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Blackwater USA: A gang of killers

By
October 2, 2007

The private security firm Blackwater USA has been involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, according to a US Congress report that depicts the company’s employees as dangerously out of control.

Blackwater has covered up fatal shootings involving its staff, is the first to shoot in most incidents, and has joined in US military tactical operations, the report released Monday said.

It was also highly critical of the US State Department for failing to restrain Blackwater’s activities and helping to cover up some of its wrongdoings — even protecting a drunken Blackwater employee who shot dead a guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi.

The report was issued by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the eve of hearings into Blackwater’s work in Iraq and in particular a September 16 shooting incident in a crowded Baghdad square that killed at least 10 Iraqis.

Nearly two weeks after the bloody shootout, the circumstances remain unclear, with Iraqis angry and indignant and the country’s leader having demanded Blackwater’s expulsion.

The hearings Tuesday are expected to see testimony from Blackwater’s chairman Erik Prince, a former Navy Seal.

According to Prince’s prepared testimony reported late Monday on Time magazine’s website, he will argue that none of the people Blackwater protects in Iraq has been killed or seriously injured, and that there is no alternative to the private security companies who guard US officials and logistics operations there.

The largest private security firm operating in Iraq, Blackwater has received more than one billion dollars in US government contracts since 2001.

The Congressional report questions whether the expenditures on Blackwater, which it puts at 1,222 dollars per day for each security guard — or 445,891 dollars a year — is the best way to use taxpayer funds.

The report estimates it would cost one-sixth to one-ninth the price to use guards from the US military.

It accuses Blackwater of billing the government twice for the use of one person and other accounting tricks.

Moreover, the report quotes US military commanders as saying that Blackwater staff, “act like cowboys” with “very quick trigger fingers”. One senior US military official warned that Blackwater’s behavior in Iraq could damage the US image there, possibly “worse than Abu Ghraib,” the US-run prison that was the site of well-publicized mistreatment of Iraqis.

Citing company information, the report says Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 ‘escalation of force’ incidents since 2005 and that use of force is “frequent and extensive, resulting in significant casualties and property damage.”

“Blackwater’s contract to provide protective services to the State Department provides that Blackwater can engage in only defensive use of force. In over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, however, Blackwater reports that its forces fired the first shots,” the report says.

It noted that because Blackwater guards are usually shooting from moving vehicles and do not stop to count casualties, the company itself has reported only 16 casualties in all the incidents since 2005, and 162 cases of property damage.

But it says there are multiple incidents in which Iraqi casualties went unreported, including one in which a bystander was shot in the head, and another in which a Blackwater team driving on the wrong side of the road caused a red Opel to crash and left the car behind “in a ball of flames.”

The report cites two incidents in 2004 when Blackwater contractors joined in military actions, including a firefight in Najaf alongside US and Spanish forces, and another when a Blackwater helicopter team helped a US military unit take control of a mosque, firing at ground targets from the helicopter.

The document criticizes the State Department, which paid Blackwater more than 832 million dollars from 2004-2006, for helping mask problems sparked by Blackwater activities and for not keeping the firm under a tighter leash.

“Even in cases involving the death of Iraqis, it appears that the State Department’s primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to ‘put the matter behind us,’ rather that to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability,” the Congressional report says.

It cited the case of the drunken Blackwater employee who shot a guard of al-Mahdi in the International Zone in Baghdad on December 24, 2006.

The report says that although the Iraqis branded the case a murder, the State Department helped Blackwater get the employee out of the country and back to the United states.

No charges have been brought in the shooting.

18 Responses to Blackwater USA: A gang of killers

  1. SEAL

    October 2, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    The history guy says:
    “I can tell that none of the posters on this article have ever been in a combat zone.”

    There is always one expert who can just “tell” everything about military people by reading posts.
    I was in combat in four different “official” missions (Vietnam was one) and quite a few unoficial ones over a 32 year span. (Three purple hearts)

    So, tell us again how it is you can tell none of us has ever been in a combat zone. Inquiring military minds want to know.

