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September 24, 2007
If Blackwater Escapes
Accountability, American Credibility Suffers
After a bunch of Blackwater security contractors opened fire on Iraqi
civilians, Iraq’s government looked on the verge of taking a stand. The
firm would be forced to leave Iraq, it said in an announcement . . .
that no one really believed.
“I can only imagine
how Americans would react if there were Russian, Chinese, Mexican, or
French security firms running around the United States and getting into
firefights in tough neighborhoods, such as South Central Los Angeles,”
wrote former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, on the popular progressive blog
Talking Points Memo’s TPM Cafe. “We would just shrug our shoulders and
say nothing. Right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. This incident will
enrage Iraqis and their subsequent realization that they are impotent to
do anything about it will do little to support the fantasy that the
surge is working. There are some Iraqis who genuinely want to run their
own country. But we are not about to give them the keys to the car.
Blackwater is staying.”
On Sunday, Iraq’s
government acknowledged that Blackwater’s departure wasn’t so imminent.
The reason is simple. We need Blackwater, and so does the Iraqi
government. There are simply not enough warm bodies.
Complicating this is the fact that Iraqi authorities concluded that,
despite claims of self-defense, Blackwater’s guy opened fire first. In
fact, they said they have video.
Unfortunately, they exist in a kind of legal gray area, and soon after
the incident, a debate raged over just who had authority to bring those
accused of illegal killings to trial. We might need them, but the
question is whether this in itself is such a good thing.
There might be financial advantages to privatizing some of the things
Blackwater does, like static security, but GIs have one huge advantage
over a private security force – accountability.
Say what you will about Abu Ghraib, but at least there was a trial –
transparent and open. Late last year, an off-duty Blackwater guard shot
a bodyguard for Iraq’s vice president, and was returned to the United
States. He didn’t stand trial.
Unfortunately, someone pays the pound of flesh. If it doesn’t come by
way of prison sentence, the hit is taken from the credibility of the
nation they serve.
There is little doubt who Blackwater serves. The guy who runs Blackwater
isn’t just an American, he’s also related to the DeVos family of Amway
fame (brother-in-law Dick unsuccessfully vied for the governorship of
Michigan last November) and is a big contributor to the Republican
Party. In short, no one’s mistaking Blackwater as anything but an
American firm. So, when Blackwater’s security guards kill civilians and
aren’t held accountable, it reflects poorly on us.
This, in turn, makes it harder for us to achieve our goals. Each time
they get away with murder, it erodes the good name of the United States.
Each time they get away with it and are allowed to stick around, it
erodes the credibility of the Iraqi government.
It’s a self-feeding cycle, and every time Blackwater lands in trouble,
everyone else pays for it. Blackwater just gets paid.
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