Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Blackwater threatened to kill State Department investigator
June 29, 2014 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007 (Previously on Metafilter), the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq”. Embassy officials ordered the investigators to leave Iraq immediately, and no charges were ever pressed.

Mr. Carroll said “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit.

“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Mr. Richter stated in his memo. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”
posted by anemone of the state (65 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a dumb idea to put mercs into such a position of power.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 7:44 PM on June 29 [17 favorites]


"How can we solve these PR/Humanitarian/War Crime problems? Let's just change our company name. No one will know!"

Formerly known as Blackwater, the company was renamed "Xe Services" in 2009, and "Academi" in 2011. Source
posted by greenhornet at 7:48 PM on June 29 [14 favorites]


Still, it wasn't the first dumb idea in America's Iraq war. Or even the most-dumb idea.
posted by anonymisc at 7:49 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]


1) Didn't mercenaries become illegal after WWII?

2) Doesn't the US you know, have an army for this? Two really (US Army, US Marines).

I really don't get politics sometimes.
posted by Canageek at 7:50 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]


This is why you don't have a Praetorian Guard.
posted by absalom at 7:52 PM on June 29 [26 favorites]


I really don't get politics sometimes.

Corporations want less accountability in general and hold all of the power over Congress. The major media outlets are a joke of their former selves. Absent press oversight or congressional oversight, corporations do whatever the hell they want.

Hopefully that helps.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:57 PM on June 29 [33 favorites]


"Academi"? Meet RICO.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:58 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


1) Didn't mercenaries become illegal after WWII?

I asked my ex-merc coworker about this a couple of weeks ago. He explained that contractors are only there to provide support services which means they don't get to fire in aggression and are there for defense only. They didn't perform military missions. And that they paid only lip service to this directive.

Also, the US has not signed and ratified the convention against using mercs. But mercs get no mercy or protection under the Geneva convention. As soon as a belligerent finds out their prisoner is a merc the merc can be summarily executed without a second thought. If they live they may not be repatriated and be imprisoned as a criminal.
posted by Talez at 7:58 PM on June 29 [29 favorites]


In fairness there are a few government people I would like to machine-gun too, but if I were out in the desert I would be wearing a hat and sunscreen, so Blackwater or Xe Services or Academi or Consultius/Consultium is still doing it wrong.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:05 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


This is a good example of a "known unknown": you now know that you don't know that the Blackwater CEO might not decide to finish you off, like a watermelon in a Cold Steel video, right there in his office. I think I finally see what Rumsfeld was talking about.
posted by thelonius at 8:05 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]


Doesn't the US you know, have an army for this? Two really (US Army, US Marines).

Not a big enough one. The U.S. Armed Forces rely on volunteers, and it's not a particularly appealing thing to volunteer for right now. Since Bush and Obama have both been extremely dedicated to waging multiple wars abroad, there has been a troop shortage. They called up National Guard units and "stop lossed" people who thought their commitment was done, but there's still a shortage. The establishments of both major political parties want endless war, but neither has the courage to even consider suggesting bringing back the draft. Thus, mercenaries.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:09 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


Rumsfeld's "known knowns" quote is actually completely accurate both in terms of grammar and substance.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of the guy, but this is turning into one of those "he invented the Internet" moments.
posted by truex at 8:10 PM on June 29 [39 favorites]


I think the thing about the "known knowns" soundbite was that it was one of at least three (the other two I'm thinking of off the top of my head are the "you broke it you bought it" and "go to war with the army you have" bits) statements from Rumsfeld that treated the massive mistakes of the Bush administration during the Iraq war as just inevitabilities while completely abdicating any responsibility for lying us into the war in the first place.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:15 PM on June 29 [42 favorites]


1) Nope, but they're always a bad idea. The NeoCons wanted, more than anything else, private, paid professional armies at their beck and call. The mercs were pretty much failures at everything they did, at twice the cost, and then they went rogue in 2007, so that was the end of that.

2) It's complicated.

First, there's the CIA SAD - they will be the first combat troops on the ground and shooting people in any given conflict these days. They are there to gather intelligence and take out high-value targets of opportunity.

Then there are the Special Forces, mostly Seals and Rangers, who are to augment and expand the activities of the SAD.

