Friday, October 12, 2007

Blackwater Faces a Cold, Cruel World Alone

So today the military started dropping "I survived Blackwater" stories of there own. Utterly beyond belief that "former soldiers" could harbor such disrespect for their uniformed comrades in the age where looking at a soldier funny in the States is an act of treason. Of course, why shouldn't Blackwater be the lords and ordinary marines and army privates be the serfs? After all, Blackwater allows it's members to reach the true mark of acheivement for men in the modern age: a six-figure yearly salary and no responsibility to the Constitution.

Oct. 15, 2007 issue - The colonel was furious. "Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers." He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad's Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company. Asked to address this and other allegations in this story, Blackwater spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, "This type of gossip has led to many soap operas in the press."

...Unlike nearly everyone else who enters the Green Zone, said an American soldier who guards a gate, Blackwater gunmen refuse to stop and clear their weapons of live ammunition once inside. One military contractor, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution in his industry, recounted the story of a Blackwater operative who answered a Marine officer's order to put his pistol on safety when entering a base post office by saying, "This is my safety," and wiggling his trigger finger in the air. "Their attitude was, 'We're f---ing security; we don't have to answer to anybody'."

Meanwhile, the "we swear we aren't Blackwater, we just want to have their babies" blog "Blackwater Facts" has chosen the tactic of defending Blackwater in it's legal troubles by labeling sueing Blackwater as a terrorist attack, and part of a vast conspiracy by the Al-Qaeda planners of 9-11. Hence, in it's attempts to smear the lawyers involved in the lawsuit, it posts a nice big picture of one of the hijacked jets flying into the World Trade Towers on 9-11. Blackwater Facts hasn't bothered to comment a word of course on what the military has to say about Nisour Square, despite claiming to have been formed to correct "misinformation in the media." What does Blackwater Facts therefor leave as established facts?

In the hours and days after the Nisoor Square shootings, the U.S. military sought to distance itself from Blackwater. Dozens of soldiers went door-to-door to seek out victims, offer condolence payments and stress that the military was not involved in the shootings, Tarsa and his soldiers said. Their actions underscore the long-standing tensions between the U.S. military and private security companies -- and the military's concerns that such shootings, and the lack of accountability for the private security industry, could undermine U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.

"It was absolutely tragic," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army's top commander for Baghdad. "In the aftermath of these, everybody looks and says, 'It's the Americans.' And that's us. It's horrible timing. It's yet another challenge, another setback," he said.

The Washington Post on Thursday examined a storyboard of the soldiers' assessment that has been forwarded to senior U.S. military commanders, photos taken by aerial drones shortly after the shooting and sworn statements by two U.S. soldiers at the scene that day. The Post also reviewed photos taken by U.S. soldiers of the shootings' aftermath. These, along with interviews with four of Tarsa's soldiers who inspected the scene, revealed previously undisclosed details:

At least two cars, a black four-door taxi and a blue Volkswagen sedan, had their back windshields shot out, but their front windshields were intact, indicating they were shot while driving away from the square, according to the photos and soldiers. The Volkswagen, which crashed into a bus stand, had blood splattered on the inside of its front windshield and windows. One person was killed, soldiers said.

U.S. soldiers did not find any bullets that came from AK-47 assault rifles or BKC machine guns used by Iraqi policemen and soldiers. They found evidence of ammunition used in American-made weapons, including M4 rifle 5.56mm brass casings, M240B machine gun 7.62mm casings, M203 40mm grenade launcher casings, and stun-grenade dunnage, or packing.

A white sedan, carrying a doctor and her son, had not entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle, where the Blackwater vehicles had stopped, when it was fired upon, according to the aerial photos. News reports have said the guards shot at the car because they believed it approached them in a threatening manner.

"I was surprised at the caliber of weapon being used," said Capt. Don Cherry, 32. "My guys have 203s with nonlethal rounds we use as warning shots. It's a rubber ball that bounces off the windshield."

"I was upset this happened," Cherry said. "This was uncalled for."

Startling to learn that the US military uses rubber bullets to fire warning shots, but the conservative commentators among us will battle to the last breath to defend Blackwater's right to arbitrarily kill Iraqi civilians because they have a gut feeling that they are suicide bombers. The gut feeling supplied merely by the desire to be going faster through rush hour traffic in the capital city. So far, when you google "blackwater" in the blog links, the right is being silent on the fact that Blackwater and their CEO Prince have lied about coming under fire from the Iraqi police or insurgents, given that the only bullets fired were American. Tomorrow of course, they will claim that Blackwater got confused, and really it was the American military who was trying to kill Blackwater!

