Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blackwater Blues

Suddenly lots of news about Blackwater and none of it very good.

It seems that the State Department’s Inspector General Howard J. Krongard brother is on the Blackwater board. As it turned out the Inspector General did not know about this. Further, the Inspector General found out about this when he was informed of it in a Congressional hearing. He denied it at first but during a recess actually called his brother and found out the truth. Once he found this out he said he would no longer participate in any investigations about Blackwater.

Here’s part of the story from columnist Dana Milbank of the Post:

At the end of his own opening statement, Krongard responded to Waxman with an off-the-cuff complaint. “One thing just came up that really does bother me, and that was an allegation concerning my brother,” Cookie protested. “I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board.”

[Rep. Elijah] Cummings distributed two documents that the committee had uncovered: a July 26 letter from Blackwater founder Erik Prince inviting Buzzy “to become a member of the Blackwater Worldwide Advisory Board,” and a Sept. 5 e-mail to “thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member.”

“Sir, I dispute that,” Cookie replied with indignation. He argued that “there is nothing in here that suggests that my brother accepted this July 26 invitation.”

Evidently, Cookie overlooked the “thank you for accepting” part.

I laughed out loud over this story. It sounds from the testimony that the IG is a real jerk. I also find it hard to believe that the brother on the Blackwater board would not call up his brother the IG and tell him oh by the way I’m on the Blackwater board.

Now in a couple of news stories there’s a report that indeed the IG’s brother told the IG about being on the board. The Post story ends with this: A family acquaintance, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Krongard brothers for many years have had a tense relationship. Talk about putting the dys in dysfunctional family.

For the straight news story on it from the Post.
And this link to the story in USA Today

Here some additional information on the IG’s actions dealing with Blackwater:

In the case of Blackwater, the Justice Department told the committee that Krongard had resisted helping with a probe of possible gun smuggling by Blackwater into Iraq and had taken steps that had “certainly impacted the investigation.”

The second story deals more directly with Blackwater (I put the story about the IG first because well it is just so funny). The headline from the Post reads: Contractors’ Actions Labeled Unjustified; FBI Probe Continues in Blackwater Case

Now this is preliminary report but it concludes that 14 out of the 17 deaths were unjustified. The story states:

The investigators discovered that some of those who died were attempting to flee and found no evidence supporting Blackwater’s contention that the contractors were fired on and shot back in self-defense. The incident occurred as the guards tried to stop traffic at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square to allow an expected U.S. diplomatic convoy to pass.

This is what America gets when it hires mercenaries. More to the point hires mercenaries who have little or no supervision. Who are told they cannot be prosecuted for their actions in Iraq. I’m not saying that these private security firms are not necessary to protect diplomats. This is especially true if the American military is stretch so thin.

But once again little or no thought was taken in how these groups would interact with the Iraqi government and people. Also it seems little thought was taken when events like this happen. Also little thought on how to investigate them.

It seems Blackwater has a history of some extremely questionable actions in Iraq. It also seems that these were not thoroughly investigated when they happened. It seems to me that these events, whether justified or not (and I sure some of them were justified), have the potential of undermining our long term goals in Iraq. These events open up the American military to possible reprisals. After all the Blackwater people leave the scene as quickly as possible and leave it to the ordinary soldier to clean up the mess. And that is just wrong.

1 comment:

Arthur Schenck said...

I don't think it was just that the Bush administration didn't plan for or anticipate consequences, but that they didn't care. They brought in Blackwater so that they didn't need to use real troops, which would have meant finding more somewhere (like in a draft?).

Since bringing this private army in, this administration has done everything in its power to shield Blackwater from oversight and consequences, making sure they're exempt from both military and US civil justice. So it wouldn't surprise me if it turns out that they specifically picked an inspector general who would go easy on Blackwater. If they knew about the brother's being part of Blackwater, that will eventually come out, too.

Blackwater is dangerous for the precedent it sets and the larger issue of whether America can tolerate a large, well-trained, highly equipped private army run by far right ideologues. Sounds pretty un-American to me.