  2. bryan mcclellan

    October 3, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Me too,Seal.Maybe this swami can help with cold sweats and unrelenting visages of the unforgiving past also.

  3. SEAL

    October 3, 2007 at 2:11 am

    Yanno, bryan, I really am tired of these military suedo-experts and it’s hard not to get really nasty with them. I’m kinda proud of my control on the last one. There are at least a half dozen combat vets I have seen post here over the past year and there’s probably a lot more.

    My dreams stopped about 9 years ago and I thought they were gone forever. I am one of the lucky ones. I never had much trouble with the menories except for a couple of mistakes I made that haunted me for a long time. But I had one two nights ago that woke me up in a sweat soaked bed. That was a surprise.

    This thing we have going against Blackwater right now is certainly deserving but, to keep it in perspective, we should point out that our regular army and marine troops have killed a hell of a lot more innocents than Blackwater. Not many on purpose or by design but that is the nature of this kind of beast/combat.

    We have the same problem here we had in Nam. Who are the good guys and who are the bad? Sometimes you don’t have the time to wait and find out if you want to live. When 5 are right together and 2 are pointing weapons at you, all 5 are the enemy. Insurgents and al Qaeda don’t wear uniforms. And, there are female and young teenage insurgents.

    But my point is we can’t lay it all on Blackwater. Truth be known, between our bombing and the combat, we have killed thousands of innocents. The ground troops can’t be blamed for the bombing that accounts for probably 75% of that. But they still make mistakes almost every day someplace.

    The difference is that they don’t give a shit and we do. They feel no responsibility and we do. Consequently, they are too quick on the trigger when the situation doesn’t warrant it. And I’ll bet our dreams/nightmares are much worse and last a lot longer than theirs, if they have them.

  4. davidbhill

    October 3, 2007 at 9:10 am

    First, kudos to SEAL and bryan for surviving. Many of our friends didn’t.

    Second, I don’t know a thing about Erik Prince, but I have talked to a few Rangers who chose not to re-enlist because they could do the same job working for Blackwater and make $150,000-$200,000 in a year. They are good guys, conscientious soldiers, and do their job well.

    Third, there are some things about this recent incident that have not been talked about in the news. Here’s one tidbit. All sides agree a car bomb went off; they just disagree how close it was. Wherever it was, what happened next is a car went around an Iraqi roadblock, was driving at a high rate of speed on the wrong side of the road, toward the convoy. Now you tell me, given that a car bomb just went off somewhere, and a car is being driven in the same manner as car bombers do, and toward your convoy, would you shoot or not?

    Fourth, the article above, like many others, says, “In over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, however, Blackwater reports that its forces fired the first shots.” Again, you tell me, if your job is protecting people in such a violent environment, do you wait until the car gets close enough and explodes, or do you shoot first?

    Fifth, if the Iraqis want Blackwater and other contractors out of Iraq, the solution is simple – get control of your own population, have your own police put THEIR lives on the line to stop the violence, and then there won’t be a need for Blackwater.

    Sixth, as far as we know, this whole incident could have been set up by the Iraqis in order try to make Blackwater look bad so they could get them out of the country, because they have been so effective. You know that stranger things have happened.

    The Blackwater guys are doing an incredibly tough job, one that even our military is not up to. You can always find individuals who will make the organzation look bad, but it’s been even worse in our own military forces.

    FYI, I chose not to join Blackwater because I’m an old fart and they still aren’t paying enough money for me to put my life on the line. I did that for peanuts, for my country, 30 years ago. But I have the utmost respect for the professionals that choose to work for Blackwater and their ilk.

    Note – I’m not saying I think we should be in Iraq, I’m just saying that given the situation, these guys are doing a thankless job and doing it well.

    my 2 cents,
    Ranger Hill

  5. Jenifer D.

    October 3, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Jack-booted Thugs for Hire…I wonder what Blackwater’s founder would do if he was coerced into witnessing what this bunch of drunken, irresponsible mercs have done to Iraq and everywhere else they’ve been?