An Iraqi colonel walked up to Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa and described the Blackwater shooters as men in "tan uniforms, black helmets, and that flag," pointing at the U.S. flag on Tarsa's sleeve. The colonel added that he knew the U.S. military wasn't involved. Still, Tarsa dispatched his soldiers across their sector over the next few days.

"I wanted our guys to be on the ground, to look people in the eye, to listen to their anguish, listen to their outrage, to let them know we're going to help those people personally affected," Tarsa said.

"I was concerned about acts of vengeance and misinformation somehow indicating we were part of this event," he said. Tarsa spoke with community and tribal leaders.

"It was a very tense 24 hours," said Maj. David Shoupe, the battalion spokesman. "We didn't know which way it was going to go."

Blackwater quit the International Peace Operations Association, a lobbying and public-relations firm for private military companies, effective Oct. 10th. Blackwater stated that it intended to pursue other "other aspects and methods of industry outreach and
The bite in Blackwater's tone got explained today in IPOA's official statement:

In recent weeks, IPOA was actively engaged with senior management at Blackwater USA, both through our Standards Committee and our Executive Committee, to ensure that they were fully compliant with the IPOA Code of Conduct. On October 8, 2007 the IPOA Executive Committee authorized the Standards Committee to initiate an independent review process of Blackwater USA to ascertain whether Blackwater USA's processes and procedures were fully sufficient to ensure compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct.

All IPOA member companies are required to follow the IPOA Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is a set of ethical and professional guidelines for companies in the peace and stability operations industry. The Code stresses human rights, corporate ethics, International Humanitarian Law, transparency, accountability, and responsibility and professionalism in relationships with employees, clients, and partner companies.

Blackwater has scattered the Nisour murderers to the winds inside the US, while CBS reports that the FBI may be neglecting to investigate several of the vehicles targeted in the shootings. The bus which Blackwater shot up is still making it's regular rounds, bullet holes and shattered glass and all, while the white family car of the Iraqi woman doctor and her son still remains on the road to Nisour Square in a grisly monument.

Military analyst Col. (ret.) Steve Lyons told CBS .... there is little chance the US government will meet Iraqi demands either by severing all ties with Blackwater, which is by far the largest and most competent of the many security contractors in Iraq, or by turning over the gunmen responsible for the shooting. Even the Iraqi demand of $8 million in compensation for each of the victims is uncertain.

"These contractors are long gone," Lyons stated. "They're back in the United States. They've scattered, really, to the four winds. ... They're not going to get any money from those individuals."

Condi Rice floated the idea that the State Department's diplomatic security force assign observers to ride along with Blackwater. Presumably, they are supposed to be competent enough to judge Blackwater's conduct and having them join Blackwater will save us money, by allowing Blackwater to continue to replace them. Love the illogic here. State can't seem to end the torrid romance, and plans to hide Blackwater employees on the government payroll:

Under terms of the department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Security contract, which covers privately contracted guards for diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy are the only three companies eligible to bid on specific task orders there.

If Blackwater goes, the slack almost certainly would have to be picked up by one or more other companies, which may require certifying other firms to bid, including non-U.S. ones, the officials said.

Of interest to the department is the possibility of standing up Iraqi companies with Iraqi employees to protect U.S. diplomats as local guards do for embassy staff in other countries, they said. That would bring the guards fully under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law but is not a short-term option given inadequate training facilities.

The Pentagon has been reluctant to provide security for diplomats but another alternative might be joint State-Defense department patrols. Yet another would be hiring Blackwater and other private guards as temporary U.S. government employees, the officials said.

A passenger walked by me at the airport with one of the Blackwater books, which suddenly renewed my faith in democracy. So I brought the subject of Blackwater up at work, us being federal employees engaged in protecting the nation from terrorists and all. One of my coworkers is an Iraqi veteran, who in his tour of duty crossed paths with Blackwater's mercenaries several times. "First off, they're not the shit," commented the reservist Srgt. "Everybody has a 'how Blackwater got ambushed' story, and they're a national shame. Blackwater makes the insurgency look like they are tactically capable. And they are mercenaries. Who does Blackwater answer to but Blackwater?"

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