Then there is the United States Expeditionary Force, aka yo the Marines! Their job is to travel to distant lands, and invade and punish them for defying the United States. They will be the first fighting force in strength an opponent faces. Compared to other elite forces from around the world, they're nothing special, until you realize just how many of them are suddenly in your cities.

Finally there is the US Army, which is far more numerous and has much more interesting toys than the marines - they take longer to get there as the logistics spools up, but once they've arrived, you're in for a world of suck, as they can keep coming at you with more and more and more and more...

This is a finely honed machine that would give mid-80's Soviet client states the screaming fantods, I am sure.

We weren't fighting mid-80s Soviet client states, as it turned out.

Now, the mercenaries were supposed to be the answer for this, nimble and agile and efficient - privatized war machines without all of the government overhead and bureaucracy getting in the way, surely they could innovate a way to win an insurgency in the midst of an unpopular occupation...

That didn't work out as well as was hoped.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 PM on June 29 [51 favorites]


surely they could innovate a way to win an insurgency in the midst of an unpopular occupation...

The old ways still work. Turns out CT/COIN looks a hell of a lot like police work, and using soldiers, Marines et al as cops is not a great idea.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:20 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


Does the US government still use PMCs on any regular basis?
posted by Small Dollar at 8:21 PM on June 29


but neither has the courage to even consider suggesting bringing back the draft. Thus, mercenaries.

And they damned well better not.
posted by carping demon at 8:21 PM on June 29


I don't know where they were contracted to work but I remember Blackwater trucks and personnel in Uptown New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. They rented a large two story house and enabled a nearby cafe to open before it otherwise could have. I rode my bike past this corner almost every day and found their heavily armed presence not at all reassuring, unlike the National Guard who were extremely cheerful and very friendly. Those guys I loved to wave at and thank when I encountered them as they cleared various areas of debris. The Blackwater people, not so much. They also had trucks with another name on them, it seems to me, though I can't remember what it was.
posted by Anitanola at 8:24 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


I agree that bringing back the draft would be awful, but it has the silver lining of putting influential Americans' skin in the game again, which is how military boondoggles can become an actual political issue. If your fighting force is comprised primarily of mercenaries and impoverished kids with no other options, it's easy for voters to ignore the wars the country is fighting.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:24 PM on June 29 [17 favorites]


Since Bush and Obama have both been extremely dedicated to waging multiple wars abroad, there has been a troop shortage.

Yes, shame on both of them for this folly. All so that Halliburton, which is co-owned 50/50 by the Republicans and Democrats, could profit. I would never have voted for Obama had I known he was just as extremely dedicated to waging multiple wars abroad as Bush, that's for sure.
posted by uosuaq at 8:25 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Related: Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

Blackwater tactics come home to the States. Entrusting public responsibilities to private, for-profit corporations removes all accountability.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:26 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]


I was surprised by how nice Jon Stewart was to Erik Prince, who stopped by the show a few months ago on his book tour--NOW I KNOW WHY.
"You have a very nice show here...be a shame if something really, really bad happened to it."
posted by whatgorilla at 8:30 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]


I would never have voted for Obama had I known he was just as extremely dedicated to waging multiple wars abroad as Bush, that's for sure.

A lot of people did know this, and got shouted down.
posted by anemone of the state at 8:35 PM on June 29 [18 favorites]


Stewart is rarely a tough questioner when he lands a really big guest.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:36 PM on June 29


Stewart is rarely a tough questioner when he lands a really big guest with a private army.

Stewart is no dummy. I'd be polite too.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:38 PM on June 29


Never mind then. Let's just take it as read that Obama is why there's a troop shortage. I need to get to bed.
posted by uosuaq at 8:42 PM on June 29


I would never have voted for Obama had I known he was just as extremely dedicated to waging multiple wars abroad as Bush, that's for sure.

To say Obama was more militaristic than you would have liked and you despise some (or all) of his choices, would be an accurate statement. But, Obama's not even close to the Bush / Cheney level of aggression.

For him to be equal, he'd have to start some completely new invasion of a country with a comparable commitment to that of at least Afghanistan, if not Iraq. This hasn't happened unless you're the sort of person who thought the multinational air war over Libya was the worst aggression ever.

