Crime/Corruption

Truth drowned by Blackwater…

George Bush’s private army Blackwater Security Consulting, the firm contracted with providing security services to civilian contractors in Iraq (among other services) is showing its admiration of Dick “Keep what you’re doing secret at any cost” Cheney:

The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men’s estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Following these gruesome deaths which were broadcast on worldwide television, the surviving family members looked to Blackwater for answers as to how and why their loved ones died. Blackwater not only refused to give the grieving families any information, but also callously stated that they would need to sue Blackwater to get it. Left with no alternative, in January 2005, the families filed suit against Blackwater, which is owned by the wealthy and politically-connected Erik Prince.

What we have here is a company operating in a war zone in a paramilitary capacity in ways that it doesn’t want to divulge – even to the families of those killed working for said company. As my previous post on this private army private security firm explains, Blackwater has been able to operate without any real controls on its actions – or their consequences. As Jeremy Scahill noted in an interview:

The mercenary industry loves the current state of affairs because it’s totally unenforced. On paper, yes, there’s a law that governs contractors in Iraq. In reality, only one contractor has been indicted for any crime or violation in Iraq. Either we have 100,000 saints running around as contractors in Iraq, or something is very rotten. I happen to think that something is very rotten.

So when the families of these horribly killed “consultants” sued to get an explanation of what happened to their loved ones from their employer (seems a reasonable desire – to know why and how your loved one died), Blackwater got tough and trotted out some heavy hitters to defend itself from having to provide any information:

It initially hired Fred F. Fielding, who is currently counsel to the President of the United States. It then hired Joseph E. Schmitz as its in-house counsel, who was formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon. More recently, Blackwater employed Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, to oppose the families. To add additional muscle, Blackwater hired Cofer Black, who was the Director of the CIA Counter- Terrorist Center. (Note the names in bold.)

Why would Blackwater take such a clearly bullying and punitive action against families who only wanted to know the truth about how and why their loved ones died? One word – secrecy:

After filing its suit against the dead men’s estates, Blackwater demanded that its claim and the families’ existing lawsuit be handled in a private arbitration. By suing the families in arbitration, Blackwater has attempted to move the examination of their wrongful conduct outside of the eye of the public and away from a jury.

Why the need for such secrecy? What is it that Blackwater has to hide? Here’s a suggestion:

The families claim that Blackwater is attempting to cover up its incompetence, its cutting of corners in favor of higher profits, and its over billing to the government. Due to lack of accountability and oversight, Blackwater’s private army has been able to obtain huge profits from the government, utilizing contacts established through Erik Prince’s relationships with high-ranking government officials such as Cofer Black and Joseph Schmitz. (Any similarity between the names in bold here and those in bold above is purely intentional.)

This, of course, leads us back to where we started – to the real object of Blackwater’s attacks:

By filing suit, Blackwater is trying to wipe out the families’ ability to discover the truth about Blackwater’s involvement in the deaths of these four Americans and to silence them from any public comment. In February, the families testified before Congress.

However, Blackwater’s lawsuit now seeks to gag the family members from even speaking about the incident or about Blackwater’s involvement in the deaths. This is a direct attack to their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

So even as they profiteer on the Iraq War, Blackwater has opened a second front here in the United States – on free speech and truth. And why?

Blackwater has spent millions of dollars and hired at least five different law firms to fight the families, rather than meeting and addressing what should be Blackwater’s top priority — the safety and well being of the mothers, wives, and children left behind. Blackwater has said that it will not pay one red cent to assist or console the surviving families, but instead has counter sued for $10 million.

As always, it’s just about $#@#$ money….

30 replies »

  1. Jim,

    I saw this over the weekend and wanted to get to it, but you did it better than I could’ve.

    It’s astonishing and horrific to see the end result of the marriage between Dominionist evangelical politics and corporatist business mentality–a private army that cares nothing about the welfare of its fallen and actively seeks to crush all those who would have supported it, simply for the crime of not being loyal and unquestioning enough.

    If there is such a thing as pure evil, its face would probably look very much like the opaque, plexiglass helmets Blackwater’s stormtroopers wear. And its boot is poised to stamp on a human face forever…

  2. We’re back to mercantilism, where the “king” and his cronies run the economy with no-bid contracts. Armies, complete with reinvented privateers bearing de facto “letters of marque and reprisal,” merely exit to enforce contracts “you cannot [dare not] refuse.” It is the marketplace at the point of a gun!

  3. Sam,

    Given that Blackwater’s CEO is a psychopathically right-wing Bush supporter, I doubt many Dems are getting slop from that trough. I would probably chalk it up to simple cowardice or ignorance of the issue, and that’s something we can correct.

  4. Yeah, but they have to be aware of it, right? So why aren’t we hearing even a peep about the threat it poses or maybe a promise to fix the problem if elected?

    Certain kinds of silence make me nervous.

  5. Of course it is about $$$. That’s capitalism!

    These are standard legal maneuvers. When our little town sued a local “cattle rest stop” because of the smell of manure and dead cows, each person in the class action was countersued for millions. (We won, however.) In my opinion, this company’s behavior is also evidence of their idea of Christianity. (Fruit of the tree, if you will.)

    Chapters 5 and 6 of the book “Blackwater” lead me to believe that these men were sent out by an individual who had an axe to grind with one of the men. I don’t know how the families can prove it though.

    I don’t know how I feel about private mercenaries. I can see their value against terrorists (who don’t wear uniforms and operate covertly) or providing security for the reconstruction in Iraq, but their lack of accountability is scarey.

    Sam, you’ve been listening to Rush too long. The countersuit was filed six months ago. Apparently, this is just now hitting the media, probably a result of the book. If what this company is doing is being hidden, then how would the Dems know about it? Besides, they are trying to get at the head of the snake!

    Good one jarjar!

  6. barb,
    your fence sitting maybe over sooner than you think. why don’t you ask the people of New Orleans how they felt about having their guns confiscated?

  7. Mercenaries are a very, very bad idea. Machiavelli speaks out against mercenaries, you know:

    Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe;

    And the truth of these statements against mercenaries is proven by Blackwater.

    For all the many historical examples Machiavelli gives for why mercenaries suck, check out Chapter 12 of The Prince online

  8. Brian,

    That’s one for the ages. When MACHIAVELLI–the guy who literally wrote the book on how to be ruthless–thinks your idea sucks, it’s time to throw in the towel. 🙂

  9. The only mercenary forces I support are the fictional one of The Magnificent Seven and the now non existent non-fictional Samurai of Japan (T Mag Seven was based on Seven Samurai).

    Mercenary Forces as they are in today’s society are not something I endorse or applaud. I support the established Military and if they do not have the manpower…then the Government should be looking to the people to do their service and carry arms for a time.

    If the National Military is made up of everyone’s brother, sister, son, daughter, father and mother there is a better chance that a government cannot get the support of the people to endorse any war they decide to wage…

    In Britain we still have a pretty good Military…but for how much longer? Increasingly they are using a ‘private army’ to assist in operations.

  10. Fence sitting, maybe. I have only just learned about this myself and I prefer to get educated by more than one source before forming opinions. Hence my post. Everyone’s points are well taken and speak to my heart.

    The problem I see with established military is that they are at the mercy of the decisions made by their commander(s). History is full of kings, emperors and CoCs who lead with less than honorable intentions.

    Soldiers in uniform are much like the British soldiers who America’s militias fought against in the Revolutionary War. The British soldiers wore red suits with a big white X and the militias were locals and blended in with the population. See the similiarity to what is happening in Iraq? Something tells me we need to make some changes with our approach to this “war on terrorism”. The terrorists don’t play by the rules and yet our military must.

    I think Machiavelli got one thing wrong: “They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe;” Today’s mercenaries require war. There must be a market for their services so they can make $$$. There will never be peace or they will go broke.

    Learning about Blackwater being in New Orleans was eye opening. Had our National Guard and Reserves not been in Iraq there would have been no need for Blackwater to be there. I was in New Orleans relatively soon after Katrina and while I saw ICE and those I thought were Blackwater, they acted no different than police would. (My observation not defense.) There were areas that we were told not to enter or enter at your own risk because of gang activity. Frankly, I bought it.

  11. :0)

    Every culture/country in the entire world feeds into America…

    My ex-husband now works for the US Military as a civilian and is a USA national. He is half Belgian (Belgian Mother), was raised as a full Brit in England and will now spend his final years as a US citizen.

    Two of my children will be taking US citizenship.

