Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” on-line copy
In December 2003, a few months after Blackwater began guarding Bremer, came the first publicly acknowledged resistance attack on the proconsul. It happened the night of December 6, right after Bremer saw Defense Secretary Rumsfeld off at the Baghdad airport. "It was after 11:00 p.m. when [Bremer's aide] Brian McCormack and I got into my armored SUV for the run back to the Green Zone," Bremer recalled. "Our convoy, as usual, consisted of two 'up-armored' Humvees sheathed in tan slabs of hardened steel, a lead-armored Suburban, our Suburban, another armored Suburban following, and two more Humvees. Overhead, we had a pair of buzzing Bell helicopters with two Blackwater snipers in each." Inside the SUV, Bremer and McCormack were discussing whether Bremer should attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Bremer was thinking that he "could now use some of the ski resort pampering" when a "deafening" explosion happened, followed by automatic gunfire. The lead vehicle in the convoy had its tire blown out by an improvised explosive device (IED), and resistance fighters were attacking with AK-47s. According to Bremer, a bullet had hit a side window in his SUV. "We'd been ambushed, a highly organized, skillfully executed assassination attempt," wrote Bremer. "I swung around and looked back. The Suburban's armored- glass rear window had been blown out by the IED. And now AK rounds were whipping through the open rectangle." As he sped toward the safety of the palace, Bremer recalled that "with the stench of explosives lingering in the car, I considered. Davos, all those good meals. . . . Francie could fly over and we could ski. That was about as far from Baghdad's Airport Road and IEDs as you could get."
Bremer's office intentionally concealed the attack until two weeks later, when news of the ambush leaked in the U.S. press and Bremer was confronted at a press conference in the southern city of Basra. "Yes, this is true," he told reporters. "As you can see, it didn't succeed," adding, "Thankfully I am still alive, and here I am in front of you." Despite Bremer's later description of the attack as "a highly organized" assassination attempt, at the time his spokespeople dismissed it as a "random" attack that was not likely directed at Bremer personally, perhaps in an effort to downplay the sophistication of the resistance. After the attack was revealed, Bremer's spokesperson, Dan Senor, praised Blackwater: "Ambassador Bremer has very thorough and comprehensive security forces and mechanisms in place when-ever there is a movement, and we have a lot of confidence in those security personnel and those mechanisms. And in this particular case, they worked."
As Bremer traveled Iraq, his policies and the conduct of his "bodyguards" and the other contractors he had immunized from accountability increasingly enraged Iraqis. Meanwhile, he continued to reinforce the Iraqi characterization of him as another Saddam, as he carried out expensive renovations to the Baghdad Palace. In December 2003, Bremer spent $27,000 to remove four larger-than-life busts of Saddam's head from the palace compound. "I've been looking at these for six months," said Bremer as the first head was being removed. "The time has come for these heads to roll." With much of Iraq's civilian infrastructure in shambles, it seemed a questionable use of funds, but Bremer's spokespeople characterized it as compliance with the law. "According to the rules of de-Baathification, they have to come down," said Bremer deputy Charles Heady. "Actually, they are illegal."
For most of the time Blackwater guarded Bremer, the company remained under the radar. There was rarely a mention of Blackwater in media reports; instead, the men were simply referred to as Bremer's security detail or as his bodyguards. Sometimes, they were identified as Secret Service agents. Within the industry, though, Blackwater's men were viewed as the elite, the trendsetters among the rapidly expanding mercenary army in the country.
Around the time Blackwater won its Bremer contract, mercenaries quickly poured into Iraq. Firms like Control Risks Group, DynCorp, Erinys, Aegis, ArmorGroup, Hart, Kroll, and Steele Foundation, many of which already had some presence in the country, began deploying thousands of mercenaries in Iraq and recruiting aggressively internationally. In a throwback to the Vietnam War era, the positions were initially referred to as "private security consultants" on the job boards. Some companies, like Blackwater, won lucrative contracts with the State Department, the U.S. occupation authority, or the British government; others guarded oil projects, foreign embassies, or government buildings; while still others worked for major war contractors like Halliburton, KBR, General Electric, and Bechtel, or as part of security details for journalists. Among the highest paid mercenaries were former Special Forces: Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Green Berets, Rangers and Marines, British SAS, Irish Rangers, and Australian SAS, followed by Nepalese Gurkhas, Serbian commandos, and Fijian troops. Meanwhile, the prospect of tremendous profits depleted official national forces, as soldiers sought more lucrative posts with private companies, which also aggressively headhunted Special Forces men for private work in Iraq. "We were bigger than life to a lot of the military guys," said ex-Blackwater contractor Kelly Capeheart. "You could see it in their eyes when they looked at us—or whispered about us. A lot of them were very jealous. They felt like they were doing the same job but getting paid a lot less."
In addition to these "professionals," there were many seedier elements that got in on the action, charging less money than their corporate colleagues and acting with even greater recklessness, among them former South African apartheid forces, some from the notorious Koevoet, who apparently entered Iraq in contravention of South Africa's antimercenary laws. By November 2003, the United States was explicitly telling companies wishing to do business in Iraq to bring their own armed security forces into the country.
When Bremer left Iraq in June 2004, there were more than twenty thousand private soldiers inside the country's borders and Iraq had become known as a "Wild West" with no sheriff. Those mercenaries officially hired by the occupation would be contracted for more than $2 billion of security work by the end of the "Bremer year" and would account for upwards of 30 percent of the Iraq "reconstruction" budget. That, of course, does not take into account the private entities that widely hired mercenaries in Iraq. According to The Economist magazine, the Iraq occupation shot British military companies' revenues up from $320 million before the war to more than $1.6 billion by early 2004, "making security by far Britain's most lucrative postwar export to Iraq." One source cited by the magazine estimated that there were more ex-Special Air Service soldiers working as mercenaries in Iraq than on active duty there. Within a year, the British firm Erinys had built up a fourteen-thousand-man private army in Iraq, staffed by locals— among them, members of Ahmad Chalabi's "Free Iraq" forces—and commanded by expatriates from the company, some of whom were South African mercenaries. "[Tjhe massive demand for protection, and the fear of almost daily killing of foreign workers, has overstretched market supply, spawning an upsurge in cowboy contractors and drawing on a pool of international guns for hire that, according to reputable firms, are as much a liability to themselves and Iraqis as to their clients," reported The Times of London.