He's held back from Syria. He's withdrawn from Iraq. He's avoided pushing Russia too hard over Ukraine & Crimea. He took Iran to the negotiating table and refrained from bombing them, or giving a go-ahead to Israel to do the same. He would have closed Guantanamo if the entire Senate hadn't rebelled. The Afghanistan withdrawal seems to be on track. He's taking a measured approach to the current unrest in Iraq and hasn't launched the major sort of attack the Right is screaming for.

Obama has been an asshole on some policies, he's not a pacifist, and he certainly didn't deserve the Peace Prize, but do you people even remember the Bush years? I do. There's an enormous gulf between these two. To equalize them is not only idiotic but it serves to whitewash the Bush administration's enormous list of crimes.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:52 PM on June 29 [150 favorites]


I agree that bringing back the draft would be awful, but it has the silver lining of putting influential Americans' skin in the game again, which is how military boondoggles can become an actual political issue.

Influential Americans have ALWAYS been able to keep their skin out of the game. "Rich man's war, poor man's fight" is a phrase that goes back to the Civil War. More importantly, the vast majority of the political cheerleaders for this war were people who never served in the military. They found ways out of it. Conversely, it's worth noting that people with actual military experience who spoke out against the war in Iraq, or who warned beforehand that it would be much more costly and complicated than the chickenhawks wanted everyone to believe, were summarily drummed out of service and/or silenced in the media.

Hell, even today you have influential Americans like Romney claiming their kids' religious obligations are akin to military service.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:52 PM on June 29 [17 favorites]


Ha, please talk to some Vietnam vets before you start believing that a draft will affect rich and poor alike. The rich always find a way to protect their progeny, through cushy non-combat posts if not by keeping them out altogether. Bush and Cheney both got out of going.

It does say something about our insane drive to make war that, when all legitimate avenues are blocked, we turn to illegitimate ones, just so we can remain at war. Draft is radioactive for politicians? Can't get enough volunteers once people figure out how bad your stupid war is? Just get some unaccountable mercenaries who will waste billions and act in ways that ensure instability! Instead of, you know, not fighting a war.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


I blame the culture of un-accountability, engendered by the leadership of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:12 PM on June 29


Erik Prince's latest gig - helping to build a Halliburton for China in Africa
posted by Bwithh at 9:22 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: "I agree that bringing back the draft would be awful, but it has the silver lining of putting influential Americans' skin in the game again"

Champagne Unit.
posted by adamrice at 9:23 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]


. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it

I always just assumed this was how Blackwater operated and wondered why way more people weren't visibly horrified about it.
posted by philip-random at 10:00 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


You know, I'm against the death penalty. However, if pour encourager les autres is sauce for the goose, it's sauce for the gander.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:04 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Everything about this reinforces my theory that actual reality did end on Dec 21, 2012, and has been replaced by Hollywood Screenwriter Reality. There is basically NOTHING going on in the world right now that doesn't seem to reinforce this theory.

It's getting tiresome, and I want the movie to be over so I can go home and rest.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 PM on June 29 [26 favorites]


You have to stay until after the credits to see the secret ending tho'.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:19 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]


You have to stay until after the credits to see the secret ending tho'.

I've seen it already. *SPOILER ALERT* Matthew Broderick shuffles out in a striped bathrobe and told me it's over and to go home.
posted by Talez at 10:22 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]


“Reporter’s Case Poses Dilemma for Justice Dept.,” Jonathan Mahler, The New York Times, 27 June 2014
The Bush administration soon identified the man it believed was responsible for leaking the information in the book [State of War], and in 2008 it subpoenaed Mr. Risen, a reporter for The New York Times [and author of the Blackwater report linked in this post], to identify his source.

After more than six years of legal wrangling, the case — the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history — will reach a head in the coming weeks. Mr. Risen has steadfastly refused to testify. But he is now out of challenges. Early this month, the Supreme Court declined to review his case, a decision that allows prosecutors to compel his testimony. If Mr. Risen resists, he could go to prison.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:38 PM on June 29 [7 favorites]


Student: "Thank-you Mr. President. My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

Bush: "I was going to ask him. Go ahead. [laughter] Help! [laughter]"

posted by serif at 11:11 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


I believe serif's comment above was intended to link to this horrifying flashback to Bush in 2006?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:46 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Formerly known as Blackwater, the company was renamed "Xe Services" in 2009, and "Academi" in 2011.

