Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Thursday, April 01, 2004


Much of the coverage & commentary about yesterday’s atrocities focused, understandably, on their sheer brutality. The images were so chilling, in fact, that the press openly wondered (As Aaron Brown did last night) just how much to show. Down in the details, however, is another story, and more questions. The civilians who were burnt and hung were apparently mercenaries – though no one, of course, would officially call them that:

The four American civilians killed were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, a U.S. government contractor providing security for food deliveries in Fallujah, the company said.

And who, you might ask, is Blackwater? Well, you won't learn much from their website, but you will learn enough to wonder just how plausible it is that a company with their, um, particular set of skills would simply be "providing security for food deliveries":

Blackwater USA has historically provided a spectrum of support to military, government agencies, law enforcement and civilian entities in training, targets and range operations as a solution provider….We employ only the most highly motivated and professional operators, all drawn from various U.S. and international Special Operations Forces, Intelligence and Law Enforcement organizations.

And, in spite of the fact that our government hired these guys -- I wouldn't count on much help from them, either. Recalling an earlier incident, involving a similar outfit, Mother Jones explains:

When the companies do screw up, however, their status as private entities often shields them -- and the government -- from public scrutiny. In 2001, an Alabama-based firm called Aviation Development Corp. that provided reconnaissance for the CIA in South America misidentified an errant plane as possibly belonging to cocaine traffickers. Based on the company's information, the Peruvian air force shot down the aircraft, killing a U.S. missionary and her seven-month-old daughter. Afterward, when members of Congress tried to investigate, the State Department and the CIA refused to provide any information, citing privacy concerns. "We can't talk about it," administration officials told Congress, according to a source familiar with the incident. "It's a private entity. Call the company."

The lack of oversight alarms some members of Congress. "Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don't have the same level of accountability," says Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a leading congressional critic of privatized war. "We have individuals who are not obligated to follow orders or follow the Military Code of Conduct. Their main obligation is to their employer, not to their country."

Great. Major Barbara has more.

UPDATE: Kos has an excellent post up on this, as does Tacitus.


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