What these forces did in Iraq, how many people they killed, how many of them died or were wounded, all remain unanswerable questions because no one was overseeing their activities in the country. As of this writing, not a single U.S. military contractor has been prosecuted for crimes committed in Iraq. Still, stories trickled out of Iraq, sometimes through the bravado of the contractors themselves. One such case involved a Blackwater contractor bragging about his use of "non-standard" ammunition to kill an Iraqi.
In mid-September 2003, a month after Blackwater won the Bremer contract, a four-man Blackwater security team was heading north from Baghdad on a dirt road in an SUV when they say they were ambushed by gunmen in a small village. That morning, one of the Blackwater contractors, Ben Thomas, had loaded his M4 machine gun with powerful experimental ammunition that had not been approved for use by U.S. forces. They were armor-piercing, limited-penetration rounds known as APLPs. The product of a San Antonio company called RBCD, they are created using what is called a "blended metal" process. According to The Army Times, the bullets "will bore through steel and other hard targets but will not pass through a human torso, an eight-inch-thick block of artist's clay or even several layers of drywall. Instead of passing through a body, it shatters, creating 'untreatable wounds." The distributor of these experimental rounds is an Arkansas company called Le Mas, which admits that it gave Thomas some of the bullets after he contacted the company. During the short gun battle that day, Thomas says he fired one of the APLP rounds at an Iraqi attacker, hitting him in the buttocks. The bullet, he said, killed the man almost instantly. "It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach . . . everything was torn apart," Thomas told The Army Times. "The way I explain what happened to people who weren't there is . . . this stuff was like hitting somebody with a miniature explosive round. . . . Nobody believed that this guy died from a butt shot." Thomas, an ex-Navy SEAL, said he has shot people with various kinds of ammunition and that there is "absolutely no comparison, whatever, none," between the damage the APLP bullet did to his Iraqi victim that day and what would be expected from standard ammo. When Thomas returned to base after the shooting, he says his fellow mercenaries "were fighting over" the bullets. "At the end of the day, each of us took five rounds. That's all we had left."
These bullets have been a source of some controversy in Congress, and the manufacturer has lobbyists trying to get them approved for use by U.S. forces, calling it "an issue of national security." In fact, Thomas says he was threatened with a court-martial for using unapproved ammunition after he was mistakenly understood by a Pentagon official to be an active-duty soldier. It was the first recorded kill using the bullets, which had been tested for several years at the Armed Forces Journal annual "Shoot-out at Blackwater" at the company compound in Moyock. After Thomas allegedly killed the Iraqi using the APLP round, he sounded like a paid spokesman on a commercial for the bullets. "I'm taking Le Mas ammo with me when I return to Iraq, and I've already promised lots of this ammo to my buddies who were there that day and to their friends," Thomas told an interviewer during a leave from Iraq. "This is purely for putting into bad guys. For general inventory, absolutely not. For special operations, I wouldn't carry anything else." The Armed Forces Journal excitedly chronicled Thomas's experience with the rounds, calling them "reason enough for Pentagon officials to insist that Special Operations Command immediately begin realistic testing of the blended-metal ammunition." Thomas later posted on his MySpace Web page a link to a news article about his use of the armor- piercing bullets in Iraq with a note that said:
OSAMA BIN LADEN IS MY BITCH
And here is why [story link]
Fucker wants me dead now.
As mercenaries roamed the country freely, there was no official explanation given to Iraqis as to who these heavily armed, often nonuniformed forces were. It would be a year before Bremer would officially get around to issuing an order that defined their status—as immune from prosecution. Iraqis killed or wounded by these mercenaries had no recourse for justice. Many Iraqis---and some journalists—erroneously believed that the mercenaries were CIA or Israeli Mossad agents, an impression that enraged citizens who encountered them. The mercenaries' conduct and reputation also angered actual U.S. intelligence officers who felt the mercenaries could jeopardize their own security in the country. As 2003 neared its end, much of Iraq lay in ruins, while the oft-promised "reconstruction" projects, ostensibly to be funded by Iraqi oil revenue, were overwhelmingly nonexistent or flat-out failing. For mercenary companies, though, business was booming. In early 2004, the situation in Iraq would begin to descend even further into chaos, bringing more business for private military companies.
In February 2004, Bremer's office engaged in an incredible act of either vast miscalculation or wanton (and deadly) disregard for reality. According to a report at the time in the Washington Post, "U.S. officials courting companies to take part in the rebuilding insist that security is not an issue for contractors and said accounts have been overblown. 'Western contractors are not targets; Tom Foley, the CPA's director of private-sector development, told hundreds of would-be investors at a Commerce Department conference in Washington on Feb. 11. He said the media have exaggerated the issue." On the contrary, Foley asserted, "The risks are akin to sky diving or riding a motorcycle, which are, to many, very acceptable risks." By mid-March 2004, mercenary firms were basking in what had become a tremendous "sellers' market" in Iraq. "What it cost to hire qualified security personnel in June (2003) is a fraction of what it costs today," said Mike Battles, founder of the U.S. firm Custer Battles, which was contracted to guard the Baghdad airport.