Freaking Tool Academi over here.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:25 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have any idea how many private contractor combat deaths there were in Iraq? I remember icasualties.org initially tried to keep a count, but gave up because it became clear these deaths were very rarely reported.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:54 AM on June 30


Wikipedia has a list of PMC deaths in Iraq here.
posted by FJT at 1:40 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Just some tweets on this that highlight the author's situation :

Blackwater war contractor terrorists threatened to murder a @StateDept investigator in Iraq in 2007 http://ow.ly/yAf5d by @JamesRisen
It's amazing that James Risen continues to put out absolutely incredible work while being persecuted by the Obama administration.
This is @NYTimes right now. Why isn't James Risen's excellent report on Blackwater prominently featured?
Also, James Risen is badass national treasure & threatening to jail him as payback for exposing CIA snafu is BS

posted by jeffburdges at 1:56 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


So, one of the threatened officials was Jean C. Richter, a special agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is a little known law enforcement agency within State that's frickin' job is supposed to ensure the safety of US overseas diplomatic personnel.
posted by FJT at 1:58 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


A little more on the DS: After Benghazi, learning to defend U.S. consulates through more intensive training
posted by FJT at 2:17 AM on June 30


but neither has the courage to even consider suggesting bringing back the draft. Thus, mercenaries.

Who needs actual conscription when you have a working poor barely keeping up with the treadmill of debt? Apply enough economic pressure and the fish just leap into the boat!
posted by acb at 2:21 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Bye bye freedom, it was nice knowing you.
posted by marienbad at 2:37 AM on June 30


Reading about SAD/SOG on Wikipedia is the most matter-of-fact WTF-ness I've experienced in a while. It's crazy how much information embraced by fringe cyberpunk lefty-conspiracy theorists in the 90's have turned out to be true and now the bar is so low that we can speak very candidly about matter of fact institutions that are designed to subvert any notion of perceived democracy and rule of law all over the world. Except here of course, or with our allies who help us spy on our own people.

Note: none of the right-wing Larouche Conspiracies ever bear fruit, but the lefties screaming about Iran-Contra and COINTELPRO and the collusion of diplomacy and clandestine operations are watching the most elaborate sort of "Homeland" plot twists play out in real life. I wasn't surprised at all during the scene a season or two ago where one group of assets kills another group without realizing they're all "CIA." I just thought it was implausible that the group that just got wiped out would even know they were working for the CIA.

At this point the tip of the iceberg is allowed to be seen and what the hell else is left? Is it possible for any resistance unit in the world to form in sufficient numbers to be influential without being completely infiltrated and leveraged into a CIA asset? "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" was what they said in the 80's, while they were doing the "friend of my enemy is my friend" thing training mujahadeen in Afghanistan. The reality is that one man's terrorist might be another man's asset who "went rogue" or is serving a provacateur role. One man's armed rebel outfit is another CIA recruitment objective. And if you can't recruit, infiltrate, or create the group out of whole cloth, you can certainly influence them by involving yourself in their supply chain.
posted by aydeejones at 3:31 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


This and the militarization of American police taken together looks quite horrendous to an outside observer.
posted by Harald74 at 3:31 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


It's cross-pollination between public and private and military and state striping and spreading any semblance of rights into a million directions that can all be explained away once they've been sufficiently dashed..."well you do have the right to speak freely, but anything you say can and will be used against you using free market tools that make getting a job ever again impossible in employer's economy. That's not your first amendment rights being violated, that's just you making bad choices that will follow you forever." That's a weak example.

...as we saw with Facebook doing academic research without informed consent, it's good to be king-like without the rules of basic kingship nagging away at your side. Responsibility is spread out, there's no real particular evil person to pick out and target, we just have a bunch of people living like Princes and Kings and the real-world result is roving packs of often unaccountable murderers enjoying their immunity from responsibility and abdication of national alliance. Like those sketchy terrorists who refuse to wear a uniform, because they don't get the honor of battle, unlike the mercenaries and paramilitary outfits who have escalated that game to such a level that you wonder how much global conflict amounts to settling disputes between disparate paramilitary outfits serving strategic US objectives from conflicting perspectives. "Whoops, looks like your rebel outfit group doesn't like mine, let's have a conference call and decide who the bad one is tomorrow..."

