative scholarships and trained at the institution, to create situations in their respective countries conducive to usurping the legitimate but hostile to the US governments and installing at the seats of power, their own trained hands as "good dictators", to smoothen tough roads hindering propagation of American interests.

We need to see the truth and light, for discovering our own road to survival and progress to a respectable living. We need to realize the extent of odds without undue display of attitudes, which are capable only in creating situations designed by our adversaries, who plant carefully articulated events, leading to such attitudes and conflicting issues, which create circumstances always leading to our actions and reactions, which ultimately serve their purpose. We have a tough battle of wits to win and our hostile minds, paralyzed by Adrenalin are capable only of helping those, who know how to use Adrenalin as a weapon of mass destruction. Irony is, still we talk about the famous Hadith that, "Knowledge is a lost property of a Momin. Grab it where, when and which way it comes", and refuse to rise from our hibernating illusions.

M.Saeed, Pakistan - 13 October, 2007

Blackwater Blunder

Care to imagine, if you will, a private security company. Its staff is made up of highly trained, combat hardened, former soldiers. They are equipped, man for man, better than the U.S. army. They are not subject to the laws of the country that they operate in, nor are the subject to the laws of the country in which they are based. In essence, this private security company could do as they liked, well, almost.
Is this or is this not a scary thought. The company that I am talking about does exist, it is called Blackwater, and amongst its clients are the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Last month the jumpy security personnel shot dead 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians, their punishment was that they were ordered to pay $4 million to each of the families of the victims. They will not go to court neither in Iraq nor the U.S. for any sort of criminal acts, they will not even lose the contract that they hold with the American Embassy in Baghdad.
Yesterday they shot dead two Iraqi women in a car that they felt had passed too close to the convoy that they were escorting. There were also a number of children in the back of the car that were fortunate not to have been killed or seriously injured. Blackwater can probably expect to be ordered to pay compensation to the families of those involved, but it would seem that they will escape all charges of criminality or murder.
While the jumpiness and perhaps fear felt by the security personnel of Blackwater is understandable, it is absolutely no excuse for allowing such incidents to occur.
The people of Baghdad, the Baghdadis', walk the streets knowing that they do not just risk kidnap, being caught up in a bombing, being caught up in tribal warfare, in internecine fighting as well as regular criminality, but now they know that they could be the victims of any number of private security companies operating in the area. All they have to do is to come to close to a convoy, appear as though they may be concealing something, or even just walking around with a camera (camera's are notorious in war zones, many a photographer has been killed because from a distance soldiers thought that his camera was a gun).
To the Baghdadis, I bid them good luck.

Shokat Saleem, Georgia - 18 October, 2007

What is the source of your info.

Shaokat Saleem,where did you get this figure of $4 million being given to every killed Iraqi family.Iraqis are dying worse than the animals.THey don't get anything in this crusade for chrisitanity and oil.Where do you get your facts from?

Dr.M.Khan, United Kingdom - 20 October, 2007

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