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Oh Blackwater, keep on rollin', Mesopotamia moon won't you keep on shinin' on me.
October 5, 2007 4:44 AM   Subscribe

"Not associated with Blackwater USA." "Blackwater USA is not responsible for this site." "This is an independent site and is not affiliated with Blackwater USA." There's a new trend in the blogosphere, of anonymous people putting significant effort into creating blogs defending military contractor Blackwater USA. Just another bunch of passionate amateur fans showing Old Media how to report a story, or a calculated Astroturf campaign by a well-heeled PR firm? Maybe these guys know.
posted by scalefree (119 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shock and Online!
posted by DU at 4:49 AM on October 5, 2007


Meh. The two blogs you link are by the same person, who says:
We're supporters of Blackwater USA, the heroic private security company that has lost more than two dozen of its own men while protecting American diplomats, VIPs and others in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. We set up this blog shortly after the September 16, 2007 incident in which terrorists attacked an American diplomatic convoy near Baghdad, because we were fed up with all the misleading media coverage.
This doesn't seem like an underhand PR job. I'd guess it's by a relative of someone working for Blackwater in Iraq.

It's entirely believable that Blackwater engages in nefarious PR activities like astroturfing, but this probably isn't an example of that.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 4:54 AM on October 5, 2007


Not to derail, but...."heroic"? I think I just threw up on my flag a little bit.
posted by DU at 5:00 AM on October 5, 2007 [9 favorites]


Aloysius Bear writes "but this probably isn't an example of that."

The bigger the lie ...and anyway defending the indefendbile ? Defending an _company_ ? Fuck cares about the company.
posted by elpapacito at 5:02 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's entirely believable that Blackwater engages in nefarious PR activities like astroturfing, but this probably isn't an example of that.

"If Henry Waxman today wants to go to Iraq and do an investigation, Blackwater will be his support team. His protection team. Do you think he really wants to investigate directly?" - Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
posted by Poolio at 5:08 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, Whitewater bad, Blackwater good?
posted by DreamerFi at 5:17 AM on October 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


Heh, that's a great quote. Is Issa just suggesting Whitewater is cynical, or is he suggesting Blackwater would intentionally let a critic die? Or maybe it's just that someone who has little confidence in Blackwater would logically not want to leave them in charge of their personal safety.
posted by mek at 5:59 AM on October 5, 2007


Someone help me out here.

US soldiers are sacrosanct. Private enterprise is sacrosanct. Why wouldn't private US soldiers be sacrosanct squared?
posted by pompomtom at 6:01 AM on October 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, and GYOBFW.
posted by mek at 6:01 AM on October 5, 2007


Today's Washington Post: Military reports from scene fault Blackwater -- "They indicate guards opened fire without provocation in Sept. 16 incident."
posted by ericb at 6:23 AM on October 5, 2007


Well, from a PR standpoint, the first thing I would do is change their name. "Blackwater?" It sounds like "Evil Juice." Let's try something else, like Alextra or Sweethappylove or The Peace Corps.
posted by fungible at 6:24 AM on October 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Associated Press: Blackwater Aided by PR Giant
"It is a profile of the Public Relations company working for Blackwater and who the executive managing the account is. The company is Burstein Marstellar. The account executive is formerly of State Department Public Affairs where he was transferred after he finished his stint with guess what? The CPA in Iraq."*
posted by ericb at 6:25 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The New York Times has comprehensive coverage on Blackwater -- Background Info, Current Coverage, Archive Articles, etc.
posted by ericb at 6:27 AM on October 5, 2007


The Nation has a video short documentary Blackwater: Shadow Army (YouTube). Worth the watch to get a quick overview of the company, who's behind it, how they operate, etc.
posted by ericb at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


The bigger the lie ...and anyway defending the indefendbile ? Defending an _company_ ? Fuck cares about the company.

I don't like Blackwater any more than you do, but this guy has as much of a right to start some crazy blog as anyone else does.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 6:31 AM on October 5, 2007


"The account executive is formerly of State Department Public Affairs where he was transferred after he finished his stint with guess what? The CPA in Iraq."

No wonder that they're in such deep PR shit, then.

If I was Blackwater, I'd have sought somebody with better credentials...
posted by Skeptic at 6:32 AM on October 5, 2007


Blackwater Fired First In 84 Percent Of ‘Escalation Of Force’ Incidents Since 2005
"According to the Blackwater incident reports received by the Committee, Blackwater personnel have participated in 195 incidents in Iraq from January 1,2005, through September 12, 2007 , that involved firearms discharges by Blackwater personnel. This is an average of 1.4 incidents per week. In 32 of those incidents, Blackwater personnel were returning fire after an attack, while on 163 occasions (84% of the shooting incidents), Blackwater personnel were the first to fire."
No wonder some think of Blackwater as trigger-happy cowboys!
posted by ericb at 6:35 AM on October 5, 2007


Here's a thought:

What would happen if the next president or defense secretary decided to cancel all of Blackwater's contracts? Would the compny shut it doors, or would it look for "other business"?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:38 AM on October 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Would the compny shut it doors, or would it look for "other business"?

