Friday, July 11, 2008

Blackwater the Main Reason Iraq Wants US Out

Juan Cole reports that the main reason Prime Minister al-Maliki is holding up a Status of Forces Agreement with the US has been the refusal of the US to rein in its private mercenaries, especially the wildly overpaid and out-of-control folks at Blackwater. In September, 2007 Blackwater personnel gunned down 17 innocent Iraqis in Nisour Square, an incident that triggered outrage among the Iraqis and demands that the perpetrators be brought to justice. But they have not been as they have immunity under current agreements, something that now appalls the Iraqis of all factions. To add insult to injury, less than a month after this incident, the US State Department granted Blackwater a $92 million contract to guard US personnel in Iraq. Why are we hiring mercenaries at many times the salaries of US military to carry out functions that until very recently were always carried out by US military personnel?

Unfortunately most in the US are unaware of how outrageous Blackwater is, or the deep links of its founder and CEO, Eric Prince, to the current administration. So, in October 2007 a drunken Blackwater employee killed a bodyguard of the Iraqi Vice President, doing so by firing from a balcony in the Iraqi Ministry of Justice. Even more striking is that Blackwater personnel view themselves as superior to US military personnel. In 2007 there was an incident in the Green Zone where a Blackwater employee crashed an SUV into an army vehicle. The army seized the SUV, but the Blackwater employee disarmed the US army soldiers and forced them to lie on the ground until he recovered the Blackwater vehicle. All of this is simply outrageous and out of control (and Barack Obama has yet to speak against it). I fully sympathize with the demand by Ayatollah Ali Sistani of PM al-Mailiki that under these circumstances Iraq should not grant the US a Status of Forces Agreement that allows Blackwater personnel immunity from prosecution for this sort of conduct.

5 comments:

Michael Perelman said...

If Blackwater helps get us out of Iraq, I will reduce my contempt for the bastards.

Doug said...

The thing that scares me is that Blackwater is ready to take to the streets in your hometown once social unrest breaks out over food and fuel shortages.

Brenda Rosser said...

These scary incidents may be organised to distract Americans from the daylight robbery that continues in Iraq. $23 billion dollars and climbing. So BBC Panorama states. I suspect the figure is much, much higher than that.

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2008/s2290083.htm

Some interesting facts emerged. Only one firm bidding for the oil contracts in Iraq. Halliburton. The other corporations didn't know about the tender. Bunny Greenhouse was in charge of the contracts and said that proper procedure was not followed and she said she saw "potential conflicts of interest". Confirmation of Halliburton's contract was with a chief member of Cheney's staff. Bunny Greenhouse: "It was the most blatant disregard for Federal procurement process I've seen."

Picked up bits and pieces watchng the show. ..parsons contracted to buld health clinics across the nation. Only 6 clinics built.

KBR employees say empty trucks are going over Iraq. The more they drive the more profits they make from the US taxpayer. Contracts are made on a cost plus basis.

JR Ewing of the TV show 'Dallas' was modelled on Hunt of Hunt Oil in Texas. Ray Hunt donated $35 million to Bush's library. Ray Hunt on the advisory committee for a contract that was awarded to Hunt Oil in Kurdistan. $5.4 trillion of oil contracts in Kurdistan in June 2008.

Gagging orders on 70 whistleblower cases.

I think the US has fallen apart at the seams and taken the rest of us with it.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

KBR of Halliburton got lots of no-bid contracts during the war, but mostly for support activities. The current round of short-term oil contracts appear to have been made also with no bidding, but with real majors such as Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, rather than a purely smaller crony firm like Cheney's Halliburton.

The Hunt Oil case is weird. Ray Hunt is clearly an insider, but the deal between his company and the Kurdish Regional Government appeared to go against US policy, was certainly not granted in any way by the US government, indeed done over the open objection of the US State Department. However, many think Hunt took advantage of his insider information from his position on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to decide that the KRG was there to stay and was sufficiently in place to cut a deal with it, despite official US policy.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Top story on front page of WaPo today (7/13) is that the negotiations between the US and Iraq over the status of forces has basically collapsed. They are now looking for a temporary "bridge" agreement to get through the rest of the Bush presidency. The main sticking point on the larger negotiations? The issue of legal immunity for US personnel, and the related issue of Iraqi sovereignty, as well as the status of 58 bases the US wants to maintain full control over.