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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blackwater USA, the Future of Privatization

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe US mercenary force, Blackwater USA, seems to be in a bit of hot water -- despite the best efforts of the US State Department to cover for them. TPMMuckraker puts together a helpful list of all the crapstorms the security firm finds itself in after a shooting in September in which Blackwater employees killed 17 innocent people. The shootings themselves have been the subject of no fewer than four separate investigations. The Iraqi investigation concluded that they're a gunhappy bunch of yahoos. The FBI is also investigating, having taken things from a far too friendly State Dept. There's a joint US-Iraqi investigation. Meanwhile, the United Nations will investigate Blackwater -- and all military contractors in Iraq for war crimes.

But we're not done. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Blackwater employees engaged in small arms smuggling, Henry Waxman's oversight committee is investigating the company for tax evasion -- worth "tens of millions of dollars, if not more" -- and a Christmas Eve 2006 murder of the Iraqi Vice President's bodyguard remains unresolved.

It'd be nice if, after the smoke clears, there is no Blackwater USA anymore. But that's probably wishful thinking. The State Dept., despite all of this, remains their bestest, most truest friend.

Blackwater "has a client who will support them no matter what they do," H.C. Lawrence Smith, deputy director of the Private Security Company Association of Iraq, told the Washington Post. WaPo describes PSCAI as "an advocacy organization in Baghdad that is funded by security firms, including Blackwater." When your advocate talks about you this way, you really have very few friends.

Even Blackwater employees think things have gotten out of hand. "Some guys are thinking that it was not a good shoot, that it was not warranted," one employee said of the Nisour Square shootings in the New York Times, "I don't think there was criminal intent involved. I just think it was the application of the use of deadly force gone horribly wrong... To mitigate one threat, 17 people had to die?"

Despite all of this, State is completely pro-Blackwater. Associated Press reported yesterday:

The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

It gives you an idea how much governing the Iraqi government is able to do in its own, supposedly sovereign, country. A foreign government can grant people immunity from prosecution in your country. In order to protect their Blackwater buddy, State is more than willing to expose al-Maliki's government as a puppet regime. This is something that the Iraqi govt. doesn't seem to want to take lying down.

See, Blackwater is so hated in Iraq that booting them out of the country is a guaranteed support-builder. "The Iraqis despised them, because they were untouchable," says Matthew Degn, a former senior American adviser to the Interior Ministry. "They were above the law."

Perhaps they won't be soon.

BBC News:

The Iraqi government has approved a draft law revoking the immunity from prosecution private security contractors enjoy under Iraqi law.

The law, which has been referred to parliament, would revoke an order set up after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Whether Iraqi law is allowed to govern Iraq will be a test of Iraqi sovereignty. If I were them, I wouldn't hold my breath.

See, Blackwater is just another example of the widespread failure of privatization. Like FEMA's outsourcing after Hurricane Katrina, private companies have brought disaster. The reason is really very simple; in order to maximize profits, any private company will do the very least they can get away with, while charging the very most they can get away with. In less sane circles, this is referred to as "the genius of the market."

Examples of failure must be spun into examples of success.

Rice's protection of Blackwater is really a protection of the Republican ideology of privatization. It doesn't matter that this ideology isn't actually working, it will not be proven wrong. If that means a few trigger-happy, homicidal maniacs get off, then that's the way things are going to be. The Brave New World of markets, markets, markets is more important than reality. Consequences are for the unconnected and blood in the gutters is just the price you pay for the Free Market Utopia of the future. You can thank them later.

Blackwater represents the two major planks of modern conservatism -- privatization and American supremacy. And, when I say, "American supremacy," I mean it in a very dark sense -- like "White supremacy." It's the belief that Americans are the most important people in the world and only American interests matter. Everyone else is either a servant or an impediment. And impediments are to be dealt with very, very harshly. There's a reason the founding neocons called themselves the "Project for a New American Century."

Blackwater is the future -- at least, as the neocons see it. They are the face of American hegemony. I doubt it'll work out that way in the end, but visionaries aren't bothered with silly little trivialities like reality and probability. They've got a new world to build, with an American corporate class at the top of the food chain.

The fact that it's all falling down around their ears would be very satisfying, if it weren't for the fact that it's falling down around our ears, too. Their disasters and failures are our disasters and failures. And when the whole thing becomes a smoking ruin, they'll all be able to walk away, off to right wing think tanks to perfect their vision and give it all another shot later.

And if Blackwater's not there anymore, someone else will be. The problem's not Blackwater USA.


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Aaron said...

Actually, as you read through, the story line becomes familiar: in an effort to determine the truth of a matter, immunity is granted to those involved, to encourage full cooperation. (With an exception retained for particularly gross offenders.) In other circumstances this would be called a "truth and reconciliation commission." South Africa set up one after apartheid fell. The same arrangement is fairly common in America in certain types of investigations. This is not the shocking news its being made out to be.

Wisco said...

Yes, in much the same way that you hand out immunity to gangbangers in a driveby, so Blackwater gets a pass on 17 innocent people dead in the street.

Why, that's just the way these things are done. That's why American prisons are empty.