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We don't need no steeenkin' license!
September 17, 2007 10:03 AM   Subscribe


 
A deafening silence on report of one million Iraqis killed under US occupation.
posted by nickyskye at 10:11 AM on September 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


This report needs a little Elvis
posted by anthill at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


The wartime numbers of private guards are unprecedented - as are their duties, many of which have traditionally been done by soldiers. They protect U.S. military operations and diplomats and have guarded high-ranking officials including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad.

What does it say about the competence of the US Army when it uses private contractors to protect Army personnel?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2007


Shit dude, if we're not careful, they might withdraw consent to the US Army too!
posted by zekinskia at 10:18 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know whether this revocation of license could have any teeth behind it? I see a bunch of people all over the place writing it off as an empty gesture by an impotent puppet government, and that seems likely enough. But how exactly does the US deal with the PR fallout if Blackwater stays?
posted by gurple at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2007


Is anybody else worried about where 100,000 mercenaries go for their summer vacation? I agree with the Iraqis that kicking them out is the right thing to do, but I'm just a little curious as to what the unintended consequences will be. Somehow I doubt these guys will be retiring to spend more time with their families.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2007


A few selected mercenaries -sorry, "contractors"- will be prosecuted, while the rest all go to work for a "new" company called Bluewater, or Monday Security, or Blackwater-In-A-Fake-Moustache, Ltd. or something.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


"Just what we need, 100,000 unemployed mercenaries. I hear the Post Office is hiring."

"If we don't fight Blackwater over there, we'll have to fight them here!"

Ha.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:24 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wonkette's lack of pathos is funny, so funny.
posted by Rancid Badger at 10:26 AM on September 17, 2007


But how exactly does the US deal with the PR fallout if Blackwater stays?

I suspect we force the Iraqi government to reissue the license rather quickly after some superficial censure of Blackwater.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:34 AM on September 17, 2007


From the comments: your tax dollars at work.
posted by notsnot at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I seem to remember that the fitrst time I ever heard about Fallujah was a bunch of Blackwater guys wandered in there for some reason and got themselves barbequed... these guys are just trouble magnets.
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just in time for Blackwater to come home and herd U.S. citizens into "freedom" camps for avian flu!
posted by porn in the woods at 10:40 AM on September 17, 2007


This puppet regime thinks it's a real boy. Kind of sad.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:43 AM on September 17, 2007 [8 favorites]


while the rest all go to work for a "new" company called Bluewater, or Monday Security, or Blackwater-In-A-Fake-Moustache, Ltd. or something.

I was thinking the new company would be called "Whitewashwater", but yeah.
posted by notyou at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


An excerpt from the equivalent CNN article:

An estimated 25,000-plus employees of private security firms are working in Iraq, guarding diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials. As many as 200 are believed to have been killed on the job, according to U.S. congressional reports.

Do tell...
posted by prostyle at 10:49 AM on September 17, 2007


Bush: We'll leave when the Iraqis want us to leave.

Uh, ok. 71 percent of Iraqis want us to leave. (In 2006, and I doubt we've made any new friends in the past year.)

Bush: lolololol haha j/k we're staying 4ever.
posted by mullingitover at 10:49 AM on September 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


The part of North Carolina in which Blackwater is based has little or no redeeming qualities (I lived there long enough to find this out on my own, sad to say). The presence of the war pigs doesn't do much to alleviate that.

It's a goddamn good thing we took out Saddam, though. Now the Iraqi people are freed of the yoke of tyrannical rule by gun-wielding madmen with no respect for human life. Mission accomplished.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


The question of whether they could face prosecution is legally murky. Unlike soldiers, the contrators are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Under a special provision secured by American-occupying forces, they are exempt from prosecution by Iraqis for crimes committed there.


Ahahhahahha.....Christ, we are so fucking evil.

"Nope, sorry, you can't punish our unaccountable mercenaries. Thats the price of Freedom!"

Also, yeah, it costs, what, $200 in filing fees to start up a new corporation? Shit, they could rent a grass hut on some island in the Carribean and incorporate the company there. "The Iraqi government would like to welcome the new and improved Tidewater Security Co. of the Cayman Islands!"

You know, I'm literally just sick of our governments moral bankrupcy. The fact that a supposed democracy spends billions on propping up unaccountable puppet states supported by unaccountable mercenary armies is unthinkable. Yet, here we are. It's sad.
posted by Avenger at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


We don't need no steeenkin' license

For the last time -- it's:

"We don't have to SHOW YOU no steeenkin' license"
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:55 AM on September 17, 2007


On the plus side, they're always good for some ten minute filler slot for "weapons technology" shows on the Discovery Channel.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on September 17, 2007




This puppet regime thinks it's a real boy. Kind of sad.

