The New York Times reported today that Blackwater, the infamous organization that has been accused of killing civilians in Iraq, “has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in
than other security firms.” A mercenary firm in Iraq with an itchy trigger finger is bad enough. But it now appears that Blackwater’s activities may be massively expanded — and not in Iraq . Iraq
In little noticed news, Blackwater, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc were recently awarded a collective $15 billion — yes, billion — from the Pentagon to conduct global counter-narcotics operations. This means that Blackwater can be deployed to engage with citizens on a whole new level of intimacy anywhere around the world — including here at home. What is scarier than scary is that Blackwater’s overall plans are to do more and more of its armed and dangerous ‘security’ operations on
The Founders knew from their own experience of standing armies, responsive only to a tyrant, how dangerous such a situation was; King George’s men — armed with blanket warrants — invaded the colonists’ homes, trashed their possessions, and even raped Colonial women. It was that bitter experience that led them to insist on the second amendment — ‘a well regulated militia’ that was responsive to the people and could not be deployed against the people of the United States by would-be despots. The founders knew that American tyranny was not only possible, it was likely, in the event of weakened checks and balances; and they knew a mercenary army was the advance guard of despots.
Blackwater is available to anyone who can write the checks. If there is a need to ‘restore public order’ in the next Presidential election — a power that the President now can define as he sees fit — Blackwater can be deployed. If the President declares an emergency, Blackwater can be deployed. And history shows us how very quickly citizen dissent and democratic processes close down when physically intimidating men — who are armed and not answerable to the people — are abroad in the land.
Blackwater has a huge base in North Carolina and has been trying to set up camp in the San Diego area.
Wanna bet these camps have a few ... dungeons set up and ready to go in them?
Update 9/29: Jurassicpork of Welcome to Pottersville has the political overview on Blackwater. Also via jurassicpork, Paul Krugman:
Which raises the question, why are Blackwater and other mercenary outfits still playing such a big role in Iraq?
Don’t tell me that they are irreplaceable. The Iraq war has now gone on for four and a half years — longer than American participation in World War II. There has been plenty of time for the Bush administration to find a way to do without mercenaries, if it wanted to.
And the danger out-of-control military contractors pose to American forces has been obvious at least since March 2004, when four armed Blackwater employees blundered into Fallujah in the middle of a delicate military operation, getting themselves killed and precipitating a crisis that probably ended any chance of an acceptable outcome in Iraq.
Yet Blackwater is still there. In fact, last year the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq.
Mr. Singer argues that reliance on private military contractors has let the administration avoid making hard political choices, such as admitting that it didn’t send enough troops in the first place. Contractors, he writes, “offered the potential backstop of additional forces, but with no one having to lose any political capital.” That’s undoubtedly part of the story.
But it’s also worth noting that the Bush administration has tried to privatize every aspect of the U.S. government it can, using taxpayers’ money to give lucrative contracts to its friends — people like Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, who has strong Republican connections. You might think that national security would take precedence over the fetish for privatization — but remember, President Bush tried to keep airport security in private hands, even after 9/11.
So the privatization of war — no matter how badly it works — is just part of the pattern.