    Military folks aren’t allowed to drink on duty; Any combat zone/Hostile fire tour I’ve ever been on, we were denied alcohol, on or off duty. I guess money really does talk, huh?

    It’s bad practice to put two armed forces in the same combat area where the ‘rules’ apply to one force, but, not the other; Case in point :Geneva Conventions and Code of Conduct. Those articles apply to U.S. Military, but, not Blackwater. Does Erik Prince give either of these any thought? I doubt it. He’s too busy counting his money while he fondles himself probably!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Z1tevub9I

    Is it just me or does money really blur the lines between right and wrong for the people who have a seemingly endless flow of it?

  6. bryan mcclellan

    October 3, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Seal:That’s a good point about waging a front less war.When the perimeter is thirty feet across and trips start popping it’s no time to ask questions.My angst originates with the report that these mercs do not answer to our military protocol, but rather separate laws have been set in place for rules of engagement where they are concerned.Also it was reported that they are infinitely better equipped(vehicle and body armor,living quarters, compensation etc.)than our troops.This seems 180 degrees from what the reality should be ,and if true you can bet that there is a lot of grumbling in the ranks of the grunts.Do we really have over 1000 diplomats(Spooks) in country, and why do we need so many?Are they private contractors also.I thought Spooks were supposed to be invisible and able to protect themselves.This is one big FUBARESQUE situation and shows the futility of trying to spread democracy where it is unwanted and misunderstood.It also illustrates the error of paying an independent entity to do it for you.PMFOT’s

  7. JudyB

    October 3, 2007 at 11:16 am

    SEAL post said….”I wish these articles would stop referring to Erik Prince as a former Navy SEAL. He was never a SEAL…”

    I want to know how and where you got the information that Eric Prince was not a navy SEAL…I think this is VERY interesting but I have never heard or read this before, and have not been able to find anything on the subject..anyone with information please advise me as to where or what I REALLY WANT TO KNOW & VERIFY THIS.

  8. SEAL

    October 4, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Judy: the Navy could assign anyone to the SEALs and he would technically be a SEAL. But calling a jackass a horse does not make him one in spite of the fact that, to the uninformed observer, there is a strong resemblance. [a jackass is a cross between a mule and a horse]

    To actually be a SEAL, the reality of being a USNavySEAL inside and out, there is a process you must go through that involves training and education but most of all a unique mindset that will have to occur within the individual that transforms him from a Navy seaman (whatever the rank) into a SEAL. You no longer are the person you were before.

    This transformation begins at what we commonly refer to as “SEAL School” or “SEAL Basic” [it gets called a lot of things]. The purpose of this is to break you – mentally more than physically. They try everything to make you give up – quit. Most of them do. Few are accepted for the training and only a small percentage make it through.

    Forget what you have seen on G.I. Jane, although some of the physical stuff was realistic. You are driven to the core of your inner self and you find out who you are. We/you must know that no matter how bad it gets you won’t give up and will continue to function to the best of your condition/ability. Call it heart or courage or whatever you want but it is a determination and the ability to think under any circumstance. You can’t stop a SEAL and he won’t quit – ever!

    Being a SEAL is attitude and much more mental than physical. A SEAL must be at least average intelligence. There is no place in the SEALs for stupid courage or bravado or showing off. That crap gets people killed.

    Basic is followed by education in many things. Hand to hand fighting. Use of every weapon there is available. Tactics. Sea, Earth, Land, and Air. During your first enlistment you will be exposed to more than you ever imagined. Yeah, I can half-assed fly a copter if I have to and I can make bombs out of wierd stuff. Whatever it takes. SEALs aren’t bad, they aren’t tough, they are smart, educated and deadly. They will give their life if that is what is called for but the first rule is stay alive. To that end, teamwork is the name of the game.