I don't know. This is the frst time I can recall them doing anything other than licking the US's ass. This could very well be a sign of progress; the Iraqi public putting pressure on the government and that government responding.

Sure, it's probably an entirely empty gesture. But so is spitting on a prison guard; it's still a pretty ballsy move when you're serving a twenty year sentence and neither the Aryan Brotherhood or the Nation Of Islam has your back.

Also, I'm really curious about the behind-the-scenes machinations on this one. Given that they are indeed a puppet government, I'm about seventy percent sure that the only thing that would convince them to do something like this is the threat of riots in Baghdad or a full scale revolt within the "Iraqi Army." To put it another way, I suspect al-Maliki was afraid that Blackwater would be to Iraq what the Rodney King cops were to L.A. (And who knows? It might yet turn out that way.)
posted by Clay201 at 11:05 AM on September 17, 2007


Regarding Greenspan's comment...

I caught something about that on CNBC an hour or two ago. Apparently he backed off the comment almost as soon as he made it.
posted by Clay201 at 11:06 AM on September 17, 2007


For the last time -- it's:...

I doubt it.
posted by notyou at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2007


I feel like every day I am a little sadder about America.
posted by rmless at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2007


"Is anybody else worried about where 100,000 mercenaries go for their summer vacation?"

My guess is Iran.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2007 [8 favorites]


What does it say about the competence of the US Army when it uses private contractors to protect Army personnel?

It actually says a lot about their financial savvy, if they're indeed using security guards to, ahem, guard, and save the volunteer soldiers for actual military operations.

Seriously.

It costs quite a bit to train a volunteer soldier and keep him/her on active duty for 20-30 years (to which that person is essentially entitled to in return for volunteering). You don't often get laid off from the Army.

So, would you rather have this very valuable Army asset used to make sure, say, the doors are locked in the Green Zone? Recall that the vast majority of "contractor security" jobs are not handled by ex-Navy Seals.* No, you can pay someone $30K for six months to make sure the doors are locked.

Would you rather we call up the rest of Individual Ready Reserve for these door-locking jobs? Pull people from civilian life? Or pay someone a fixed wage on a contract that can be canceled at any time?

A smart use of contractors** is actually a very intelligent use of a strapped military force.

*The Blackwater ex-Navy Seals killed in Fallujah were out shopping for kitchen equipment.

** I'm not saying they're actually being used smartly, or even in a corruption-free manner. Just pointing out the flaw in a knee-jerk reaction.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 AM on September 17, 2007


Clay201 writes "To put it another way, I suspect al-Maliki was afraid that Blackwater would be to Iraq what the Rodney King cops were to L.A. (And who knows? It might yet turn out that way.)"

Unless one is banking on the Iraqis being stupid and gutless, it only makes sense to plan on it.

My only objection to this comparison is that people in LA in April of '92 didn't have ready access to mortars, rocket launchers, high explosives, and grenades. Also, every family in LA didn't have an AK-47/Kalishnikov. Oh, and their country wasn't occupied by an army of mercenaries who answer to no Iraqi.

I really wonder what people in the US would do if they were in the Iraqis shoes. If an occupying power came to the US, hanged our (to be fair, widely despised) leader, killed a proportional number of citizens (~1/25th of the population, or about 12 million people) and occupied the country with mercenaries accountable to no one, who would you be rooting for?
posted by mullingitover at 11:15 AM on September 17, 2007


I suspect we force the Iraqi government to reissue the license rather quickly after some superficial censure of Blackwater transport planes full of cash are distributed through the proper channels.

There, fixed that for you.
posted by spock at 11:18 AM on September 17, 2007


Heh. I'll bet he did.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on September 17, 2007


For the last time -- it's:
"We don't have to SHOW YOU no steeenkin' license"

Not in Blazing Saddles, it wasn't. (Which is probably the movie most people are referencing when they use that line.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2007


Regarding the motives for the war: Thomas Powers has an interesting comment in the current New York Review of Books.
What's particularly odd is that there seems to be no sophisticated, professional, insiders' version of the thinking that drove events. ...