On March 18, word hit the streets that the United States was putting up a contract worth $100 million to hire private security to guard the foursquare-mile Green Zone and its three thousand residents. "The current and projected threat and recent history of attacks directed against coalition forces, and thinly stretched military force, requires a commercial security force that is dedicated to provide Force Protection security," read the solicitation. As Blackwater's Bremer detail succeeded in keeping its high-value "noun" alive, the company's management seized opportunity in the chaos of Iraq. They opened several new offices, in Baghdad, Amman, and Kuwait City, as well as headquarters in the epicenter of the U.S. intelligence community in McLean, Virginia, that would house the company's new Govern-ment Relations division. Plans were under way to expand Blackwater's lucrative business in the war zone in a profit drive that would end with four American contractors dead in Fallujah, Iraq in flames, and Blackwater's future looking very bright. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.77-9
Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 posted on forum
KBR’s assertions had to be viewed in the context of what the Pentagon’s own auditors found regarding the company’s practices in Iraq. “KBR routinely marks almost all of the information it provides to the government as KBR proprietary data…[which] is an abuse of [Federal Acquisition Regulations] procedures, inhibits transparency of government activities and the use of taxpayer funds,” according to an October 2006 report by the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.226
Blackwater’s primary argument, however, centered around what it portrayed as the bigger-picture ramifications for the future of U.S. war-fighting. “The question whether contractors may be sued, in any court, for war casualties while the military services may not… could determine whether the President, as Commander in Chief, will be able to deploy the Total Force decades into the future,” Blackwater argued in an appellate brief filed October 31, 2005. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.232-3
On October 18,2006, Blackwater hired one of the nation’s heaviest-hitting lawyers to represent it-Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal…. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.234-5
The consequences of this policy were not lost on the families of the four slain Blackwater contractors. “Over a thousand people died because of what happened to Scotty that day,” said Katy Helvenston-Wettengel. “There’s a lot of innocent people that have died.” Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.235-6
While what little attention that has been paid to Blackwater’s aviation division has focused on the Afghanistan lawsuit, the company has multiple contracts with the U.S. government to provide pilots and aircraft. Information on the use of Blackwater’s planes by the government is difficult to obtain, but it has been well documented that U.S. intelligence agencies and the military have used private aviation companies to ‘render’ prisoners across the globe, particularly under the Bush administration ‘war on terror.’ Under the clandestine program, prisoners are sometimes flown to countries with questionable or terrible human rights records, where they are interrogated far from any oversight or due process. To avoid oversight, the government has used small private aviation companies – many with flimsy ownership documentation – to transport the prisoners. ‘Terrorism suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have often been abducted by hooded or masked American agents, then forced onto a Gulfstream V jet,’ wrote investigative journalist Jane Mayer in The New Yorker magazine. The plane has clearance to land at U.S. military bases. Upon arriving in foreign countries, rendered suspects often vanish. Detainees are not provided with lawyers, and many families are not informed of their whereabouts.’ While there is nothing directly linking Blackwater to extraordinary renditions, there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that bears closer scrutiny and investigation….
This thinking was best articulated by Vice President Dick Cheney five days after 9/11, when he argued on NBC’s Meet the Press that government should “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney declared, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.253-4 Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited in the New Yorker
“Typically, the CIA planes will fly out of these rural airfields in North Carolina to Dulles,” According to the authors of Torture Taxi. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.257
Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited on Daniel Revelations reading room.
Under the war on terror, Blackwater’s first security contract was a “black” contract with the CIA, an agency which it has deep ties. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.259 Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” source note 90 Revolving Door to Blackwater Causes Alarm at CIA
In the Two years before 9/11, Black’s strategy to fight Al Qaeda focused on using Afghanistan’s neighbor, Uzbekistan, as a launching pad into Afghanistan….. (more inre support of Karimov’s torture and suppression) Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.266
Before the core CIA team, Jawbreaker, deployed [to Afghanistan] on September 27, 2001, Black gave his men direct and macabre directions. “I don’t want bin Laden and his thugs captured, I want them dead….They must be killed. I want to see photos of their heads on pikes. I want bin Laden's head shipped back in a box filled with dry ice. I want to be able to show bin Laden's head to the president. I promised him I would do that." Schroen said it was the first time in his thirty-year career he had been ordered to assassinate an adversary rather than attempting a capture. Black asked if he had made himself clear. “Perfectly clear, Cofer,” Schroen told him. “I don’t know where we’ll find dry ice out there in Afghanistan, but I think we can certainly manufacture pikes in the field.” Black later explained why this would be necessary. “You’d need some DNA,” Black said. “There’s a good way to do it. Take a machete, and whack off his head, and you’ll get a bucketful of DNA, so you can see it and test it. It beats lugging the whole body back!” Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.269-70 Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited on the Global research Project Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited in rebel reports
Cloonan told FBI agents to “handle this like it was being done right here, in my office in New York.” He said, “I remember talking on a secure line to them. I told them, ’Do yourself a favor, read the guy his rights. It may be old-fashioned, but this will come out if we don’t. It may take ten years, but it will hurt you, and the bureau's reputation, if you don't. Have it stand as a shining example of what we feel is right.” Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.272-3 Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited on Huffington post
Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” also cited in American Torture
On April 29, 2004, with anti-U.S. resistance in Iraq exploding, Black and Deputy Secretary of State Armitage unveiled "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003," boldly claiming it showed that the United States was winning its loosely defined war on terror. "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight," said Armitage. The report, he said, was prepared "so that all Americans will know just what we are doing to keep them safe." For his part, Black said that 2003 "saw the lowest number of international terrorist attacks since 1969. That's a 34-year low. There were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003. That's a slight decrease from the 198 attacks that occurred the previous year, and a drop of 45 percent from the 2001 level of 346 attacks." For the White House, the report was held up as clear evidence of a successful strategy; after all, the Congressional Research Service called the State Department's annual report "the most authoritative unclassified U.S. government document that assesses terrorist attacks."
The trouble was, it was a fraud. Congressional investigators and independent scientists soon revealed the truth. "The data that the report highlights are ill-defined and subject to manipulation—and give disproportionate weight to the least important terrorist acts," wrote Alan Krueger and David Laitin, two independent experts, from Princeton and Stanford, in the Washington Post shortly after the report was released. "The only verifiable information in the annual reports indicates that the number of terrorist events has risen each year since 2001, and in 2003 reached its highest level in more than 20 years. ... The alleged decline in terrorism in 2003 was entirely a result of a decline in nonsignificant events." Instead of a 4 percent decrease in terrorist acts, as Black's report claimed, there had actually been a 5 percent increase. Attacks classified as "significant," meanwhile, hit the highest level since 1982. What's more, the report stopped its tally on November 11, 2003, even though there were a number of major terrorist incidents after that date. Despite the fact that in speeches, U.S. officials routinely referred to resistance fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan as "terrorists," in Black's report attacks on forces in Iraq were classified as combat, not terrorism. Black said they "do not meet the longstanding U.S. definition of international terrorism because they were directed at [com-batants], essentially American and coalition forces on duty." California Democratic Representative Ellen Tauscher later said this was evidence that the administration "continues to deny the true cost of the war and refuses to be honest with the American people." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.274-5
Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.
Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” on-line copy
Ambassador John Negroponte was certainly no stranger to wanton bloodletting and death-squad-style operations, having cut his teeth working under Henry Kissinger during the Vietnam War. Beginning in 1981, Negroponte was the Reagan administration's point man in fueling death squads in Central America. As ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte had presided over the second largest embassy in Latin America at the time and the largest CIA station in the world. From that post, Negroponte had coordinated Washington's covert support for the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and for the Honduran junta, covering up the crimes of its murderous Battalion 316. During Negroponte's tenure in Honduras, U.S. officials who worked under him said the State Department human rights reports on the country were drafted to read more like Norway's than anything reflecting the actual reality in Honduras. Negroponte's predecessor in Honduras, Ambassador Jack R. Binns, told the New York Times that Negroponte had discouraged reporting to Washington of abductions, torture, and killings by notorious Honduran military units. "I think [Negroponte] was complicit in abuses, I think he tried to put a lid on reporting abuses and I think he was untruthful to Congress about those activities," Binns said. The Wall Street Journal reported that in Honduras, "Negroponte's influence, backed by huge amounts of U.S. aid, was so great that it was said he far outweighed the country's president and that his only real rival was Honduras's military chief." He was "such a powerful ambassador in Honduras in the early 1980s that he was known as 'the proconsul; a title given to powerful administrators in colonial times," the Journal noted in a story published shortly after Negroponte's nomination to the Iraq post. "Now President Bush has chosen him to reprise that role in Iraq.”
Perhaps there was little irony, then, that shortly after Negroponte's appointment as ambassador to Iraq, in April 2004, the Honduran government announced it was pulling its 370 troops out of the "coalition of the willing. Despite Negroponte's well-documented record of involvement with a policy of horrible human rights abuses and killings, his confirmation as ambassador to Iraq went smoothly—he was approved by the Senate in a 95-3 vote on May 6, 2004. Senator Tom Harkin, who as a Congressman in the 1980s had investigated Negroponte's activities in Central America, said he wished he had done more to stop Negroponte's appointment. "I've been amazed at how this individual—from what he did in Central America, where under his watch hundreds of people disappeared—has moved up. He falsified reports and ignored what was happening," Harkin said. "This is going to be our ambassador to Iraq at this time?" Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.282-3
Veteran journalist Allan Nairn, who exposed U.S.-backed death squads in Central America in the 1980s, said whether Negroponte was involved with the "Salvador option" in Iraq or not, "These programs, which backed the killing of foreign civilians, it's a regular part of U.S. policy. It's ingrained in U.S. policy in dozens upon dozens of countries." Duane Clarridge, who ran the CIA's "covert war against communism in Central America from Honduras," visited his old colleague Negroponte in Baghdad in the summer of 2004. In Iraq, "[Negroponte] was told to play a low-key role and let the Iraqis be out front," Clarridge told the New York Times. "And that's what he likes to do, anyway." According to the Times, "Negroponte shifted more than $1 billion to build up the Iraqi Army from reconstruction projects, a move prompted by his experience with the frailty of the South Vietnamese Army." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.286-7
In October 2005, correspondent Tom Lasseter from the Knight Ridder news agency spent a week on patrol with "a crack unit of the Iraqi army— the 4,500-member 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division." He reported, "Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that's tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population." The unit was responsible for security in Sunni areas of Baghdad, and Lasseter reported that "they're seeking revenge against the Sunnis who oppressed them during Saddam Hussein's rule." He quoted Shiite Army Maj. Swadi Ghilan saying he wanted to kill most Sunnis in Iraq. "There are two Iraqs; it's something that we can no longer deny," Ghilan said. "The army should execute the Sunnis in their neighborhoods so that all of them can see what happens, so that all of them learn their lesson." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.288-9
In a statement released shortly after the helicopter was shot down, Black- water said the "Six were passengers in a commercial helicopter operated by Sky Link under contract to Blackwater in support of a Department of Defense contract." Despite its obvious military use, media reports overwhelmingly referred to the helicopter as a "civilian" or "commercial" aircraft. Reporters at the Pentagon, meanwhile, began reporting that "these commercial aircraft fly without the type of air protective measures that military aircraft fly with." Shortly after the helicopter was downed, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, who once headed the Air National Guard, told CNN, "All of the airplanes over there, if possible, should have infrared countermeasures and flares to protect themselves against shoulder- fired missiles, which are the biggest threat to low-flying helicopters. . . . Once an infrared shoulder-fired missile is fired at you, you can confuse it and divert either with flares or with sophisticated maneuvers." Shepperd added, "All those protect you." At the Pentagon press briefing after the shoot-down, a reporter asked spokesman Larry Di Rita about the apparent lack of these "countermeasures" on the Blackwater-contracted helicopter:
REPORTER: The Department of Defense is contracting these folks. Are there any sort of restrictions that you have to force these contractors to make sure that the private individuals who are doing work on behalf of DOD have the same sort of protections that uniformed service members are getting? And shouldn't somebody who is doing the work of the Department of Defense, same mission, just because they're getting their paycheck from somewhere else, have the same— enjoy the same protections that somebody in a uniform would be?
DI RITA: I'm not sure that that premise is the basis on which people operate over there. In other words, there are contractors who assume a certain amount of risk. Everybody over there is—no, I don't say everybody—there are a number of contractors to the U.S. military, to the Department of Defense, some to the Department of State, and they assume a certain risk by being over there. And I wouldn't want to characterize exactly what status this particular—obviously we mourn the loss of life, and I'm sure that the contractor would have taken all of the appropriate precautions. I mean, I think that's what—they have the same regard for their employees as we do for our forces. But I can't say that that necessarily means they're going to be on the same status. I just don't think that's the case.
REPORTER: They have the same countermeasures. Shouldn't they have the same protective gear, shouldn't they have the same kind of ballistic gear, shouldn't they have the same—
DI RITA: As I said, I think contractors recognize the environment that they're operating in. It's like they're around the world, and they make appropriate adjustments on their own determination.