    SEALs are disciplined to the completion of the mission as assigned but expected to use their own judgment. Conditions change, intel is wrong, many things can cause a mission to be scrubbed or altered. As the Captain, I was given the mission but it was my resposibility to determine how it was executed. There have been instances where I determined a mission could not be accomplished as they wished, what is your alternative? We do not go on suicide missions. Everyone comes home alive.

    I could go on and on but the reason I said Prince is not a SEAL is because he never went through what it takes to be one. I’m the only source you will find (other than another SEAL familiar with Prince) to verify that fact. His family’s influence got him commissioned as a Naval officer inspite of his being an Annapolis drop out at one year and that influence also made it possible for him to get himself assigned to the SEALs. But that jackass couldn’t possibly run with us thoroughbreds. In the first place he is mentally unfit, unstable, to be a SEAL. He wanted to be a SEAL for all the wrong reasons.

    Prince is lucky I was gone before he came in. I would have immediately reassigned him. To Cook and Bakers school. HA!

  9. dbrooks

    June 13, 2008 at 10:29 am

    d brooks
    Blackwater USA, a murderous gang of thugs that Prince and
    company think are serving their master, Jesus. They are not, they are, in reality, serving the only real master they know, the almighty dollar. Blackwater security, killers for hire under the guise of the U.S. Military.
    Two tours in the air cav in viet nam made me very much aware that these guys, BWUS, are in a unique postion to
    take over the US gov, the one I fought for. (I was 11B 20)
    There are hundreds of reports of BW Guards shootings in Iraq, and now they think we’re going to believe these folks are needed as the new wave of (Greystone) peacekeepers.
    Blackwater and it’s likes have made the war for the real
    soldiers in Iraq 1000% more difficult, because of their
    cowboy tactics and no legal restraints.
    PUT BLACKWATER out of Business.
    Write your congressmen and Senators, whether you are republican or democrate, and demand that the Executive branch account for every dollar, dime, or penney spent on mercs from the US.
    By the way fellow former REAL AMERICAN SOLDIERS who took pride in paying the price for freedom, these guys are making us look pretty bad, becase they are nothing but hardened killers, and they have no , I SAY NO CONSTRAINTS, on their behavior.

    So stop the money, and pass a bill like was done in South Africa, no companies makeing killers within the borders of the US.
    I believe in democracy, and the Rhumsfeld’s and Cheny’s who are promoting this type of activity should be
    PUT in PRISON.
    So, shut of the money, then start the indichtments.
    WHAT EVER HAPPEND TO THE POSE COMMITTAS ACT ANYWAY?

  10. Donnat

    October 2, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    So, they hate us because of our way of life? If my only perception of the of America and the American way of life was formed by Blackwater, I’d be lining up to join Al-Qaeda too.

    This is no way for America to behave.
    Donnat

  11. Sandra Price

    October 2, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    What is amazing is how many Republican Conservatives think nothing of this group who do kill at random. They are from a Christian University and are paid by Mr. Priest who is a Christian; therefore they can do no wrong.

    The Religious Right is very nervous about all this bad publicity and may try to start their own political party, which will hand Hillary the White House. At least she will disban Blackwater and keep this mercenary activity out of our wars.

  12. nuQler Ostrich

    October 2, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Q: Which Candidate for the Democratic nomination for President is actually using his Constitutional authority to ask for accountability?

    A: Dennis Kucinich

    http://www.commondreams.org/news2007/0918-01.htm

    Read about Bush Pioneer Hunt and the Iraqi Oil deal,and how one Congressman is taking action.

    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?bid=1&pid=235197

    Kucinich explains, “I am calling for a Congressional investigation to determine the role the Administration may have played in the Hunt-Kurdistan deal, the effect the deal will have on the oil revenue sharing plan and the attempt by the Administration to privatize Iraqi oil.”

  13. SEAL

    October 2, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Sandy: what is it that makes you think Clinton will “disband” Blackwater? To my knowledge she has said nothing so far about them. In the first place she could not disband them, it’s a private company. She could order the stop use of their services as president. But that’s all.