My "best assessment of the real motives for war" suffers from the obstacle common to all assessments--none of the principals has been talking. But the fact that Bush, Cheney, and company had a central idea seems unmistakable to me. Their determination to invade and occupy Iraq says a great deal by itself. A useful way to look at things is to recall the reaction in Washington to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Sympathy for the Afghans was several places down the list. What most aroused Washington, and American allies in Europe, was the prospect that the Soviet Union would keep on going to fulfill a longstanding Russian dream of establishing a military presence on the Persian Gulf. The prospect of that had policymakers like Zbigniew Brzezinski seriously worried, because Soviet control of the movement of oil would provide a mighty tool for coercion of the entire developed world.

What it was only feared the Russians might do the Americans have actually done--they have planted themselves squarely astride the world's largest pool of oil, in a position potentially to control its movement and to coerce all the governments who depend on that oil. Americans naturally do not suspect their own motives but others do. The reaction of the Russians, the Germans, and the French in the months leading up to the Iraq war suggests that none of them wished to give Americans the power which Brzezinski had feared was the goal of the Soviets. In any event, the planting of a large-scale, long-term American military presence in the Middle East represents a huge strategic initiative--a gamble, in fact, of the sort that makes or breaks empires.
Powers goes on to discuss what's likely to happen next. He's pessimistic regarding the Democrats: "none to my ear seems to grasp that getting out will take just as much resolution as getting in--and something else as well, which Bush has in plenty: willingness to ignore the consequences." And he points out that the Bush administration seems to have reversed policy and switched back to supporting the Sunnis, which makes it likely that the Shiites are going to join the war against the US.
posted by russilwvong at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


"We don't have to SHOW YOU no steeenkin' license"
Actually, it's "I don't have to show you any stinkin' [badges]."

posted by oneirodynia at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2007


What the fuck is wrong with these Iraqis? Do they need some more bullets of freedom liberating their asses or what?
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


It actually says a lot about their financial savvy, if they're indeed using security guards to, ahem, guard, and save the volunteer soldiers for actual military operations.

You should have stopped there, then you would have only been wrong once.
posted by prostyle at 11:44 AM on September 17, 2007


the Iraqi government gives puppet governments worldwide a bad name.


So, would you rather have this very valuable Army asset used to make sure, say, the doors are locked in the Green Zone?

God fucking knows how the US managed to kick Axis ass without Blackwater, must have been luck (and yes there was a draft but I hope you're not saying that Iraqi insurgents numers are as big as Axis troops). Not to mention, Blackwater isn't just guarding doors
, is doing the fighting, only, as said above, with less control by the government and in a more expensive manner. it's a recipe for war crimes and financial disaster.


** I'm not saying they're actually being used smartly, or even in a corruption-free manner. Just pointing out the flaw in a knee-jerk reaction.

since I fear that anybody who'd use the words "Cool Papa" as an Internet handle must be American, well, as a US citizen you might be better served by spending a few minutes of your time asking your elected officials how is it even possible that several billion dollars have been either "lost" or have been unaccounted for by those subcontractors since 2003-2004, instead that spending that same amount of time defending the indefensible on the Internet. with all due respect.
posted by matteo at 11:56 AM on September 17, 2007


Can mercenaries private security contractors be tried for war crimes?
posted by fandango_matt at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2007


Question: is it more or less Orwellian that a company that does what Blackwater does and acts how it acts has such an ominous sounding name? Would it be worse if they were called "Daisy Sunshine, Inc."?

Yeah, that would be worse. Ok, as you were.
posted by psmealey at 12:01 PM on September 17, 2007


Question: is it more or less Orwellian that a company that does what Blackwater does and acts how it acts has such an ominous sounding name?

I've heard the company was actually going to be called Bloodfucker, but they couldn't get the articles of incorporation approved in NC. So Blackwater is a pretty mild name, in comparison anyway.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


Just in time for Blackwater to come home and herd U.S. citizens into "freedom" camps for avian flu!

Kind of what I was thinking. Except it would be to help enforce martial law after the next big attack on US soil is staged/let happen.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:09 PM on September 17, 2007


The American politics of Iraqi war - Sidney Blumenthal
posted by Abiezer at 12:10 PM on September 17, 2007


Bush: lolololol haha j/k we're staying 4ever.
posted by mullingitover at 7:49 PM on September 17


I actually welcomed Snow's comment; finally, a little grain of truth.

it's quite clear now that the US will remain in Iraq for a long, long time, no matter what Mrs. Clinton says she would possibly do as President, in the improbable event of her actually getting the job -- Congress is Democratic now, we cannot keep pretending Bush runs everything the way he did until a year ago -- the GOP still has the White House and the SCOTUS, but a Congressional majority is more than enough to do something. it just won't happen.

