Whitewashing the work of killers

Public relations giant Burson-Marsteller has vast experience steering companies through tough times. But there’s a limit to how much it can help Blackwater USA, a new client that’s been battered by negative publicity.

The State Department, which pays Blackwater hundreds of millions of dollars to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has stringent rules barring the private security contractor from discussing with the media the details of its work, according to those familiar with the arrangement.

Blackwater goons murdered Iraqis

U.S. military reports from the scene of a shooting incident in Baghdad involving security contractor Blackwater indicates its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

At least 11 Iraqis were killed in the September 16 incident, which has outraged Iraqis who see the firm as a private army which acts with impunity.

Citing a senior U.S. military official, the Post said the military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault.

Blackwater killed more than reported

Seventeen people were killed and 24 injured in the September 16 Baghdad shootout involving security teams from private firm Blackwater USA.

That death toll is significantly higher than the 10 originally reported in the incident which prompted intense criticism of Blackwater’s operations protecting American diplomats and other officials in Iraq, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The border wars

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, congressional candidates who advocated enforcement-only — but not comprehensive — immigration reform found support dropping by more than 21 percent in precincts with significant Latino constituents, costing them the election.

That was the finding in a recent report, titled “Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote,” by Richard Nadler of the conservative Americas Majority Foundation. The study involved 145 precincts and 175,000 voters.

Blackwater boss defends his thugs

The boss of US security contractor Blackwater Tuesday denied his staff ran riot like “cowboys” and said they acted appropriately in a Baghdad shootout which left at least 10 Iraqis dead.

Company founder and chief executive Erik Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL who had previously shunned the limelight, warned lawmakers there had been a “rush to judgment” over the deadly September 16 shooting.

Prince, wearing a suit and close cropped hair, confronted hostile Democratic lawmakers determined to put his firm, which has reportedly scooped one billion dollars in US government contracts, in the dock.

More deception from the Pentagon

Domineering Donald Rumsfeld may be gone from the Pentagon, but his legacy lingers.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was often compared to a predecessor, Robert McNamara, another strong personality with a habit of making up his mind in advance of events. As the Vietnam War unfolded in the 1960s, McNamara, an accountant and statistician, fixated on quantitative measures of progress. Attrition was the order of the day, enemy body counts and weapons captured the measure of progress.

The delusion of nationalism

Nationalism is perhaps the most interesting delusion of modern times. Its power is illustrated by the fact that lots of otherwise sensible people are unapologetic nationalists, even though nationalism requires its adherents to subscribe to various bizarre beliefs.

Blackwater USA: A gang of killers

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.

Smoke, mirrors and taxes

Congress proposes to fund its $35 billion expansion of children’s health coverage — assuming it survives an expected presidential veto — with a 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax, bringing it to a dollar a pack.

Superficially, the idea has considerable appeal. The high tax might discourage — it certainly punishes — people engaged in a life-threatening habit that the government officially discourages. Simultaneously, it provides the funds to extend health coverage to uninsured children.

But Congress may find it has run afoul of the law of unintended consequences.

Wounded vets face financial woes

He was one of America’s first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq.

Today, he can’t keep a job, pay his bills, or chase thoughts of suicide from his tortured brain. In a few weeks, he may lose his house, too.

Gamal Awad, the American son of a Sudanese immigrant, exemplifies an emerging group of war veterans: the economic casualties.