    I wish these articles would stop referring to Erik Prince as a former Navy SEAL. He was never a SEAL. His families money and connections got him into Annapolis ahead of far more qualified applicants but he blew that off in one year. Next he shows up as an officer in the Navy. How he became an officer is unclear to me and I haven’t bothered to find out but something is funny with that. You have graduate Annapolis or, as an enlisted seaman be accepted by OCS (officer’s candidate school) and graduate that to become an officer.

    Somehow he was assigned to the SEAL’s. That I do not understand either because in order to be a SEAL you must go through the whole SEAL school and training program. No exceptions. He was placed in charge of some remote Pacific area, probably to keep him out of trouble, but what I’m told is he had a real attitude problem. He left the service all of a sudden when his father died. I’ve never seen anyone allowed to just “quit” the Navy like that. This guy has some really powerful friends in high places. I assume that was when he inherited a great deal of money. He spent a million dollars right away just to establish Blackwater.

    He is tied directly to some rabid christian group and is a passionate bible thumper. Prince is a lot of things but he was never a SEAL and I wish they would stop referring to him as one. That makes us look bad. SEAL’s aren’t anything like him. We are the finest collection of military men in the world. Of course, I’m prejudiced. But we really are special. Prince is just a wannabe and a lunatic that has established his own private military of more than 25,000 according to the information i have seen. He is dangerous and his company should not be used by our government for anything.

  14. acf

    October 2, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Blackwater, and the other mercenary security companies don’t have to be disbanded. All that has to be done is for them to lose their business. Just don’t hire them. Properly staff and utilize our military, and cease using these private armies, and they will no longer exist.

  15. SEAL

    October 2, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    In order to cease using the privare security companies we would have to reinstitute the draft. Fact is, we don’t have the military personnel to perform all the functions necessary to this war. That why KBR/Halliburton and all the others are there washing clothes and serving food, etc. Those are things the Military normally does for themselves.

    This is also the reason we have never had enough troops in Iraq to secure it. In order to invade and secure the country properly we would have had to have the draft. The military brass told them that in the very beginning. But Bushco did not want a quick war. No money in that. No contractors to funnel billions of dollars to. It’s not a war – it’s a cash cow to steal the taxpayers money.

    The Bush administration chose to pay the independent contrators enormous amounts of money to provide support sevice rather than have the draft because they knew if they set the draft up the war would end very quickly. It was the draft that caused the rebellion to the Vietnam war and the same thing would have occurred again only worse and Bush would never have been reelected to a second term.

    Using contrators has cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money that should not have been used for that. But notice that none of the democratic candidates have raised that issue. No matter who is elected, it will continue.

  16. adamrussell

    October 2, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    I just heard on the news that there is an american contractor who was tried in american courts for bribing an iraqi official in iraq. So whats the justification for not trying blackwater for murder, again? Are we saying that american courts have no jurisdiction against murders in iraq, but do have jurisdiction against bribery? Please people, lets get our priorities straight.

  17. history guy

    October 2, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Any society that uses mercenaries is always in decline. Neither the Dems or Republicans will quit using them. Those large checks are power and both parties will do anything to keep and use power.

    I can tell that none of the posters on this article have ever been in a combat zone. Blackwater does what any soldier that is intent on staying alive does. You shoot anything that could threaten you. Our troops do the same thing. When they don’t, they are gambling their lives.

    Haliburton started picking up government contracts when Clinton was President. Our military has been spread all over the globe for the last 60 years. Again, both parties have supported this to protect two bit dictators and big business and show no signs of bringing them home.

  18. Bill Jonke

    October 2, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Oh, Joy! Here we go again with the same old song and dance from the Bush administration and his lackeys, namely Blackwater.

    We’re going to hear a barrage of “We may have made some mistakes along the way, but we certainly aren’t guilty of any wrongdoing.”

    The above ranks high along with “Please give me more time on Iraq.”

    Bill Jonke