I hence welcome Snow's unusual frankness: what they have to tell the American people now is one thing: since the Iraqi presence will cost several trillion dollars over the next, say, 25, 40 years, and China won't finance that debt forever, they should say what exactly are they going to cut. Social Security? Medicare? default on the government bonds?

that's the only interesting question, at this point. the rest of the Iraq talk is just partisan posturing (I mean, the MoveOn ad? wtf?), on both sides.

which cuts are going to finance decades of occupation -- I'd love to know.
posted by matteo at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2007


Congress is Democratic now... a Congressional majority is more than enough to do something.

Not really. Even with political will to do something, with a Republican President, unless you have 60 seats in the Senate, you are totally ineffectual, you're not getting anything done. That said, there's no political will to do anything. We're going to be in Iraq for at least the rest of my lifetime (until we have our Dien Bien Phu moment), and everyone on both sides of the aisle knows it.
posted by psmealey at 12:18 PM on September 17, 2007


psmealey - Even with political will to do something, with a Republican President, unless you have 60 seats in the Senate, you are totally ineffectual,

That's not really true; the Senate needs to constantly pass appropriations bills to fund the war in Iraq. They don't need to do anything to stop the war, the just need to refrain from passing appropriations bills. No money, no war.

They lack the courage of their convictions, though, and won't do it. They consider their own political futures more important than stopping the war.
posted by Justinian at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


True enough. They do control the purse strings, and have done very little with that power to back up the rhetoric they gave us during mid term election campaigns.
posted by psmealey at 12:31 PM on September 17, 2007




Democrats don't really have a congressional majority, or at least one that push past an obstinate GOP minority. Democrats can't really do anything if they try.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2007


But.. but... like I just pointed out, the Democrats can stop the war by not doing anything. Bush can only continue his short, victorious war in Iraq as long as the Democrats in Congress constantly pass supplemental appropriations bills.

If the Democrats all went home and slept for a few months, the war would be over.

They are actively and fully complicit in the war regardless of their rhetoric.
posted by Justinian at 12:39 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


matteo writes "I hence welcome Snow's unusual frankness: what they have to tell the American people now is one thing: since the Iraqi presence will cost several trillion dollars over the next, say, 25, 40 years, and China won't finance that debt forever, they should say what exactly are they going to cut. Social Security? Medicare? default on the government bonds?"

Didn't you listen to a word Wolfowitz said? The occupation is going to pay for itself!

Seriously though, of course we're going to shaft the elderly. Don't think for a minute that they're getting off easy on this one, they have to sacrifice too. Your emergency retirement funds were already been spent on Blackwater and other military-type projects (Fuck butter! Guns are waaay cooler). Medicare won't cover more people in 20 years than it covers today. This is all to ensure that we *don't* default on those government bonds we sold to the Chinese. We don't want them funding the next up-and-coming empire (themselves, perhaps?) to liberate us from our decadent bourgeois oppressors.
posted by mullingitover at 12:43 PM on September 17, 2007


And the cost of that political "victory" would be...?
posted by Artw at 12:43 PM on September 17, 2007


Just pointing out the flaw in a knee-jerk reaction.

Actually, just making your own knee-jerk "I gotta find something good to say about the Administration out of this" reaction. Unless you can provide some undoctored statistics about how many of the mercenary/subcontractors are "just guarding doors" and how many of them are being paid "security guard" wages. Some of the MASSIVE graft and corruption (as much as Saddam stole in over a decade in less than the first year) probably went to build Blackwater a training facility as good as anything the US Army has to offer.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this particular news story shakes out. If the Iraqi Quasi-Government can get the order to stick it'll be a big loss for the Bushites' general strategy for the region; but the odds of that happening are tiny, and the way that the order gets un-done will say a lot about how the US is working there.

Still, keep trying, CPB. If you can just cut yourself loose from the need to include any bit of accurate information in your posts, you'll be a contender for dios' position of MetaFilter's #1 Right Wing Troll.
posted by wendell at 12:54 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


We will stay in northern Iraq indefinitely - or until our little empire crumbles in about 30-50 years.

But we sure as shit will NOT be Iraq in any significant presence south of Baghdad for anything longer than maybe five or six years. Why? Because that place is going to fucking explode. Yeh worse than it already has. If you can imagine that.

And right now we are stretched so thin that any new serious hot spots are going to break us. And there will be plenty of other places we will actually HAVE to fight in ten years or so.
posted by tkchrist at 1:00 PM on September 17, 2007


Democrats can't really do anything if they try.