Unlike the Pentagon—which was limited by budget constraints—Blackwater was limited in its ability to defend its personnel only by its own spending decisions and by how much it was willing to shell out for defensive countermeasures. "I have concerns for many of the contractors who are still over there," said Katy Helvenston-Wettengel, who already was suing Blackwater for her son's death in Fallujah. "Our government seems to be subcontracting out this war, and these companies have no accountability." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.292-3
Joseph Schmitz comes from one of the most bizarre, scandal-plagued, right-wing political families in U.S. history. For decades they have operated on the fringes of a landscape dominated by the likes of the Kennedys, Clintons, and Bushes. The patriarch of the family, John G. Schmitz, was an ultraconservative California state politician who raised his family in a strict Catholic household. As a state lawmaker, he railed against sex education in schools, abortion, and income tax, and he was a fierce supporter of states' rights. He regularly introduced measures supporting the "Liberty Amendment," which would have required the federal government to get out of businesses that would have competed with private industry." At one point, he proposed selling the University of California. In the late 1960s, he accused then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican, of wanting to "run socialism more efficiently" after a tax increase. A year after Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination, John Schmitz led the opposition in the California State Senate to commemorating the slain civil rights leader. After winning a Congressional seat as a Republican from Orange County in the early 1970s, he soon "established himself as one of the country's most right-wing and outspoken congressmen." He ran for President against Richard Nixon in 1972 as the candidate of the American Independent Party, founded in 1968 by segregationist politician George Wallace. The elder Schmitz also served as national director of the anticommunist John Birch Society before being kicked out for being too extreme. He made comments like, "Jews are like everybody else, only more so," "Martin Luther King is a notorious liar," "I may not be Hispanic, but I'm close. I'm Catholic with a mustache" and described the Watts riot as "a communist operation." After President Richard Nixon announced he would visit "Red China" in 1971, Schmitz—who represented Nixon's home district—called Nixon "pro-communist," saying the visit was "surrendering to international communism. It wipes out any chance of overthrowing the [Peking] government." Schmitz also said he had "disestablished diplomatic relations with the White House" and declared, "I have no objection to President Nixon going to China. I just object to his coming back." Schmitz ultimately lost his seat in Congress and, after his failed presidential bid, returned to state politics. In 1981, he chaired a California State Senate committee hearing on abortion and described the audience as "hard, Jewish, and (arguably) female faces." He also called feminist attorney Gloria Allred a "slick, butch lawyeress" during an attack on Allred's support for abortion rights. Allred sued Schmitz, resulting in a $20,000 judgment against him and a public apology. His political career, spent preaching about family values, came to a crashing end after he acknowledged fathering at least two children out of wedlock. Eventually John G. Schmitz retired in the Washington, D.C., area, where he purchased the home of his hero, the anticommunist fanatic Senator Joseph McCarthy. Schmitz wrote two books, Stranger in the Arena: The Anatomy of an Amoral Decade 1964-1974 and The Viet Cong Front in the United States. He died in 2001 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Joseph Schmitz's older brother, John Patrick, also a lawyer, was deputy counsel to George H. W. Bush from 1985 to 1993, during Bush's time as both Vice President and President, and he played a key role in protecting Bush from the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1987, Bush received a request from the Office of the Independent Counsel to produce all documents that might be Schmitz refused to turn over his own diary, which covered 1987 to 1992, claiming it was a privileged work product, employing an obfuscatory tactic that would become de rigueur in George W. Bush's executive branch. Even after Gray and Schmitz were both essentially offered immunity, they still refused to be interviewed; Schmitz left the administration in 1993. Joseph Schmitz had his own link to the Iran-Contra scandal, serving in 1987 as special assistant attorney general to Edwin Meese, who served under Reagan as Attorney General and, in Meese's own words, tried "to limit the damage." Prior to his time at the White House, John Patrick had clerked for then-U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Antonin Scalia. John Patrick went on to become a lobbyist/attorney with the Washington, D.C., firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Among his clients: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Lockheed Martin, Enron, General Electric, Pfizer, and Bayer. He was also a "Major League Pioneer" funder of George W. Bush, donating thousands to his campaign coffers. related to the investigation, including "all personal and official records of [Office of the Vice President] staff members." Bush delegated the responsibility for this to his counsel, C. Boyden Gray, and deputy counsel John P. Schmitz. It wasn't until five years later—a month after Bush was elected President—that Gray and Schmitz disclosed that Bush had kept a personal diary during the scandal that was clearly covered under the earlier document request. While they turned over the diary, Gray and Schmitz stalled in handing over documents related to the diary and failed to explain why it was not produced during the five crucial years of the investigation. Investigators interviewed all those who had something to do with producing documents from Bush's office except Gray and Schmitz, who refused to comply.
Perhaps the most famous member of the Schmitz family, though, is the least political: Joseph Schmitz's sister, Mary Kay LeTourneau. In 1997, the married schoolteacher and mother of four grabbed headlines after being charged with the child rape of Vili Fualaau, her thirteen-year-old student. Four months later, she gave birth to Fualaau's daughter. The case was a tabloid obsession for years. After serving a seven-year prison term, during which time she gave birth to another child fathered by Fualaau, LeTourneau married her former sixth-grade student in 2004. While her father—the hysterical family-values politician who railed against feminists, homosexuals, and abortion—vigorously defended her, other family members kept a much lower profile about the case, which ran parallel to Joseph Schmitz's ascension to a position in the Bush administration. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.300-2
In March 2003, a year after Schmitz took over as the Pentagon IG, and just as the Iraq invasion was beginning, he found himself responsible for investigating a scandal that rocked one of the key architects of the administration's Iraq policy: Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative activist, founder of the Project for a New American Century and chair of the Defense Policy Board. Perle was dose to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and had an office right next to Rumsfeld's at the Pentagon.73 As the Iraq invasion was getting under way, the New York Times and The New Yorker magazine revealed that Perle was using his position to lobby for corporate clients in their dealings with the Defense Department. "Even as he advises the Pentagon on war matters, Richard N. Perle, chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board, has been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome Defense Department resistance to its proposed sale to a foreign firm," the Times reported. Noting that Perle was "close to many senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who appointed him to lead the policy board," the Times revealed that Perle stood to make $725,000 from Global Crossing if the government approved the sale. The Pentagon and FBI opposed the sale because it would "put Global Crossing's worldwide fiber optics network—one used by the United States government— under Chinese ownership." In legal documents obtained by the Times, Perle blatantly peddled his Pentagon position to explain why he was uniquely qualified to help Global Crossing. "As the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, I have a unique perspective on and intimate knowledge of the national defense and security issues that will be raised" in the review process, Perle wrote.