The company is already looking for other business. It wants to do "security" here in the States, as well as helping after natural disasters. You know, stuff the National Guard would do, if we still had one.
posted by DU at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2007


“[Blackwater] guards don't answer to the U.S. military or, as recent cases suggest, anyone else.

This reality has aroused Congress, where the House passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts.

… ‘There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries’ on behalf of the United States, said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas).

In a separate incident, a drunk Blackwater employee left a Christmas Eve party in Baghdad and fatally shot the guard of one of Iraq's vice presidents. No charges have been filed.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince said he supports expanding the law.

‘Beyond firing him for breaking the rules, withholding any funds we can, we can't flog him,’ Prince said of the intoxicated Blackwater guard. ‘We can't incarcerate him. We can't do anything beyond that.’” *
posted by ericb at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2007


BTW -- background info on Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.
posted by ericb at 6:47 AM on October 5, 2007


Iran's Revolutionary Guard=Bush's Blackwater.
posted by notreally at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2007


ericb writes "We can't do anything beyond that.’"

Ohhh so let see you have a bunch of people you can't but control with money, who probably already found out that commiting crimes is quite lucrative ? Like, for instance, shooting the rivals of somebody or what you have ?

And of course that can't possibily affect the outcome of the "legitimate" missions, say for instance because some angry mafioso want to shoot the hell out of your bw driver who also happens to moonlight as assassin ?

Christ, bw is out of the control of its own bosses ????
posted by elpapacito at 6:53 AM on October 5, 2007


Our member companies currently work in every peace operation in the world, doing everything from demining to logistics to air lift to armed security. Every day they prove that the private sector can provide the services critical to successful peace and stability operations, both cost effectively and ethically.

Oh really? The euphemisms on that website are classic. Who pays these guys anyway? Actually, I'm pretty sure I know who pays these guys - me and some of you (US taxpayers).
posted by bluesky43 at 6:54 AM on October 5, 2007




It wants to do "security" here in the States, as well as helping after natural disasters.

They were hired with no-bid contracts to help out after Hurricane Katrina.*

Since its founding in 1997 the company has received over one billion dollars in government contracts* and, as the Army Times reports, has recently received a contract for $15 billion over the next 5 years to divvy up amongst itself and 3 other vendors.
posted by ericb at 6:55 AM on October 5, 2007


I don't like Blackwater any more than you do, but this guy has as much of a right to start some crazy blog as anyone else does.

Clearly the contention is not whether an individual has a right to start a crazy blog, but whether corporations have the right to astroturf, to dissemble and, under false pretenses, influence public policy and public perception of illegal and/or immoral activities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2007


"Back in 1990 Erik Prince interned for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Blackwater's lobbyist in DC is Paul Behrends, a former Rohrabacher aide who he met when the two worked for the congressman. Later he interned in the first Bush White House. But after doing so, he and his father broke with President Bush and supported the insurgent candidacy of Patrick J. Buchanan.

The then-22 year old Prince told the Grand Rapids Press, "I interned with the Bush administration for six months. I saw a lot of things I didn't agree with -- homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kind of bills. I think the administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative concerns
."
posted by Sailormom at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2007


Blackwater to guard FBI team probing it.

Actually, I heard on the radio - yesterday, I think - that the FBI investigators will have regular military as their guards/escorts.
posted by rtha at 7:06 AM on October 5, 2007


When the term "mercenaries" was used to describe Blackwater employees, Prince objected, characterizing them instead as "loyal Americans".

I need a bucket.
posted by schwa at 7:07 AM on October 5, 2007


the FBI investigators will have regular military as their guards/escorts.

Well, that's something at least.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 AM on October 5, 2007




"If Henry Waxman today wants to go to Iraq and do an investigation, Blackwater will be his support team. His protection team. Do you think he really wants to investigate directly?" - Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)



There any reason the Army can't do it? I recall several trips through marketplaces for a few senators that the Army helped out with.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:13 AM on October 5, 2007


Well, from a PR standpoint, the first thing I would do is change their name. "Blackwater?" It sounds like "Evil Juice." Let's try something else, like Alextra or Sweethappylove or The Peace Corps.

I'd go with National Peace and Development Council, but it seems there's already one group in the massacre business who'd have a pretty good case in a trademark court.
posted by Anything at 7:19 AM on October 5, 2007




Blackwater was one of the outfits in New Orleans after Katrina. Mercenaries (that IS what they are, might as well call them by the correct name) are a particularly pernicious and callus breed and given that the US now (officially) condones torture, the use of mercenaries seems logical, it also is cause for further worry about the health of the US. And heroic? Christ, these people are about as heroic as an infection of gangrene. Personally if I was in the Bush administration I'd start trying to hang a sizable portion of the Iraq debacle (which is Bush and co's fault wholly) on Blackwater, blame them for failing to follow normal military procedures, inflaming the population etc. The are kind of the perfect scapegoat.
posted by edgeways at 7:29 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Blazecock, no one has yet found any evidence that this pair of blogs is indeed astroturfing by Blackwater. Judging from the posts and profile description, an enthusiastic albeit misguided amateur seems more likely. Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2007


Blackwater Fired First In 84 Percent Of ‘Escalation Of Force’ Incidents Since 2005.