It's not like the antecedent in that conditional is true, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:07 PM on September 17, 2007


For the record, there are enough "Red Dog" Democrats and DINOs (Demos In Name Only) in both houses and in most of the committees to keep Bush's military plans moving forward. And blocking spending bills opens the Congresscritters up to getting primary blame for the crises the Admin can create as a result. That's why they're working around the edges with things like the "longer leave between deployment" bill that the White House has denounced. Good PR, good politics. I'm not saying it's right, it's probably just what long-time politicos like Pelosi who've never really known working from strength are conditioned to do. And never underestimate the power Bush gets from his five Supremes. And Bush may be a lame duck with his closest pals (Rove and Gonzales) out, but that just makes Cheney, who recognizes no legal or constitutional limits, more powerful within the White House. If I were a member of the "Democratic Majority" right now, I would still be plenty scared.
posted by wendell at 1:11 PM on September 17, 2007


But.. but... like I just pointed out, the Democrats can stop the war by not doing anything.

They're a bunch of spineless hypocrite politicians for the most part. Different for the most part only in degree, rather than in kind, than the Republicans.

I was reading a while ago about how the Republicans are filibustering all sorts of stuff now. (Remember when there was a bunch of noise about the Democrats filibustering a couple judges? Turns out the Republicans have done way more filibusters in this congress, now that they're the minority.)

But a filibuster doesn't mean what you think it is in terms of Strom Thrurmond reading from the phone book for 24 hours. It could be, but the Democrats have to play the game rather than hold any convictions, so it goes like this:

D: "Bill to get out of Iraq."
R: "We're gonna filibuster."
D: "Motion to end filibuster."
*(fails)* (needs 60 votes)
D: "Motion to give up on get out of Iraq bill."
*(passes)*

Basically, the part where the Republicans have to actually keep talking for hours and hours to successfully pull a filibuster is skipped. The Democrats could make any get out of Iraq bill they like and force the Republicans to keep yapping until they get tired - either the Republicans give up and the bill passes or they yap and yap until 2008. Of course, the president would just veto the bill, but it would be pretty powerful to have the whole legislative machinery tied up until we got out of Iraq. But then no one would get to pass bills for 100 million dollar bridges to towns of 1,000 and so on, which is what they really care about.

This is assuming the Democrats at the Senate / presidential front-runner level actually want us out of Iraq. I would take bets on if Clinton or Obama wins the presidency we're still killing Iraqi civilians for at least most of their first term unless we're forced to retreat for some reason like a war that actually needs fighting.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:16 PM on September 17, 2007


This will amount to nothing. It is the Iraqi gov't posturing and that is all. They certainly can't force them out, not unless they get the US to back the move and I don't see that happening. At least not immediately.
It seems kind of odd that they would make such a big deal out of this too. A mere 8 civilians killed is not one of the bigger things that goes on there. That makes it seem all the more to be a PR play of some kind.
Southern Iraq is already boiling over tkchrist. The Brits have all but left and it is turning into a proper oil war down there now.
posted by a3matrix at 1:17 PM on September 17, 2007


From the article: shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens who got too close to their heavily armed convoys ... not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice ... exempt from prosecution by Iraqis for crimes committed

Wow, they're like a private American SchutzStaffel, aren't they?
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2007


Actually, just making your own knee-jerk "I gotta find something good to say about the Administration out of this" reaction. Unless you can provide some undoctored statistics about how many of the mercenary/subcontractors are "just guarding doors" and how many of them are being paid "security guard" wages. Some of the MASSIVE graft and corruption (as much as Saddam stole in over a decade in less than the first year) probably went to build Blackwater a training facility as good as anything the US Army has to offer.

Is there any irony in demanding statistics to prove a point in one breath, and then making a baseless statistic-free assertion in the next?
posted by SweetJesus at 1:37 PM on September 17, 2007


Well, they certainly do have a newly buyilt and quite massive training facility, because as i mentioned before they keep showing the thing off in shitty documentaries about new kinds of gun that can shoot around corners and the like.
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on September 17, 2007




First problem. Blackwater does not have a license to operate in Iraq and does not need one.
...
Second problem. The Iraqi government has zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater. For starters, Blackwater has a bigger air force and more armored vehicles then the Iraqi Army and police put together.

posted by gottabefunky at 2:12 PM on September 17, 2007


you'll be a contender for dios' position of MetaFilter's #1 Right Wing Troll.

Please take a drink of something cool and refreshing and re-read the post, which has more to do with Econ 101 than your overheated blowhardiness.

Flagged. Moving on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:25 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


/long. Sorry.