When the news broke, Perle quickly resigned his chairmanship of the advisory board, while maintaining his innocence. In resigning, Perle told Rumsfeld he didn't want the scandal to distract from "the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged" in Iraq. Rumsfeld asked Perle to remain on the board, which he did. Representative John Conyers called for an investigation of Perle, and the case was sent to Joseph Schmitz. After a six-month investigation, Schmitz exonerated Perle of any wrongdoing, saying "We have completed our inquiry regarding the conduct of Mr. Perle and did not substantiate allegations of misconduct." Despite exposés in almost every leading news outlet in the country about Perle's multiple conflicts of interest, the Inspector General's report "found insufficient basis to conclude that Mr. Perle created the appearance of impropriety from the perspective of a reasonable person." Perle said he was "very pleased" with Schmitz's conclusion, while Rumsfeld declared, "The Inspector General's report confirms the integrity of the Defense Policy Board and Mr. Perle's participation."
Not long after the revelations about Richard Perle's business dealings, another controversy erupted about a powerful senior official in Rumsfeld's inner circle, Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. In October 2003, Boykin was revealed to have gone on several anti-Muslim rants, in public speeches, many of which he delivered in military uniform. Since January 2002, Boykin had spoken at twenty-three religious-oriented events, wearing his uniform at all but two. Among Boykin's statements, he said he knew the United States would prevail over a Muslim adversary in Somalia because "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin also charged that Islamic radicals want to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation" that "will never abandon Israel." Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin declared, "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus." As for President Bush, Boykin said, "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." In another speech, Boykin said other countries "have lost their morals, lost their values. But America is still a Christian nation." He told a church group in Oregon that special operations forces were victorious in Iraq because of their faith in God. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to impress upon you that the battle that we're in is a spiritual battle," he said. "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."
Boykin was a career military officer, one of the first Delta Force commandos who rose through the ranks to become head of the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command. He had served in the Central Intelligence Agency, and during the war on tenor, he had been in charge of Army Special Forces before joining Rumsfeld's close-knit leadership team, where he was placed in charge of hunting "high-value targets." Boykin was one of the key U.S. officials in establishing what critics alleged was death-squadtype activity in Iraq. Asked in a Congressional inquiry about the similarities between the U.S. Phoenix program in Vietnam and special operations in the war on tenor, Boykin said: "I think we're running that kind of program. We're going after these people. Killing or capturing these people is a legiti-mate mission for the department. I think we're doing what the Phoenix program was designed to do, without all of the secrecy." Military analyst William Arkin, who first revealed Boykin's comments, wrote, "When Boykin publicly spews this intolerant message while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, he strongly suggests that this is an official and sanctioned view— and that the U.S. Army is indeed a Christian army. But that's only part of the problem. Boykin is also in a senior Pentagon policymaking position, and it's a serious mistake to allow a man who believes in a Christian 'jihad' to hold such a job. . . . Boykin has made it clear that he takes his orders not from his Army superiors but from God—which is a worrisome line of command. For another, it is both imprudent and dangerous to have a senior officer guiding the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan who believes that Islam is an idolatrous, sacrilegious religion against which we are waging a holy war." When Boykin came under fire for his anti-Muslim comments, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon brass vigorously defended him. "Boykin was not removed or transferred. At that moment, he was at the heart of a secret operation to 'Gitmoize' . . . the Abu Ghraib prison," wrote former Clinton senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal. "He had flown to Guantanamo, where he met Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of Camp X- Ray. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend X-Ray methods to the prison system there, on Rumsfeld's orders."
Amid outcry from human rights groups and Arab and Muslim organizations, Boykin personally requested that Schmitz's department at the Pentagon conduct an investigation into any potential wrongdoing on his part. Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Boykin "is anxious to have the investigator do the investigator's job." After a ten-month review, Schmitz's office essentially cleared Boykin, concluding the general had violated three internal Pentagon regulations. "Although it was the substance of Boykin's remarks and not his regard for Pentagon rules that aroused controversy, the report pointedly steered clear of comment on the appropriateness of Boykin's injection of religion into his depiction of the military's counterterrorism efforts, including his claims that a 'demonic presence' lay behind the actions of radical Muslims," reported the Washington Post. The paper quoted a senior Defense official who "said the report is seen as a 'complete exoneration' that ultimately found Boykin responsible for a few 'relatively minor offenses' related to technical and bureaucratic issues." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.306-10
"This vigilantism demonstrates the utter breakdown of the government," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, upon learning Blackwater forces were deployed in the hurricane zone. "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal." A statement on Blackwater's Web site, dated September 1, 2005, advertised airlift services, security services, and crowd control and said the company was deploying its SA-330 Puma helicopter "to help assist in evacuating citizens from flooded areas." The press release claimed "Blackwater's aerial support services" were being "donated" to the relief effort. "At this time, all Americans should band together and assist our countrymen who have been struck by this natural disaster," said founder Erik Prince. "Blackwater is proud to serve the people of New Orleans," said Blackwater's executive vice president Bill Mathews on September 13. "First and foremost, this is about Americans helping Americans in a time of desperation." Cofer Black spun Blackwater's operations in Katrina as strictly humanitarian-motivated. "I think it's important to underscore that companies like ours are in servitude," Black later said, adding that when Katrina hit, "Our company launched a helicopter and crew with no contract, no one paying us, that went down to New Orleans. We were able to find out how to put ourselves under Coast Guard command—we got a Coast Guard call sign and we saved some 150 people that otherwise wouldn't have been saved. And as a result of that, we've had a very positive experience." "We're always anxious to help our fellow citizens," Black said, "whether we get paid or not." But the fact is that Blackwater was indeed getting paid in New Orleans—big time. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.324-5