The rules don't apply to the competitive awesome free market, you can skirt all principles of human decency baked into institutions of government by outsourcing the basics of civilization, or in our case, strategic geopolitical domination.

Privatize the military to the extent that you can to reduce exposures and liabilities, militarize the police, train paramilitaries on how to handle militarized police in the event that you must repress a rebellion, it's a lot of work!
posted by aydeejones at 3:42 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


honestcoyote, I agree that saying "Obama = Bush!!!!!!1111" lacks a lot of nuance, but I think you're giving him too much credit for a lot of the events you cite:

He's held back from Syria.

Yes, but he did his damndest to lobby for military action, going around on every talk show he could find, but various factions within America and outside (notably, Britain) refused to go along with such a harebrained plan.

He's withdrawn from Iraq.

He attempted to prevent withdrawal, but failed because the Iraqis refused to accept his terms.

He's avoided pushing Russia too hard over Ukraine & Crimea.

I'll give you this one.

He took Iran to the negotiating table and refrained from bombing them, or giving a go-ahead to Israel to do the same.

Sure, but imposing sanctions and training a terrorist group (er, pardon me, a group that *used* to be on the US terrorist list before they were removed from it) to cause deadly havoc in the country certainly isn't helping things.

He would have closed Guantanamo if the entire Senate hadn't rebelled.

Obama is quite willing to break the law to free Guantanamo prisoners when he sees fit, so his cries of Republican obstructionism become a lot less convincing.

The Afghanistan withdrawal seems to be on track.

Sure, but we don't really "leave" countries anymore; there is still going to be American forces there for a while, just as in Iraq. (And what happens when the Taliban inevitably retakes parts of the country after a troop drawdown?)

He's taking a measured approach to the current unrest in Iraq and hasn't launched the major sort of attack the Right is screaming for.

Major attack, no, but he has sent 300 "advisers." And advisers are often followed by a larger troop commitment...

---

I mean, yes, you're right, Obama hasn't launched a full-scale invasion like Bush has -- he does tend to favor limited military action over invasion. But he has expanded operations in several theaters (drones, special forces). And I don't think we should let him off the hook for his failures.

(In any event, the really telling comparison would be to place Obama in Bush's shoes in the same time period or vice versa, but of course history doesn't allow us to run counterfactual experiments.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 4:55 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


Surely the reason the US will never bring back the draft is because when you send ordinary kids off the street into war, aged 18 with six weeks' training (as per Vietnam), they can come back radicalised, angry, stripped of any faith in their leaders or political system, and ready to tell everyone. That doesn't happen so much with volunteers and never happens with already-dehumanised special forces thugs.
posted by colie at 5:01 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


I mentioned this in another thread, but the leader of the out-of-nowhere Islamic militia that conquered vast swathes of Iraq is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. We literally know nothing about him; the linked reports are full of "it is thought" and "some believe". We don't even have a decent photo of him - we may not have any photo of him!

You would think that we would know more about a militia leader who was born in Iraq, was allegedly imprisoned by US forces, and who has been "wanted" by the US national Counterterrorism Center since 2011. You would think that we would basically know everything about him. It's really, really weird that this guy is a cipher when so much has been spent of counterterrorism and pacification and surveillance and so forth.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:19 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


And they damned well better not.

The government is currently in the process of letter a rancher not pay his taxes because he cocked a shotgun and said "don't wanna." Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say the days of the government forcibly ordering citizens into service of the military is long, long, long behind us.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:22 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Major attack, no, but he has sent 300 "advisers." And advisers are often followed by a larger troop commitment...

Interesting to note the "Advisers" are entirely SEALs and Green Berets (well, USASOF, but "Green Beret" rolls off the tongue better), which as I have noted above, make their bread and butter doing reconnaissance on hostile ground in advance of an invasion in force. And they train people, sure, they're qualified instructors. But they're also Snake Eaters USASOF.