I think Cool Papa Bell’s point - if one doesn’t willfuly ignore the caviats - is fairly solid. It makes sense to support your main force with more expendible mercs to retain the integrity of your forces, not to mention your talent.
This has always been so in military strategy particularly in provincial regions. The Romans employed the foederati f’rinstance (of course, the bit with Alaric didn’t go so well).
And of course, they’re not guarding doors per se (Marine Security Guards mostly guard doors), but the business of bodyguarding in a war zone is a specialized one. Main forces are trained to break stuff, special forces break stuff quietly. (Lots of ex-SOF guys go into bodyguarding, but typically they can’t lug equipment all over hell and back, run, jump, swim, etc. for days on end anymore) The secret service doesn’t so much do stuff in war zones (and they can’t really be attache’d to the military) the bureau of diplomatic security should handle this, but they’re really really specialized and you still have the same beef with operational vs. administrative control. There are some specialized groups that can guard bodies, but again - you want them out doing what they do best (e.g. Delta mostly rescues hostages, the ISA is/was/isn’t the ISA) instead of standing around with the general or Joe VIP.

Were I in charge I would never hire mercs in any capacity to serve with U.S. forces. The actual events in Iraq aside, it’s a matter of principle. As excellent an outfit as Blackwater is in terms of military execution, the ideology of any merc force is antithetical to the volunteer forces of a republic. And indeed, their use on the modern field is a big red flag that they’re probably doing something you don’t want done “officially.”
And of course, plugging the actual events back in, the mercs are not being used as (historically) they would be. Clearly they have (in some very visible events) exacerbated an already violent situation (perhaps by paymaster design) which could lead to more overall harm to U.S. troops.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how I would deal with a situation where I had less manpower than necessary to execute a strategy, but then again I wouldn’t have gone to war unless the country was actually threatened so...

But it’s instructive that, as with the Romans, everything’s cast through an internal political prism.
And indeed, the thicker the hay, the easier mowed. And we Americans are so very very thick lately.

“Except it would be to help enforce martial law after the next big attack on US soil is staged/let happen.”

Thought about that m’self. You really couldn’t occupy the U.S. with mercs. On the other hand, you could take tactically key positions with mercs, occupy with troops loyal to you and so start a coup from there (really oversimplifying there).
But then, what do you pay them with if you can’t go through official channels. Then I think about the $9 billion (for starters) gone missing days after it hit the ground.

Meh. Paranoia’s a hobby.

I doubt it’d get that overt. It doesn’t really need to be. Lookit what happened in N.O. with mercs taking firearms away from lawful owners (yeah, yeah, a wet dream for some of you) but it violated the 2nd amendment much as prohibiting photos violated the first, but FEMA went ahead and did it anyway.

Sure there was some kicking afterwards, but once the die had been cast, the practical result is the same. And indeed, not much kicking over that. Not much kicking over the $9 billion stolen. Mighty thick hay.


Considering Greenspan’s poing - Y’know, if the war is about oil, there are arguments to make in favor of it. If you’re going to fight over something, critical resources seems pretty high on the list.
My hang up is that it’s not politically inconvenient, but that the initial premises of the war were lies. On principle you can’t have a democracy if the government lies to it’s people.
That aside (vast as it is) it’s also wrong to invade a sovereign nation just to take their stuff; moral considerations aside, you can do a lot more with diplomacy and trade. At heart it’s just lazy and obstinate opposition to innovative thinking to just smash and grab.
But that (also vast) point aside. We have the “if you’re gonna fight, fight for a critical resource” which can be argued favorably. If -we- didn’t have the oil, perhaps the world and the U.S. could have been held hostage, there could be famines, etc etc.
So on balance, it is worth it to kill a bunch of people, take their stuff and put it to better use than they would (given that they would engage in political strongarming, holding the world economically hostage, allowing world wide famine, etc.) if we - the U.S. - were going to put it to better use (e.g. technological advances to find better fuel sources, maintaining food production, etc.).
But not only do I not know that that is the objective, but it is manifestly not being pursued well if it is.
Looks to me like it’s “he who dies with the most toys wins” that’s in operation here.
So is the oil for the U.S.? Or is it for profit so some folks can get theirs and screw everyone else and live in luxury until after they die the world goes to hell?
If it were a contest over which ideological position would control the most critical resource in the world - no contest. I’d fight to keep it away from extremists and out of chaos.
Is that in anyway close to the reality of what’s happening? Nope.

