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Ousting Blackwater is a Win-Win

By       Message Heidi L. Nordberg       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Finally, the government in Iraq has made a brilliant move. Because of this latest incident of civilian killings, they've "canceled Blackwater's license" and demanded that all Blackwater employees leave Iraq. This is long overdue.

It's true that the wording doesn't work. Blackwater doesn't appear to need a license from the Iraqi government to protect American officials. But if Blackwater still has immunity from crimes, then I really don't see why the Iraqis cannot make a good case for their right to expel them from the country.

I don't think any little phone call from Condi is going to change their minds. Nothing should make them back down on this, no matter how they are pressured to do so. We have no case for supporting Blackwater's presence. It would be just a silly show of power to insist.

Yes, the US is heavily dependent on heavily armed private contractors. Some claim that private personnel on the US government payroll outnumber official US troops. At the same time, our government has granted them a special status with no formal accountability or oversight from Congress or anyone else. They also have total immunity from Iraqi criminal prosecution (a provision that was only expected to last for a couple of months).

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No American security contractor has been prosecuted in the United States or Iraq, although there have been many incidents where such security contractors have shot and killed Iraqi civilians.

It is widely known, both here and in Iraq, that the Sunni Fallujah massacre was revenge for the killing of four Blackwater employees in March 2004. The death toll from that attack was severe; some claim there were as many as 100,000 casualties.

Given that, it must have been a slap in the face for Iraq to hear U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker praise Blackwater in his testimony to Congress last week.

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Iraqis hate Blackwater, not just because of Fallujah, but because Blackwater is clearly immune - and irresponsible - and uncontrollable. Blackwater employees seem to be able to get away with whatever they feel like doing. They are a terrible face for America. Even other security companies dislike Blackwater.

If I were an Iraqi, I wouldn't care for Blackwater - at all. As an American, I don't care for any of the private security forces, but Blackwater has become the iconic example for me of the results of "privatization" - lack of accountability or oversight or transparency, criminality/immunity, rampant corruption and war profiteering.

Of course, the US government backs the private forces in their shadow war but Iraq has the right to expel people from their own country. Perhaps they can't expel the U.S. military, but why can't they kick out Blackwater?

This would give the federal government in Iraq a big boost. It might bring people together in Iraq if they felt that they do have a say in what happens in their own country - and I think ethics is on their side.

From the American side, this would refocus resentment on a single company rather than on the entire American presence. And it would show that we - sometimes - might mean what we say about our motives there. It would be a wise move all around to support Blackwater's exit.

Any decent strategist could tell you that ousting Blackwater from Iraq is a win-win situation for both America and Iraq. The cost is small - Blackwater only has about a thousand people there now, and they are all over the rest of the world anyway. It wouldn't even cut into their profit margin. Bush says he wants to see the government pull together - well, here's a good start. It could end up being a real turning point, a gift to the Administration. Maybe this administration is just too deep into the inherent corruption of the whole situation to be able to do the smart thing for everyone. Blackwater was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, who is also an extreme right-wing fundamentalist "Christian" mega-millionaire. Top CIA and Defense Department officials are among its executives and legal team (Cofer Black, former director of the CIA's counterterrorism center; Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon inspector general; Fred Fielding, now White House counsel; and the infamous Kenneth Starr). They are making big money. But think about the possible repercussions if the US blocks this. The US can't get away with another Fallujah now. There is yet another solution. Is anyone at Blackwater smart enough to know when to move out? Here's a hint: Now.

 

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Heidi L. Nordberg is an interdisciplinary humanities Ph.D., discourse analyst, progressive liberal, writer, teacher, poet, contextual ethicist and spiritual eclectic (former Jehovah's Witness). She opposes violence, abuse, authoritarian attitudes (more...)
 

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Ousting Blackwater is a Win-Win