Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh, Blackwater Keep on Rolling

In what is perhaps the most momentous decision by the current Iraqi government, the operating license of private contractor, Blackwater - the second largest military force in Iraq, has been revoked. The announcement by Nouri al-Maliki was made on the heels of an incident that occurred on Sept.17 in which a shoot-out involving Blackwater followed a car bombing. The violence left eight civilians shot to death and thirteen injured. Blackwater, has long conducted business as they've seen fit with virtually no oversight or repercussions from the U.S., be it military or government. More than a year ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings into spending and other abuses in Iraq where testimony revealed the contracted mercenaries indiscriminate civilian killings have been consistent since their entry into the conflict. Rep. Henry Waxman (D. CA), who was present at the hearings and has since become chair, has vowed to investigate this recent event. However, there is little clarity as to whether any entity has jurisdiction over determining punishment.

After the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the first boots on the ground in New Orleans were those belonging to Blackwater. The city was essentially under martial law. As doctors, medical supplies, food, and drinking water were denied access, the private militia were allowed to ride rough-shod over the town with orders to shoot to kill any and all looters. It would be a full five days before FEMA and other emergency relief would arrive, but trained snipers would be allowed freedom of movement.

In an underreported related topic, Blackwater West is in the planning stages in Potrero, a small town on the California/Mexico border. The intention is to build a massive training camp, where military exercises would be carried out. Not surprisingly, the location has local neighbors as well as Mexicans a bit nervous. Blackwater's involvement in rendition extradition, where detainees have been transported to countries whose interrogation methods include torture, as well as their assistance in immigration detainment, leave an unsettling curiosity.

Founded by former Navy Seal and billionaire heir Erik Prince in 1997, Blackwater's roots have strong conservative and political ties. Prince's father, Edgar, was a domestic adviser for Ronald Reagan. He later became the leader of the Family Research Council and has been closely tied to anti-choice activist, Gary Bauer. Erik's sister, Betsy, was formerly the head of the Michigan Republican Party and is the wife of Dick DeVos, son of Amway founder, Richard DeVos. Amway has been reported to have donated more than $7 million to Republican candidates, and DeVos has personally donated $650,000 to Republicans, $2 million to conservative special interest groups including Focus on the Family, The Heritage Foundation, and The Federalist Society, and $1,000 to Democrat Joe Torsella. Erik himself had once interned for George H.W. Bush, but had decided that he was too liberal and opted to work for Pat Buchanan during his presidential candidacy. Presidential Airways, Inc., revealed by Washington Post writer Dana Priest (who also broke the Walter Reed hospital scandal) to have been contracted to provide air support for CIA secret prisons, is also owned by Blackwater. These are merely a portion of examples that the Princes, DeVos, and Blackwater have their hands in.

And so it seems that Nouri al-Maliki has finally done what our representatives should have done long ago and taken the first step towards standing up to an ideological murderous militia who have been bilking tax payers out of billions of dollars. In fact, if we were simply to pull Blackwater out of Iraq, that would easily equal the return of the escalation that Gen. Patraeus has promised, taking us back to the initial numbers of troops, but who are beholden to laws. The other mercenaries, DynCorps and Triple Canopy, should follow suit. That might be an initial move towards ending this sad, miserable occupation and returning hope to the people of Iraq as well as rebuilding of the respect of other nations.

For more information on Blackwater, see:

http://www.blackwaterbook.com/

http://iraqforsale.org/

2 comments:

i.m.s. said...

WHAT OF NEWSWEEK THEN?

To read in Newsweek Eric Prince
Comes off as like a prince
Of peace--in praise the magazine
Its words does hardly mince.

Painted as a good Christian man
And blah blah blah blah blah,
But he would kill another man
To profit without awe.

So what of Newsweek then? What of
The so-called journalists
Employed there? Propaganda´s arm
The moniker resists

Of journalism--so it seems:
If info comes distorted
So blatantly, why bother read,
Why bother to report it?

TKelly said...

Ah, such profound poetry! All the wordsmithery from Newsweek, or anyone else, could never make a Prince out of the evil Erik. He certainly does fit in with the fourth reich, however. Perhaps we could use an airliner other than Presidential Airways to deliver them all to the Hague.