I blame George Lucas.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:34 AM on October 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


After the Swift Boat liars were found out, frankly, I'll assume that this is just astroturfing, at this point. If the poor quality of the sites are any indication, this is very probably a heckuva Blackwater job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:35 AM on October 5, 2007




"There any reason the Army can't do it?"

Blackwater, or any of the other mercen... sorry, "private military company" deaths don't show up on american soldier body counts, and don't embarrass the US military when they screw something up like, say, shooting one of their Iraqi co-bodyguards.
posted by YouRebelScum at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2007


"It is a profile of the Public Relations company working for Blackwater and who the executive managing the account is. The company is Burstein Marstellar. The account executive is formerly of State Department Public Affairs where he was transferred after he finished his stint with guess what? The CPA in Iraq bit off the head of a sleeping infant and swallowed it whole."
posted by trondant at 7:50 AM on October 5, 2007


Gee, the SS were not so bad after all. At least they weren't private.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:54 AM on October 5, 2007


i'm in ur intertubes shilling 4ur mercs!
posted by bruce at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2007


Gee, the SS were not so bad after all. At least they weren't private

Oh, but they were, they were. And it is a sordid tale, indeed. (Ever heard allusions to the Night of the Long Knives?)
posted by lodurr at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2007


When lawmakers suggested that Blackwater should have apprehended the alleged killer, Prince said that US law forbids the company to detain people. "We fired him. We fined him. But we, as a private organization, can't do any more," Prince told congressmen at the hearing. "We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him. That's up to the Justice Department. We are not empowered to enforce U.S. law."


*blink*

Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

This is a billion dollar industry in the middle of a trillion dollar charade. That's not an accident, or incompetence, as much as everyone who employs that little off the cuff quip would like to be assured otherwise. Open your eyes.
posted by prostyle at 8:34 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does the new Bionic Woman work for a Blackwater-type company, then? Because the people she works for are definitely a shadowy organization but they don't seem like a gov agency.
posted by who squared at 8:35 AM on October 5, 2007


I always imagine that Blackwater mercs are the same guys who used to bring throwing stars, bowie knives and M-80s to middle school. I mean the ones who didn't end up in prison.
posted by Taargus Taargus at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK, the onesies were priceless.
posted by chinston at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2007


I always imagine that Blackwater mercs are the same guys who used to bring throwing stars, bowie knives and M-80s to middle school

Likewise, I'm picturing the terrorists bribing them with a bounty of cigarettes and Journey tapes.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:45 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

It's quite probable that the two have converged into that unique Bush Administration quality known as malcompetence.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 AM on October 5, 2007 [20 favorites]


We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him. That's up to the Justice Department.

But killing Iraqis...well, let's just say the situation is fluid.
posted by DU at 8:58 AM on October 5, 2007


prostyle, you misunderstand me. I'm saying that the blogs are probably the work of an enthusiastic and incompetent amateur. You'd think that if Blackwater were to hire a PR company to maliciously astroturf for them, they'd end up with something a bit better than this.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2007


Malcompetence and hypocrisy - what the hell does the Justice Department have to do with it? These American Heroes who go around shooting Iraqi civilians should be tried by an Iraqi court, as they would have in any other "democratic" country exercising its jurisdiction.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2007


I always imagine that Blackwater mercs are the same guys who used to bring throwing stars, bowie knives and M-80s to middle school

I'm not so sure. An acquaintance's son was hired by Blackwater after his discharge from the military (he was never stationed in Iraq). I don't know him (the son) but from what she (my friend) has told me, he seems like a nice kid who went into the military because he didn't know what else to do with his life. He took the Blackwater job because the pay is obscenely high - $125,000 for a one year commitment. For a person with no college and not sure what to do with his life, I think this kind of money is very tempting when no other options are available. Say what you will ("not me!" "not for any amount of money!" "the war sucks!" "he's risking his life!"), the offers from these 'security' companies must seem like a way to earn a lot of money reasonably fast for some people, and not because they are misfits.
posted by bluesky43 at 9:08 AM on October 5, 2007


For a person with no college and not sure what to do with his life, I think this kind of money is very tempting when no other options are available.

This is pretty much the same justification used by drug dealers and prostitutes. I don't find it persuasive.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gee, the SS were not so bad after all. At least they weren't private

Oh, but they were, they were.


I should have used better words - private as in corporate. Money always ruins a perfectly pious hate-on.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:13 AM on October 5, 2007


You'd think that if Blackwater were to hire a PR company to maliciously astroturf for them, they'd end up with something a bit better than this.
Actually, no.
The whole point of astroturfing is to make your efforts appear to be utterly amateur and grassroots. To that end, you want things to look like ass. The worse, the better. As long as it's on-message.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]



We've all joked in the past where about where movie super villians procured their supply of uniformed henchmen. Well, there you go.
posted by sourwookie at 9:20 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


posted by mek Oh yeah, and GYOBFW.

In this case, it's more like GYOBWB.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:23 AM on October 5, 2007


This is pretty much the same justification used by drug dealers and prostitutes. I don't find it persuasive.

The post you are quoting isn't trying to morally justify the decision. It's trying to explain why some employees may not be thick-headed bullies.
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2007


Mercenaries. Everybody STOP calling these yahoos "Contractors." These guys are not there to build shelving, remodel bathrooms, or install wood floors.

These mercenaris are there to fool the US public into thinking our military "footprint" was light, that we don't need a draft, and that the war was going to be cheap.

The convenient by-product of course was to siphon off more public taxpayer monies into private hands.

Never ever say contractors. It feeds into the propaganda. Like "surge" which is another two-faced term for "reinforcements."

Mercenaries. Reinforcements.

Get it.
posted by tkchrist at 9:38 AM on October 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm totally bringing Privateer back.
posted by butterstick at 9:49 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love the smell of astroturf in the morning!
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on October 5, 2007


The post you are quoting isn't trying to morally justify the decision. It's trying to explain why some employees may not be thick-headed bullies.

I understood the context. In fact, my point was exactly that having an understandable explanation is not equivalent to having a morally defensible justification.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:53 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


If a private citizen kills a Blackwater mercenary in Iraq, can he or she be prosecuted for murder?
posted by fandango_matt at 9:55 AM on October 5, 2007


"We fired him. We fined him. But we, as a private organization, can't do any more," Prince told congressmen at the hearing. "We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him. That's up to the Justice Department. We are not empowered to enforce U.S. law."
Will somebody PLEASE privatize law enforcement already? His hands are tied!
posted by TrialByMedia at 9:55 AM on October 5, 2007


Or to be perfectly clear: thick-headed bully is as thick-headed bully does.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:55 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]




CynicalKnight: I should have used better words - private as in corporate.

The distinction between "political goons" and "corporate goons" is exceedingly fine, and fails at distinguishing groups as diverse as Blackwater, the Pinktertons, the USMC and various US state's national guards. "Corporate" in this case effectively means "is not controlled by the party that opposes the President."
posted by lodurr at 9:58 AM on October 5, 2007




These hearings are political theater anyway. Everyone knows what the real solution is: TAX CUTS!
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on October 5, 2007


Imagine the following: an e-mail goes out to a bunch of family members of Blackwater USA contractors in Baghdad asking that they set up a website.

that's how its done.

I wouldn't know this because I didn't work at Burston-Marsteller for a few weeks one summer and get the whole low down, either.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I'd guess it's by a relative of someone working for Blackwater in Iraq."
And cigarettes and liquor make you look cool!
posted by 2sheets at 10:03 AM on October 5, 2007


"‘Beyond firing him for breaking the rules, withholding any funds we can, we can't flog him,’ Prince said of the intoxicated Blackwater guard. ‘We can't incarcerate him. We can't do anything beyond that.’”"

Well, you could get drunk and shoot him. That's an option.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


"You'd think that if Blackwater were to hire a PR company to maliciously astroturf for them, they'd end up with something a bit better than this."

I'm surprised you're backing your somewhat minority hunch on this one, Aloysius Bear.

Is there one bit of an entry you can point to that confirms your feeling these blogs are from some genuine sort of tunnel vision spontaneous Blackwater loyalist?

(And is astroturfing necessarily malicious anyway? Opportunistic hot air, obviously and usually totally cynical and a lie. But "malicious"?)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2007


Fuck mercenaries. If you make a living profiting from war, please shoot yourself without delay.
posted by rusty at 10:13 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Sydney Morning Herald: Enter Erik the Viking
“….The story of Blackwater's meteoric rise is both Prince's personal story and the story of how wars can make private companies very rich, very quickly. Despite coming from a wealthy Michigan family, Prince wanted a career in the military.

He initially attended the US Naval Academy, where he first encountered Navy SEAL teams, the elite special forces of the US Navy responsible for unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and special reconnaissance operations.

In a rare interview with a local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, Prince said he did not enjoy the academy and finished college in Michigan. In 1992, though, he re-entered the navy and moved to the Navy SEALs, based in Virginia Beach, where he served for the next five years. During that time he was deployed to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

But personal circumstances ended his service. In 1995 his father, Edgar, died suddenly, leaving Erik's mother, Elsa, in charge of a car parts manufacturing business. She sold the business for $1.3 billion, enabling Erik to establish a training business in Virginia Beach.

‘As I trained all over the world, I realised how difficult it was for units to get the cutting-edge training they needed to ensure success. In a letter home while I was deployed I outlined the vision that is today Blackwater,’ he told The Virginian-Pilot.

So, at 27, Prince was running his own business with a stated mission of offering the military and law enforcement agencies ‘expert instruction and world-class training venues’.

That might have been the original vision, but Blackwater was to become much more.

As the oversight committee chairman, the Democrat Henry Waxman, put it: ‘There may be no federal contractor in America that has grown more rapidly than Blackwater over the last seven years.’

In 2000, Blackwater had just $204,000 in government contracts. Since then it has received more than $1 billion in federal contracts, and more than half of these contracts were awarded without full and open competition.

‘Privatising is working exceptionally well for Blackwater,’ Waxman said.

‘The question for this hearing is whether outsourcing to Blackwater is a good deal for the American taxpayer, whether it's a good deal for the military, and whether it's serving our national interests in Iraq.’

Answering questions on Blackwater's finances, Prince was unable to say what proportion of his contracts had come through no-bid processes, even though committee researchers say more than 50 per cent were awarded without open tender.

…What Waxman went out of his way to avoid mentioning was Prince's extraordinarily close connections to the Bush Administration, the Republican Party and several right-wing Christian groups that have underpinned George Bush's support base. But that is precisely where leading Democrats want to go in the next few weeks as they zero in on Blackwater and its ties to the Bush Administration.

Prince's family are blue bloods of the Republican party.

His late father was instrumental in creating the Family Research Council, one of the right-wing Christian groups most influential with the Bush Administration. His mother runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which has given generously to Christian groups, and they were affiliated with the Council for National Policy, a secretive Christian organisation whose meetings have been attended by the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, the former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Erik's sister, Betsy, married into the DeVos family, the founders of Amway and one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party. She served as the state chairwoman of the Republican Party in Michigan from 1996 until 2000 and from 2003 to 2005.

Prince has made personal donations of nearly $300,000 to Republicans. He served as an intern in the White House of George Bush [Senior] for six months and is a director of Christian Freedom International, a group devoted to helping Christians who are persecuted.

…[Blackwater vice-chairman Cofer] Black, [a 28-year CIA veteran], is also closely identified with America's controversial interrogation and rendition program, under which terrorism suspects are flown to CIA-run prisons at unknown destinations in Europe and Afghanistan. He told Congress in 2002: ‘After 9/11 the gloves came off.’ Another company controlled by Prince, Presidential Airways, has a contract to transport terrorist suspects on behalf of the Administration and is believed to do the transfers.

Another former CIA figure is Rob Richer, Blackwater's vice-president for intelligence. He was the head of the CIA's Near East division until September 2005, when he left for Blackwater. In the ensuing months the kingdom of Jordan hired Blackwater to train its intelligence services, instead of relying on a CIA program Richer had helped to establish.” [more]
posted by ericb at 10:19 AM on October 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't know this because I didn't work at Burston-Marsteller for a few weeks one summer and get the whole low down, either.

No, of course not. But thanks for giving us insight to what you saw while working there might have seen if you had worked there....
posted by lodurr at 10:21 AM on October 5, 2007


Harper's Magazine: Revolving Door to Blackwater Causes Alarm at CIA.
posted by ericb at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2007


If a private citizen kills a Blackwater mercenary in Iraq, can he or she be prosecuted for murder?

All suspects would be shot to bits along with their family and anyone who happens to be in the neighbourhood, more likely.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on October 5, 2007


I'll also point out that when astroturfing, verisimilitude is key. The simplest way to do that is to screw verisimilitude and go for the real: Just let the word out about how nice it would be if somoene would support your in-harms-way and underappreciated loved ones who are laboring without benefit of flag-waving coverage to make Iraq safe for American business interests.

In other words, you get people not only to do your heavy-PR-lifting for you, you get them to volunteer to do it. It costs you next to nothing, and you've left no fingerprints. And best of all, it's an "authentic voice", which is the most important thing to have in New Media Marketing.

And that's the deal: This is New Media Marketing 101. It is the logical outcome of taking the Cluetrain Manifesto to heart and using it as a new lens for interpreting The Prince.
posted by lodurr at 10:29 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Blackwater's PR flacks know that the name of their company is technical jargon for sewage; particularly, waste water from toilets.
posted by tommyD at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2007


Every time I hear about Erik Prince, a late 30s billionaire military contractor, in charge of his own personal army, all I can think is that it's either some kind of viral marketing for Iron Man or the next Bond movie.

Also, I really would love to know what would happen if a Blackwater employee was found attempting to shoot either the president or the vice president. Would the apologists heads explode?
posted by quin at 10:40 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Would the apologists heads explode?

Current or future Pres/VP?

(Or, more to the point: someone who's part of their network, like Bush & Cheney, or not, like anyone currently running on the Democratic side?)
posted by lodurr at 10:45 AM on October 5, 2007


posted by rusty If you make a living profiting from war, please shoot yourself without delay.

Every citizen of the United States makes his or her living profiting from war.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:49 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Please disregard that post.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2007


Every citizen of the United States makes his or her living profiting from war.

Oh, bullshit!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2007


Please disregard that post.

Okay - disregard mine, too, then.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:51 AM on October 5, 2007


"malcompetence", Excellent neologism YouRebelScum.

Man Bush chose to lead Pentagon contracting probes left under fire to become Blackwater COO.

Excerpts fom that article:

"The connections include the firm's chief operating officer Joseph Schmitz, who was tapped by President Bush in 2002 to "oversee and police the Pentagon's military contracts as the Defense Department's Inspector General...Serving until 2005, Schmitz went on to preside over "the largest increase of military-contracting spending in history" and joined Blackwater just a month after his departure from the Pentagon, according to Van Heuvelen."

"J. Cofer Black, Blackwater Vice Chairman, a 28-year veteran of the CIA Van Heuvelen describes as "one of the more prominent faces associated with the Bush administration's interrogation and extraordinary rendition policies." Black is also a senior adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney."

"Rob Richer, Vice President for Intelligence, who is the former head of the CIA Near East Division. "In 2003," according to Salon "he briefed President Bush on the nascent Iraqi insurgency. In late 2004, he became the associate deputy director in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, making him the second-ranking official for clandestine operations."

"Fred Fielding, a former outside counsel for the firm, who "has had a long career as a lawyer to prominent Republicans. From 1970 to 1972, he was an associate White House counsel in the Nixon administration; from 1972 to 1974, he was present for the denouement of that administration as deputy White House counsel." Fielding is a former counsel to President Reagan and current White House counsel to President Bush."

"Ken Starr, another counsel to Blackwater, who was hired by the firm in 2006, is best known "as the Independent Counsel who investigated Bill Clinton. He revealed the intimate details of Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in the infamous Starr Report and set in motion Clinton's impeachment by Congress."
posted by nickyskye at 10:53 AM on October 5, 2007


You know, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga got all manner of shit for saying it when those mercs got killed and strung up from a bridge, but I think it bears repeating:

"They're mercenaries. Fuck them."
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:07 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Actually, upon looking it up, it's a bit better than that:

"That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them."
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2007 [3 favorites]




"We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him. That's up to the Justice Department. We are not empowered to enforce U.S. law."

There's a blissful irony in the head of a mercenary group talking about how it's up to the U.S. Department of Justice to handle flogging prisoners.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2007


Mercenaries once caught are summarily executed, the BW employee hung from the bridge were a warning to any mercenary, "not to profit off our misery". I wonder if BW will follow and fall in this historic fashion?
posted by Rancid Badger at 11:24 AM on October 5, 2007


My brother was poached by a Mercenary firm when he retired from the Army. He didn't last long.

They wanted him to train goons in Bosnia. He said those guys were the thug wanna-bes. Too disturbed to actually serve in the Military.

They must be bad because my brother chose a gig working for Florida State corrections instead. With sex predators and shit. Think about that.
posted by tkchrist at 11:25 AM on October 5, 2007


It might help people to think of Blackwater not as a private corporation, but merely as "CIA 2". I mean, seriously, like three quarters of their board of directors are former CIA spooks? Blackwater is basically just the moneymaking arm of the CIA.

So, yeah, its like malcompetence squared.
posted by Avenger at 11:32 AM on October 5, 2007


Fuck mercenaries. If you make a living profiting from war, please shoot yourself without delay.

Just so it's clear who should be shot, the guys making IED jammers, should they shoot themselves? the guys making the cougar IED resistant vehicle, should they shoot themselves?

The defense industry is certainly screwed up, but not everyone in the defense industry is a bastard.
posted by garlic at 11:52 AM on October 5, 2007


tkchrist, was your brother working for Dyncorp, by any chance?

The Dyncorp operation in Bosnia was apparently a really, really nasty piece of business. Probably still is. Sex slavery, drug trafficing, enforcement, you name it. And when Dyncorp employees informed, they got retributionized.

Par for the course with power for hire, I think.
posted by lodurr at 12:07 PM on October 5, 2007


IOW, your brother's well quit of it.
posted by lodurr at 12:07 PM on October 5, 2007


I understood the context. In fact, my point was exactly that having an understandable explanation is not equivalent to having a morally defensible justification.

For a person with no college and not sure what to do with his life, I think this kind of money is very tempting when no other options are available.

My point was not to provide a justification for Blackwater, the government's support of Blackwater, the use of nonmilitary security guards or the war, if you want to go that far. My point was that the people who do this work are not all gun happy goons looking for a place to exercise their trigger finger.

Whose responsible? The Bush Administration for defining a war as a security issue and then choosing this incredibly stupid solution of hiring private security guards. The Congress for never ever objecting to the selling of the war as a security exercise and then signing off on the funding requests that fuel the stupidity that is this administration.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:23 PM on October 5, 2007


The Bush Administration and Congress are responsible for the war. But the only one responsible for your acquaintance's son becoming a merc is your acquaintance's son. He may have been the nicest kid in the world, but once he signed on with Blackwater, he became, by definition, a gun for hire. I have no doubt that mercs can be nice guys, too. Hell, I've known wife beaters and Neo Nazis who were nice guys if you weren't on the wrong side of their hate. But by their actions you will know them. A ready smile and a good relationship with your mother doesn't override a willingness to kill for cash. The amorality of his choices don't change just because somebody likes him.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


“I wonder if Blackwater's PR flacks know that the name of their company is technical jargon for sewage; particularly, waste water from toilets.”

Actually, it’s maritime geography slang (blue water, green water, brown water), blackwater by implication would be riverine and night operations. Although I haven’t worked in sewage disposal, so that term might apply as well. I doubt by design here though. But I drink Brawndo, it’s got electrolytes.

Re: Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
Yeah, I heard about that. I remember saying “Oh, no! That’s terrible” and then finding out it was a merc and my sympathy pretty much just drained off to “Oh. Meh.”

“They must be bad because my brother chose a gig working for Florida State corrections instead. With sex predators and shit. Think about that.”

I was approached by some PMC’s when I got out (some buddies of mine as well). Pretty much got a good laugh all around. Made them take us out to dinner. Piled on the dollar amounts and when it got pretty much to ridiculous money I said “Look, are we going to talk real money here or are you just busting my balls?” Man, that was fun. Felt like revenge on recruiters.
Funny, some syndicate guys courted us a bit too. Felt a lot more personal, serious and human. I mean, there’s no way, but y’know, didn’t fuck with them.

But all this, yeah, sounds like part of the same whole of selling the war overall. Wuz I in charge I’d never use mercs. Don’t have enough volunteers? Gee, I guess people don’t want the war, ok, to hell with it, we’re not fighting then. But clearly the interests being represented here aren’t the people’s.
And I have to reiterate what was said upthread. Somewhere we lost the innate distrust of authority (conservatives were really down with that vibe - for good or for ill - during Clinton’s presidency) and somehow making excuses for people in power came into vogue.
Like they fucking care about you. Like they’re going to hear how nice you were talking about them and give you a job. Like the limo is going to stop and someone is going to point at you out the window and give you a cabinet position because hey, you stuck up for them and showed allegiance. People actually seem to believe that load of ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:29 PM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gah! Doobie Bros. reference just hit me. Dumbass.
(nice btw)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:34 PM on October 5, 2007




A ready smile and a good relationship with your mother doesn't override a willingness to kill for cash.

You seem to be trying to put me in the position of defending someone who is "killing for cash" -- and your wording seems purposely inflammatory. By doing so you miss my point and obscure the issues -- you don't know if my acquaintance's son is even carrying a gun - in the military he was a communications specialist and neither you nor I know his current role in Iraq.

Regardless, you seem to assume that those who are recruited by companies like Blackwater (and the military I suppose) are making a choice. Are they? I'm not so sure - offers of cash money, paid education, escape from a life without opportunities are all seductions that can loom very large. But is it a choice? From the perspective of a comfortable life of educated opportunity (that surely is my life in all dimensions) it is very easy to project your moral authority on those whose 'decisions' would not be yours. Until everyone is on the same playing field of opportunity, I will continue to be very careful in passing judgment on individuals involved in this war whose 'decisions' would not be my own. I will reserve my moral judgments for those with real power to manipulate events, spin their interpretation and frighten a supposedly democratic society to go along with them.
posted by bluesky43 at 2:31 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


you don't know if my acquaintance's son is even carrying a gun

If he is in Iraq, working for Blackwater, I'm pretty sure that he is carrying a gun no matter what his current role. And while I am not claiming that his primary responsibility is to kill, a willingness to kill is almost certainly a job requirement. And I don't mean a willingness to kill for his country. I mean a willingness to kill (at least under fire) while serving the sole interests of his employer.

you seem to assume that those who are recruited by companies like Blackwater (and the military I suppose) are making a choice

Firstly, I don't equate military service with mercenary service. Service to country is honorable (at least in the general case, as honor is commonly defined, and at least in intent). Service to the highest bidder is amoral.

Secondly, of course they have choices. These aren't conscripts. To pretend otherwise is insulting to the majority of the poor who choose not to lease their moral ground to the highest bidder simply because it's convenient.

Yes, it's understandable. But that neither makes it inevitable (which means there is choice), nor inherently defensible (because there is choice).

Also, please note that I have been using the term "amoral," throughout this discussion, not "immoral." When push comes to shove, your acquaintance's son may never make an immoral choice in his life. But in agreeing at least in principal to support a mercenary operation he has already made an amoral choice by pledging his allegiance to his paycheck.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:34 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]




“But is it a choice? From the perspective of a comfortable life of educated opportunity (that surely is my life in all dimensions) it is very easy to project your moral authority on those whose 'decisions' would not be yours.”

Gotta go with It's Raining Florence Henderson. Big difference between volunteering and merc work. I don’t judge anyone unless I’ve been down their path. I myself chose not to go that route, despite some serious rank and pay. They fight for profit, not for principle. They’re opportunists, they don’t serve an ideal or ethos.
Me, I like to be able to sleep nights. But ok, what’s right for me might not be right for someone else. So no sweat.
Mercs risk death and pick up a fat paycheck for it. That’s their choice.

And morality aside - practically, I’m not going to risk shedding one drop of blood from my men to save their lives if I’m in the field. I don’t consider them our own. They are very well trained. But I’d rather have U.S. troops (a marine would be nice) pull my ass out of the line of fire. I know that even raw ricks in the marines would bust a gut to save me, they’d lay down their lives, no question and draw their own blood to put into my veins.
No matter the expertise in a merc unit, if they save my life it’s because they’re getting paid, not because we swore an oath or we’re brothers in arms.
Our troops are there (right or wrong) because they sacrificed their autonomy to follow the orders of the civilian government and execute the will of the people. Whether it is truly the will of the people is a question for us to debate, not them. Either way, they’re there because they HAVE to be. (If they could choose, they’d rather be home with their families fighting only when absolutely necessary)
The mercs chose, and if the mercs weren’t getting paid, they wouldn’t be there. And they wouldn’t save me. It’s that simple.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:16 PM on October 5, 2007



The Dyncorp operation in Bosnia was apparently a really, really nasty piece of business. Probably still is. Sex slavery, drug trafficing, enforcement, you name it. And when Dyncorp employees informed, they got retributionized.

I'm not sure. That sounds familiar. I'll ask him. I do know that a substantial portion of those guys went to Iraq.
posted by tkchrist at 4:38 PM on October 5, 2007


you don't know if my acquaintance's son is even carrying a gun

If he is in Iraq he would be insane not to. He COULD be in a staging area like Kuwait doing stevedore work or what have you. But if he is Iraq he is packing.

Firstly, I don't equate military service with mercenary service. Service to country is honorable (at least in the general case, as honor is commonly defined, and at least in intent). Service to the highest bidder is amoral.

I think soldiering is an undeniably an honorable and much needed profession. "Gun for Hire" type services not so much.

While they can be quite "professional" the ethical standard is far too low for "policing" or "nation building" in civilian filled war zones. Accountability is none existent. And lastly they have no obligations or allegiance to anything other than a paycheck. Which, as history has proven, makes them very unreliable.
posted by tkchrist at 4:47 PM on October 5, 2007


MetaFilter: A ready smile, a good relationship with your mother, and willing to kill for cash.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:09 PM on October 5, 2007


more Hillary/Blackwater: Edwards raps Clinton over Blackwater tie
posted by amberglow at 6:21 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Big difference between volunteering and merc work... They fight for profit, not for principle

And a big difference between volunteer and draft. What percentage of the armed forces come from lower socioeconomic strata? This "fighting for principle" thing is way overplayed across the board.
posted by dreamsign at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2007


"What percentage of the armed forces come from lower socioeconomic strata? This "fighting for principle" thing is way overplayed across the board."

No, I think there's a valid difference in principle there. If you're too busy stuffing your own gut and making yourself rich chances are you're not thinking too much about other people.
So what percentage of people in the peace corps are from the upper socioeconomic strata? What percentage in Americorp? Or do those kids I see building houses for really poor folks have cigarette boats and summer homes in the Hamptons?
Yeah, thought not.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." -John Stewart Mill
posted by Smedleyman at 9:55 PM on October 5, 2007


I wonder if BW will follow and fall in this historic fashion?

Goodness, it looks like the same thing all over again, doesn't it?

The Templars were already a "state within a state," were institutionally wealthy, paid no taxes, and had a large standing army which by papal decree could move freely through all European borders.

Change a few words and it's remarkably like the super-elite who run the country and corporations. I figure Dubai is going to become their "state" in the end, though. It's being built exclusively for the pirates of nations.

Even with the absorption of Templars into other Orders, there are still questions as to what became of all of the tens of thousands of Templars across Europe. There had been 15,000 "Templar Houses", and an entire fleet of ships.

They disappeared into the Alps and into Arabia. There was some amount of validity to the charges...

The charges of heresy included spitting, trampling, or urinating on the cross; while naked, being kissed obscenely by the receptor on the lips, navel, and base of the spine; heresy and worship of idols; institutionalized homosexuality; and also accusations of contempt of the Holy Mass and denial of the sacraments.

Skull and Bones, anyone? Rumours of a White House sex ring? That weird-as-fuck Grove event?

...a select few Templars secretly converted to Hashshashin Islam.

Then throw in the Lost Ark, do the Indiana Jones thing into the hands of the Nazi's, smuggle it out in via Harriman's bank, where it falls into the hands of Prescott Bush, who gifts it to his grandson.

Who is apparently hell-bent on using it to bring Armageddon upon us, but, hey, that could be the drink talking.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 PM on October 5, 2007


Regarding the piece by Naomi Wolf, posted by homonculus: I'm fiercely sympathetic to her concern about the threat of fascism in the USA, but she's undermining her own argument with non-sequiturs.
The second phase of the blueprint of what I have called in The End of America a `fascist shift’ is what we are beginning to see now: increasing physical intimidation of civilians and increasing staging or provocation of situations in the a [sic] federalized national guard or a Blackwater paramilitary force is sent in at the behest of a leader — over the heads of the people’s representatives — to `restore public order.’ I note that Congress is outraged that there were plans to stage a fake scenario of a dirty bomb detonation in three US cities next week — plans that were not fully revealed to Congress.
This glorified fire drill may be a lot of things, but I can't see how it is a 'provocation'. (The rest of the paragraph hints that she might have actually not meant it that way, but in that case it's just very bad language.)
Remeber when TSA officials were making passengers at the airport drink their baby’s milk — including human breast milk? Both the Blackshirts and the Brownshirts forced citizens to drink liquids such as emetics as anintimidation [sic] tactic.
This analogy isn't deep enough to drown a baby hamster.

Many other things are spot on, but she has to weed out the ridiculous. I resent her for making me feel like a right-wing troll.
posted by Anything at 10:48 PM on October 5, 2007


I find humor in the fact that the owner of this mercenary company is a billionaire named Prince, which happens to be the title of a certain volume who's author took a dim view of mercenaries.
posted by moonbiter at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2007




Won't it be fun when the Blackwater troops come home! Oh, what jolly hijinks!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on October 20, 2007


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