It’s not blood for oil, it’s blood for elite power and profit.
That’s the shell in the game. That’s what the smart monkeys think they’re tacitly buying into which is why despite the opposition to the war, there hasn’t been a lot of kicking from the inside: “Oh, I don’t buy that we’re over there really liberating those people. But I don’t want to pay $10 for a gallon of gas either.”
But that’s not the real picture. I can conjecture a good deal about what the real picture is. But indeed, one of the biggest problems out of all of this is the obfuscation as to what the objectives are - not to mention the stakes.

*watches Treasure of the Sierra Madre again*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Iraqi people are completely lacking in gratefulness.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:45 PM on September 17, 2007


Iraqi Crybaby Theatre (at bottom of page)
posted by anthill at 3:38 PM on September 17, 2007


Right, now I've seen everything. Matteo calls me a naive American, which is arguable, then favorites a comment I make defending the very same post that triggered his original snark attack.

Okaayyyy...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2007


(CPB - take it to MeTa if you’re raw about it. Not a suggestion either way, just y’know. I suspect Matteo was pointing out the weight between your point (which I accept as valid given the particular exceptions made) and the broader/weighter issue of malfeasance surrounding contractors - we should go after issues like where the $ went and such. I wouldn’t assign any serious importance/meaning to favorites...Although if I could favorite myself I’d never leave the house)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:44 PM on September 17, 2007


Oh, I'm not put off at all. Just find it funny.

Look, somewhere between the guys making $80K to drive trucks through war zones and bricks of cash going missing ... lies ... well, I'm not sure what. But the whole "all contractors are evil" and "why are we paying billions for contractors when we have an Army it must be evil Halliburton again" memes just further obfuscates an already muddy issue. Then, claiming that anyone that points out that the truth is rather less black and white than people on both sides of the aisle would like you to believe, is either hopelessly naive or carrying neocon water, well ... it's all rather simplistic, isn't it?

According to the news stories today, Blackwater employees account for about 1,000 of the 180,000+ contractors in Iraq, most of whom are truck drivers, electricians, food service workers, etc.

It's not very sexy. Not terribly interesting. It's easier to be full of righteous fury, I suppose, than to take a sober look at the issue.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:05 PM on September 17, 2007


Who said anything about being sober?

It may be the case that the idea of contracting is not entirely bad, but it's pretty damn clear that its execution by this Administration is a complete financial and logistical disaster.
posted by mek at 6:27 PM on September 17, 2007


Smedleyman - Good points, but I must say that I am getting way too familiar with your writing. Had you pegged in the first paragraph and my screen res at work was too low to see your name. (grin)
posted by Samizdata at 6:33 PM on September 17, 2007


Is anybody else worried about where 100,000 mercenaries go for their summer vacation?

Back home for a well-needed break and an opportunity to spend the big money.

Boosts the economy, y'see.

Plus they'll be needed to protect against any popular uprising back on home turf. Count on it becoming increasingly difficult to hold demonstrations in Washington.

Onward Christian Soldiers!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 PM on September 17, 2007


Is anybody else worried about where 100,000 mercenaries go for their summer vacation?

To visit their sex slaves in Bosnia?
posted by psmealey at 2:59 AM on September 18, 2007


I'm sure a lot of folk here already know this, but since there were snide comments about what the Blackwater folk would do in continental US, thought I'd mention that they have already been used in policing duties.

The only question I have is whether they will mint their own coins or not.
posted by the cydonian at 3:18 AM on September 18, 2007


“ it's all rather simplistic, isn't it”

Yeah. A lot goes unstated. I tend to overwrite to address that complexity but then I get huge swaths of verbige. Better writers here do more with less. Some folks key on whomever is speaking as a way to contextualize whatever thought is being put across - preconceptions about whatever posters (e.g. dios might say something brilliant, but couldn’t catch a break for it on the whole). I tend to focus on just the concept put forth, so - more writing and I don’t make many friends.
But the point is contested whether it’s someone I like or not or I’m neutral toward, or whatever.
I think you’re right about the righteous fury, but that isn’t personal nor is it a real argument. On the other hand, there are points and events behind the fury and being aware of and taking those points into account doesn’t hurt. E.g. your point about Blackwater rank and file - mostly subcontractors, but the overall beef is referencing KBR and Blackwater as a whole in terms of grievances. So yes, it’s a fairly dull but solid point about using contractors to fill in the gaps and in terms of asset risk management (quality trained U.S. troops being one asset) quite valid.
On the other hand, there shouldn’t be a war in the first place, so it isn’t necessarily money well spent. Which is one of the frameworks some folks are referencing on that point.
Tough to bring all that to the table, but if you know where folks are coming from it’s easier to cede certain points if only as contested or acknowleged. Or agreed upon if one agrees.
Money did go missing, there were certain atrocities, and the blame for that lay at the feet of Blackwater who the U.S. government is still doing business with.
No matter how banal certain elements of the contract are - that it’s some guy digging a hole somewhere and not allowed anywhere near firearms - those facts remain.
There are valid questions to raise - why are we still doing business with them given the past performance especially in light of objections by the Iraqi government? Why does blackwater need exemption from prosecution (most especially in light of the mostly mundane nature of their contractual obligations)?
That doesn’t dispute your point on the pure economics of the equation, but it does show some folks are coming at it from a different perspective and either you communicated the point poorly or they haven’t fully read your point, or they need more clarification. (I say this from experiance of all three, mostly the first). It’s not the best medium. I tend to blame any quirks on that rather than any given individual.
Of course, personal attacks over raising nuances in the issue are pointless.
Btw - SEAL, not “Seal”.
-----
Samizdata - thanks?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2007