Also, the symbolism of the nice, round number being sent - 300 - is too precious to be coincidence. 300 modern day Spartans to hold the pass until reinforcements arrive. The inevitable Hollywood movie treatment will be beautiful.

So, yeah, we're going back in. Likely after IS (No longer ISIL, and never was ISIS) makes a move on Turkey or Israel, or runs a PT boat by the USS Maddox or something.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:24 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


This and the militarization of American police taken together looks quite horrendous to an outside observer.
posted by Harald74 at 6:31 AM on June 30


Trust me, living here is no picnic either.
posted by mikelieman at 6:28 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Also, the symbolism of the nice, round number being sent - 300 - is too precious to be coincidence.

It would make ever so much more sense if they were defending against an attack from Iran.

Also if they were Greek.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:37 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


You have to stay until after the credits to see the secret ending tho'.

I've seen it already. *SPOILER ALERT* Matthew Broderick shuffles out in a striped bathrobe and told me it's over and to go home.


Maybe the Congressional hearings about this should have to play this song in the background the whole time.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:19 AM on June 30


James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq

James Steele (wikipedia):
This was part of the US drive to use "dirty tactics" against insurgents in Iraq, a counterinsurgency doctrine known as "fighting terror with terror," and one that had previously been exercised by the US in other theaters, including Vietnam and El Salvador.[8] Steele worked closely with Colonel James Coffman, an American Army officer who advised Iraqi Special Police Commandos during Multi-National Security Transition Command operations, and who has also been implicated in human rights abuses of Iraqi detainees.[9][10][11] Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus and worked alongside Steele in detention centers that were set up with US funding.[12]
...

General Muntadher al-Samari, Iraqi interior minister from 2003–05, revealed the US role in torture carried out by the Special Commandos' interrogation units, claiming that Steele and his colleague Col. James H. Coffman, Jr. knew exactly what was being done. Al-Samari described "the ugliest sorts of torture" he had ever seen, which included the severe beating and hanging of detainees, as well the pulling off of their fingernails. The Guardian report also claimed that the US backing of sectarian paramilitary units helped create conditions that led to sectarian civil war.[16]
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:14 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


You would think that we would know more about a militia leader who was born in Iraq, was allegedly imprisoned by US forces, and who has been "wanted" by the US national Counterterrorism Center since 2011. You would think that we would basically know everything about him. It's really, really weird that this guy is a cipher when so much has been spent of counterterrorism and pacification and surveillance and so forth.

While that might be true, I wouldn't assume that "we know nothing about him" is actually true-true.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:20 AM on June 30


fringe cyberpunk lefty-conspiracy theorists

Unfortunately, also known as 'realists'.
posted by el io at 8:21 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


I don't know where they were contracted to work but I remember Blackwater trucks and personnel in Uptown New Orleans in the wake of Katrina.

I believe the explanation given was that so many National Guard troops had been deployed overseas they were unavailable to deal with Katrina.

the really telling comparison would be to place Obama in Bush's shoes in the same time period or vice versa

Not to mention what it could have looked like under Romney:
Blackwater’s Bu$ine$$ by JEREMY SCAHILL (12/2007)

Meanwhile, Blackwater is deep in the camp of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Cofer Black is Romney’s senior adviser on counterterrorism. At the recent CNN/YouTube debate, when Romney refused to call waterboarding torture, he said, “I’m not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we’re able to do and what things we’re not able to do. And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some thirty-five years.” That was an exaggeration of Black’s career at the CIA (he was there twenty-eight years and head of counterterrorism for only three), but a Romney presidency could make Blackwater’s business under Bush look like a church bake sale.
I took quite an interest in Blackwater at the time but I'd forgotten about the Michigan connection.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:37 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


You would think that we would know more about a militia leader who was born in Iraq, was allegedly imprisoned by US forces, and who has been "wanted" by the US national Counterterrorism Center since 2011.

We--as in you and I--may know nothing about this guy, but most assuredly the CIA and other US gov't agencies know lots.

My suspicion is he was CIA trained back in the day.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on July 1


Visualizing ISIS Violence In Iraq And Syria
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:28 PM on July 1


« Older Generational Poverty Is the Exception, Not the Rul...   |   Zalmai Zahir (ʔǝswǝli) talks a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments