Saturday, May 19, 2007

Going Blackwater

By Libby

The NYT reports this morning on casualties among private contractors which have also risen sharply as a result of the latest surge strategy.
The numbers, which have not been previously reported, disclose the extent to which contractors — Americans, Iraqis and workers from more than three dozen other countries — are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside American soldiers and marines as President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad takes hold.
In fact these private contractors appear to be the most overlooked force in the occupation. Moving Ideas sums up a Democracy Now piece that notices.
Congress is finally paying attention to the fact that there are 120,000 civilian personnel in Iraq serving side-by-side with our troops, 48,000 of which are fighting forces. And Congress is finally paying attention to the fact that these mercenaries make as much as ten times what our soldiers are paid, some are paid more than the Secretary of Defense. Even the civilians serving our soldiers their meals are paid more than the soldiers.

And as for equipment, the mercenaries are better equipped in every respect. It speaks volumes that when General Petraeus’s personal guard is comprised of mercenaries, rather than US military troops.

This is how the President and the former Republican majority set things up in Iraq. And worse than the money disparities, on the day before Paul Bremer turned sovereign control over to the Iraqi government, he issued an order that these private mercenaries and support personnel were immune to Iraqi law.
So in other words, these guns for hire have no accountability when they ride around Iraq shooting up the locals for fun.
These forces work for US companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp, as well as companies from across the globe. ...And when Iraqis look at the mercenaries, they do not distinguish them from our troops. They see both as American occupiers.
So much for our the diplomatic prong of the surge strategy but Jeremy Scahill puts his finger on the real danger of privatized foreign policy.
In closing, while I think this congress needs to take urgent action on issues of oversight, accountability and transparency of these private forces operating with our tax dollars and in the name of the United States, there's a deeper issue that often gets overlooked. This war contracting system has intimately linked corporate profits to an escalation of war and conflict. These companies have no incentive to decrease their footprint in the war zone and every incentive to increase it. As the country debates current and future Iraq policy, Congress owes it to the American people to take down the curtain of secrecy surrounding these shadow forces that often act in the name and on the payroll of the people of this country.
Indeed, oversight on this spending is long overdue. Meanwhile, our regular troops see these guys get to play cowboy in better vehicles, with better equipment for more money and they're leaving the military and signing up in droves with these companies. It's so common it's become referred to as "going Blackwater." You can hardly blame them and I'm sure it suits this administration just fine. They haven't met a government service yet they wouldn't prefer to privatize in order to better line their corporate cronies' pockets with our tax dollars.

Make no mistake about it. Bush has a number of reasons for stubbornly staying his failed course in Iraq but the opportunity to further enhance the wealth of "the haves and the have-mores" he famously referred to as "his base" back in 2000, is one of the biggest. He knows he can count on that money being kicked back into the GOP's coffers and Blackwater has been very, very good to him.

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