Blackwater Is One Of Many

Blackwater is just one more than 150 so-called private security firms, or more accurately, mercenaries for hire, like Crescent Security and Triple Canopy, employing more than 80,000 personnel in Iraq. Many of them are being paid as much as $20,000 a month and are former military people. Some are there for the quick money and others are there because they are the sort of people who like the idea of being allowed to carry guns and shoot people whenever they feel like it.

Early on the in the conflict, they formed the Private Security Company Association of Iraq and were allowed to write their own law, known as Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, basically giving themselves permission to kill anyone, anytime at any place if the "felt a threat" and exempting themselves from laws of the US, Iraq and the military.

In his recently published book, Big Boy Rules, author Stephen Fainru tells some amazing stories about men like Jake Washbourne of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma who was known to begin his work day with the declaration, "I wanna kill somebody today." While many of the mercenary companies were reckless, Blackwater is known to be the worst. Fainaru writes about interviewing an American infantry major, Bob Bateman, who was in an unmarked sedan driving through Baghdad one day when he came upon a crowded intersection just as a convoy of Blackwater vehicles approached from another direction. Major Bateman feared for his own life as the gunmen in the Blackwater Suburbans and Expeditions, opened fire just to clear the intersection so they could drive through. Sound familiar? Sorta like the case for which a few former Blackwater mercenaries are now facing manslaughter charges, huh?

Unfortunately, that trial may not get very far because the aforementioned CPA Order 17 was adopted as the law of the land. As Fainru mentions on pg. 136, to charge the State Dept's mercenaries with a crime would require the application of an obscure civilian contractor law, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) which has never been tested, practically or legally.

In today's news, you'll see that defense lawyers will be contending MEJA applies only to civilians work for the Dept. of Defense. Since it is the State Department that is paying the Blackwater mercenaries, they may not be subject to the MEJA provisions.

By 2007, the military had brought charges against dozens of soldiers, including 64 for murder. Not a single case has been brought against one of these mercenaries.

The bottom line is that most Americans have no idea what is going on in Iraq - how our government has turned it into a mercenry war and the mercenaries, through their reckless disregard for law and life, have destroyed any hope we might ever have had of developing trust and friendship with the people of Iraq.

The Iraqi people don't distinguish between the lawless mercenaries and the military personnel. To them, they're all just Americans. Thanks to our State Department's willingness to hire civilian gunslingers and grant them immunity, any diplomatic efforts to gain trust, respect, etc. from the people of Iraq are pretty laughable.

I hope the new administration can make some strides toward repairing the damage that has been done over the last few years. It will not be an easy task.

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