The hurricane's aftermath ushered in the homecoming of the "war on terror," a contract bonanza whereby companies reaped massive Iraq-like profits without leaving the country and at a minuscule fraction of the risk. To critics of the government's handling of the hurricane, the message was clear. "That's what happens when the victims are black folks vilified before and after the storm—instead of aid, they get contained," said Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and an editor of Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch. Kromm alleged that while seemingly endless amounts of money were doled out to scandal-ridden contractors, vital projects had "gotten zero or little money" in New Orleans in the same period, including: job creation, hospital and school reconstruction, affordable housing, and wetlands restoration. Even in this context, DHS continued to defend the Blackwater contract. In a March 1, 2006, memo to FEMA, Matt Jadacki, the DHS Special Inspector General for Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery, wrote that the Federal Protective Service considered Black- water "the best value to the government." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.330-1
But critics saw the deployment of Blackwater's forces domestically as a dangerous precedent that could undermine U.S. democracy. "Their actions may not be subject to constitutional limitations that apply to both federal and state officials and employees—including First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Unlike police officers, they are not trained in protecting constitutional rights," said CCR's Ratner. "These kind of paramilitary groups bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts, functioning as an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism that can and does operate outside the law. The use of these paramilitary groups is an extremely dangerous threat to our rights." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.332
Prince himself managed to escape scrutiny, despite his ties to Rudy and his connection to Abramoff. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, of which Erik Prince is a vice president and his mother is president, gave at least $130,000 to Toward Tradition, an organization that described itself as a "national coalition of Jews and Christians devoted to fighting the secular institutions that foster anti-religious bigotry, harm families, and jeopardize the future of America." Abramoff served as chairman of the organization, run by his longtime friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin, until 2000, and remained on the board until 2004. Toward Tradition surfaced in Abramoff s plea agreement as a "nonprofit entity" through which "Abramoff provided things of value . [w]ith the intent to influence . . . official acts." Abramoff clients eLottery, an Internet gambling company, and the Magazine Publishers of America each donated $25,000 to Toward Tradition. The $50,000 was then paid to Tony Rudy's wife, Lisa, in ten $5,000 installments for consulting services. At the time, Rudy was DeLay's deputy chief of staff and was helping eLottery to fight a bill that would outlaw Internet gambling and helping the MPA to fight a postal rate increase. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.339
Singer, who has extensively studied the role of private military firms in international conflicts, observed the following about Blackwater's Sudan pitch:
The firms go about talking about how they would save kittens in trees if only the big bad international community would let them, but the situation is just far more complex than that. This kind of lobbying often attempts to confuse folks. . . . The issue preventing effective action in Darfur is not simply a matter of financial costs. That is, there is not some imaginary price point that only if such firms could come in under, it would solve things. The real problem is that it is a political mess on the ground, there is no effective UN mandate, no outside political will to engage for real, plus a Sudanese government that is obstructionist and effectively one of the sides (meaning if you go in without a mandate, you gotta be willing to kick the doors down, destroy air bases, etc. which no firm has the capacity to do, and sends the issue back to US/NATO/UN), thus far preventing a useful deployment. So even if you got firms willing, you still have to solve those problems. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.347-8
The leadership of Christian Freedom has had a long relationship with the crisis in Sudan because of the Christian/Muslim conflict. Early on in its work there, CFI engaged in the practice of "slave redemptions"—purchasing Christians it believed to be enslaved—but later denounced the practice, saying the "redemptions" had become a source of funding for rebel groups and that people were "faking their stories of enslavement in an attempt to make money." For years, CFI has cast its vision for Sudan in the very economic terms that have fueled the Bush administration's global policies and Blackwater's corporate strategy. "Many Christians in Southern Sudan desire to break free from international handouts and learn free-market principles, useful skills and technologies that will move them from dependence to independence," wrote Christian Freedom founder Jim Jacobson, the former Reagan official, in a 1999 column. "It's time to help the Christians of Sudan begin to walk. When this day comes—and it will come—slavery in Sudan will end." Like Blackwater executives, Jacobson has disparaged the work of the United Nations, charging that the UN has a vested interest in keeping refugees impoverished. "I consider a lot of the [UN] organizations to be merchants of misery," Jacobson said. "The UN welfare organizations need people in miserable conditions to justify their own existence. The more people they have depending on them, the more money they get. We are trying to promote self-sufficiency to get people off handouts." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.350-1
Not long after Black's Sudan proposal in Jordan, Blackwater received boosts for its cause from several prominent commentators. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, penned a widely distributed column in the Los Angeles Times called "Darfur Solution: Send in the Mercenaries." Boot wrote:
If the so-called civilization nations of the world were serious about ending what the U.S. government has described as genocide, they would not fob off the job on the U.N. They would send their own troops. But of course they're not serious. At least not that serious. But perhaps there is a way to stop the killing even without sending an American or European army. Send a private army. A number of commercial security firms such as Blackwater USA are willing, for the right price, to send their own forces, made up in large part of veterans of Western militaries, to stop the genocide. We know from experience that such private units would be far more effective than any U.N. peacekeepers. In the 1990s, the South African firm Executive Outcomes and the British firm Sand- line made quick work of rebel movements in Angola and Sierra Leone. Critics complain that these mercenaries offered only a temporary respite from the violence, but that was all they were hired to do. Presumably longer-term contracts could create longer-term security, and at a fraction of the cost of a U.N. mission. Yet this solution is deemed unacceptable by the moral giants who run the United Nations. They claim that it is objectionable to employsniff—mercenaries. More objectionable, it seems, than passing empty resolutions, sending ineffectual peacekeeping forces and letting genocide continue.
Boot subsequently suggested that Blackwater or another mercenary firm could be deployed in Sudan after being hired "by an ad hoc group of concerned nations, or even by philanthropists like Bill Gates or George Soros." But it wasn't just conservatives lining up to support Blackwater. One of the most venerable newsmen in U.S. history, Ted Koppel, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times published on May 22, 2006, called "These Guns for Hire," which opened with the line, "There is something terribly seductive about the notion of a mercenary army." Koppel went on to provide "only a partial list of factors that would make a force of latter-day Hessians seem attractive:"
Growing public disenchantment with the war in Iraq; The prospect of an endless campaign against global terrorism; An over-extended military backed by an exhausted, even depleted force of reservists and National Guardsmen; The unwillingness or inability of the United Nations or other multinational organizations to dispatch adequate forces to deal quickly with hideous, large-scale atrocities (see Darfur and Congo); The expansion of American corporations into more remote, fractious and potentially hostile settings.