and now there's this:

Also under scrutiny is whether a major security firm was "illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq," according to a letter to Inspector General Howard J. Krongard that was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

anyone care to take bets on which major security firm ends up on the hook? i don't suppose this sort of thing is blackwater's bailiwick?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2007


five fresh fish writes "Boosts the economy, y'see."

Yep, if there's one thing that's good for the economy, it's war.
posted by mullingitover at 12:00 PM on September 18, 2007


What's really funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) about all this is that it there almost couldn't be a simpler or more transparent scam for redistributing wealth from taxpayers into the pockets of a certain subset of the wealthy elite and their buds in the defense, security and energy sectors. I'm not saying it is a scam, necessarily, but if one were to go about concocting such a scam, it would surely look much like the present situation. Once you've got a war in a culturally diverse, inherently unstable region like Iraq going, it all follows pretty simply from there:

1) Step One: Set aside billions of dollars in aid money for reconstructing the occupied nation's gov't/military. (An on-going, open-ended commitment without any clear constraints works best, if you've got the excess political capital to manage it.)

2) Step Two: Inflame sectarian tensions by hiring private security forces (who just so happen to enjoy immunity from the host country's domestic laws) to run black ops that, purely by coincidence, have the net effect of creating social instability and mistrust among the various ethnic factions within the nation (the use of private security, in addition to the previously mentioned legal benefits, also has the added benefit of providing plausible deniability). While you're at it, why not build walls around some of the more ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods just to really drive home the point that it's us or them from now on.

3) Step Three: Offer to sell all parties involved a bunch of weapons (just like you did back in the old days), effectively laundering the taxpayer dollars you've stolen in Step 1. Might as well go ahead and unofficially encourage local officials to enter into oil exploration deals with your business partners and political benefactors in the energy sector at this point, too.

4) Step Four: Fix yourself a big bowl of popcorn and pull up a chair. Switch on CNN Money and watch the stock ticker scroll by with glee. Ignore the hell out of hidden costs and other adverse economic consequences.

5) Step Five: Repeat as needed until you and all your pals are richer than God and your own nation's--er, I mean, homeland's--GDP achieves its growth targets with room to spare, almost entirely on the basis of the gains in your personal portfolio. Score domestic political points for sustaining economic growth (even the weenies in Congress will reluctantly be forced to concede during secret closed-door meetings that, whatever you're doing, it seems to be keeping the economy rolling along, so maybe staying the course isn't such a bad idea, as the defense industry lobbyist sitting across the table heartily agrees, chortling and cracking open a box of Cuban cigars he claims once belonged to Saddam himself).

It's a win-win!
posted by saulgoodman at 2:59 PM on September 18, 2007


Tin foil hat time there, saulgoodman

First of all would everyone involved in such conspiracies really keep quiet to the point they would perjure themselves?
(I mean you’d have to include them in the plan somehow by allowing them to shelter their profits overseas with some sort of ‘stimulus package’)
And secondly, why would anyone engage in such a nearly risk free conspiracy merely to gain billions of dollars?
It just doesn’t add up.
Hell, the last thing they would do is loot the treasury.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:23 PM on September 18, 2007


Tin foil hat time there, saulgoodman

I completely agree. Only a nation of utter maroons would let themselves be taken in by such a crude con game. And that instantly precludes we Americans, citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

/sob
posted by saulgoodman at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2007


erm, "us Americans"? i should know this...
posted by saulgoodman at 5:07 PM on September 18, 2007


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