After running through that list, which seemed to have been lifted from mercenary industry talking points, Koppel opined that "Just as the all-volunteer military relieved the government of much of the political pressure that had accompanied the draft, so a rent-a-force, harnessing the privilege of every putative warrior to hire himself out for more than he could ever make in the direct service of Unde Sam, might relieve us of an array of current political pressures."
Koppel then spent a fair portion of his op-ed presenting a virtual advertisement for Blackwater:
So, what about the inevitable next step—a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection? If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation's ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?
Chris Taylor, the vice president for strategic initiatives and corporate strategy for Blackwater USA, wanted to be sure I understood that such a thing could only happen with the approval of the Nigerian government and at least the tacit understanding of Washington. But could Blackwater provide a couple, of battalions under those circumstances? "600 people in a battalion," he answered. "I could source 1,200 people, yes. There are people all over the world who have honorably served in their military or police organizations. I can go find honorable, vetted people, recruit them, train them to the standard we require."
It could have the merit of stabilizing oil prices, thereby serving the American national interest, without even tapping into the federal budget. Meanwhile, oil companies could protect some of their more vulnerable overseas interests without the need to embroil Congress in the tiresome question of whether Americans should be militarily engaged in a sovereign third world nation.
What Koppel neglected to mention in his piece was the likelihood that the type of insurrection that Blackwater's forces could potentially be fighting off in Nigeria in defense of Chevron or ExxonMobil could be a popular one, seeking to reclaim Nigeria's vast petrol-resources from the U.S. government/oil corporation-backed kleptocracy that has brutally governed Africa's most-populous nation for decades. Nor did Koppel mention that transnational oil corporations already use brutal forces to defend their interests from indigenous Nigerians, particularly in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Nigerian playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa was executedhanged—with eight others in 1995 for his resistance to the Shell Oil Corporation, and Chevron has been deeply implicated in the killing of protesters in the Niger Delta. What was most disturbing about Koppel's op-ed was that he appeared to be lending his credibility and reputation to the mercenary rebranding cause—at a crucial moment. In late 2006, Bush eased sanctions on Christian southern Sudan, paving the way for Black- water to train the region's forces. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.353-6
Despite the fact that there were an estimated one hundred thousand contractors operating in Iraq as of December 2006, there remained no effective oversight system in place, nor was there a legal body with effective jurisdiction over the contractors. Paul Bremer's Order 17, which granted contractors immunity from prosecution in Iraq, remained the law of the land under successive puppet governments—from Iyad Allawi to Nouri al-Maliki—that ruled Iraq after Bremer departed and the CPA was dismantled. In theory, it is the responsibility of the home countries of contractors to police them. In reality, this has translated to impunity. That point was hit home in a dramatic way in one of the rare Congressional hearings on contractors in Iraq, which took place in June 2006. Representative Dennis Kucinich questioned Shay Assad, the Pentagon's director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition, the department in the DoD responsible for contractors. Kucinich pointed out that U.S. troops are subjected to enforceable rules of engagement and have been prosecuted for violations in Iraq, while contractors are not:
KUCINICH: Do you know what the statute of limitation is for murder in the United States?
ASSAD: No, I don't, Mr. Congressman.
KUCINICH: There isn't—there isn't one. Now, if someone connected with a private contracting company was involved in the murder of a civilian, would the Department be ready to recommend their prosecution?
ASSAD: Sir, I'm just not qualified to answer that question.
Incredulous, Kucinich asked Assad and the other government officials on the panel, "Anybody here qualified to answer that, and if they're not, why are you here, with all due respect?" Kucinich pointed out that as of the date of the hearing in June 2006, "no security contractor has been prosecuted" for crimes in Iraq. He then directly asked Assad, "Would the Department of Defense be prepared to see a prosecution proffered against any private con-tractor who is demonstrated to have unlawfully killed a civilian?"
"Sir, I can't answer that question," Assad replied.
"Wow," Kucinich shot back. "Think about what that means. These private contractors can get away with murder." Contractors, Kucinich said, "do not appear to be subject to any laws at all and so therefore they have more of a license to be able to take the law into their own hands." (In late 2006, Senator Lindsey Graham quietly inserted language into the 2007 defense authorization bill, which Bush subsequently signed, that sought to place contractors under the Pentagon's UCMJ, but what effective impact—if any—this could have remains unclear as of this writing, with experts predicting resistance from the private war industry.) Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.359-60
But just a few years later, with reports of South African mercenaries deployed in Iraq, lawmakers in Johannesburg alleged that the law was not being applied effectively. They asserted the legislation had resulted in "a small number of prosecutions and convictions," notwithstanding the clear evidence of mercenary activities by South Africans—and not just in Iraq. The Prohibition of Mercenary Activities Act, introduced in the South African Parliament in 2005, was sparked not only by Iraq but also by the alleged involvement of more than sixty South Africans in an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea in 2004. The incident grabbed international headlines because of the alleged involvement of Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The small country of five hundred thousand had recently discovered great oil reserves and at the time had become Africa's third-largest oil producer. The alleged leader of the coup attempt was Simon Mann, an ex-British SAS officer, a founder of both Executive Outcomes and Sandline, and a friend of Mark Thatcher's. Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.362-3
"The increasing use of contractors, private forces, or, as some would say, 'mercenaries' makes wars easier to begin and to fight—it just takes money and not the citizenry," said CCR's Michael Ratner. "To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars, and, in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist wars. Private forces are almost a necessity for a United States bent on retaining its declining empire."
With an adventurous President in the White House, mercenaries could enable an endless parade of invasions, covert operations, occupations, coups d'etat—all with the layers of bureaucratic protections, plausible deniability, and disregard for the will (or lack thereof) of the population. Moreover, private soldiers are not counted among the dead, providing yet another incentive for the government to utilize them. "These forces can be employed without a lot of publicity—and that's a very useful characteristic for any government. It's politically easier, and there is less red tape," said Thomas Pogue, a former Navy SEAL who enlisted in the Blackwater Academy. "We're expendable. If ten contractors die, it's not the same as if ten soldiers die. Because people will say that we were in it for the money. And that has a completely different connotation with the American public." Jeremy Scahill “Blackwater” 2007 p.365-6