    It seems to me that it would be a wise decision on my part to take an interest in what my offspring are ‘buying’ into…

  12. …and he received the M.B.E for his services before finally leaving as a Lt. Col.

    Having lived and breathed a military existence for 12 years and mixed with US Military personnel as well as other European and Rest of World Forces I am glad to say that American, Canadian, Australian and British forces remain the best in the world. Full stop.

  13. It is really hard to feel badly for the dead contractors themselves. they knoew what they were getting into, and if they did not, then they were worse than stupid and corrupt. The families are another story, though. They deserve to know the facts. They are innocent. They did not make the final decision to go to iraq. Their foolish/greedy/financially desperate and not too bright family members did.
    Yes. Blackwater needs to be taken down, and the executives charged with treason.

  14. Eric, the Prince of Darkness, is Commander in cheif for the Christian Talibans army. Any one who sells his soul to this evil abomination deserves everything they get and ones actions have allways affected ones family, most especially during dark ages. The bodies of Hessian mercenaries were dragged through the streets of New York in 1777. If you play with Satan you are going to get burned.

  15. I think Blackwood is less mercenaries than freebooters. Erik “Hawkwood” Prince makes his merry millions by extorting them from the government mcuh the way Hawkwood did from the cities of Italy.

    That being said, if the US pulls out of Iraq and the “companies” are no longer needed, you can gurantee that small scale wars will sudddenly escalate around the globe as dictators with money will hire Blackwood directly or those they have trained.

    It is simply history repeating itself.

  16. On the now-cancelled CBS series, “Jericho,” the U.S. is devastated by several nuclear bombs in a terrorist plot. In the aftermath FEMA sends a group of mercenaries working for a fictitious Ravenwood company. They find themselves trying to move critically ill patients from a hospital to a joke of a refugee camp. When the doctors argue with them the mercs snap, resulting in a massacre of everyone in the hospital without a gun. The mercs then become outlaws looting for their own benefit in the absence of law and order. When the armed townspeople of Jericho prevent them from entering, the merc leader gives the sour grapes: “You know, sometime the government is going to reorganize this area, and you know who they’ll send? Someone like me.”

  17. If there has to be a mercenary then there is none better than dear Yul (RIP):

    “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”

  18. “Let the idiots burn the world up, and then let it be reborn from those same ashes (as if a phoenix) pure and sane into the age of aquarius .”

  19. “…That for destruction ICE is also great and will suffice.” Intent may not control, but it always defines–and real history is written by those who are neither winners nor losers in the chronicle. What will history write of these times in the USA? “Pre-emptive strike”? Wasn’t Pearl Harbor a “Pre-emptive strike”? Wasn’t 9/11 a “Pre-emptive strike”? Ah, we must admire the Japanese and the Saudis, do we not? And what of treason? Dare we whisper whilst those wearing boots yell? Yes. We dare. While we sew our common flag. It’s called “citizenship”. Slaves cannot, by definition, be citizens, and the modern underground railroad is digital. Make America safe. Carry a video camera (cell phone). Voice your opinion…vote digital.

  20. This story is outrageous, and everyone’s heart goes out to the families. But Callahan and Miles (the guys pushing the linked story) are trying to take you to the cleaners. These guys are California personal injury lawyers who took the case on a contingency–the families aren’t paying lawyer bills! Even if they were, it says right in the fine print of their press release (and in the court documents themselves) that the claims are against the lawyer running the estates and against the estates–the families aren’t even parties to the case!! These are mega-rich lawyers, who brag on their website about one case alone where they won almost a BILLION dollars (http://www.callahan-law.com/victories.php?select=26). They are just trying to get you to give them money out of sympathy for the poor families and/or hatred of Bush and his cronies. Blackwater needs to be exposed, but Congress is the place to do it. Here’s what I propose: If you check out the facts (not blogs!) on this and you believe the families are paying lawyer bills, donate your heart out. BUT, if you see that these two yayhoos are just trying to line their pockets and get MORE rich off your nickel, do this: make a donation so the families know you support ’em, but make it only a penny. Enough one cent donations, and these ambulance chasers will get the message that they are no better than Blackwater.

  21. Good on you for not blindly accepting naked assertions and undocumented opinions of others. Here is a site with lots of links to info on Katrina: http://www.psc-looking-glass.blogspot.com/. Don’t just read it, though, keep digging and thinking critically about whatever anyone tells you about this issue, be they screaming “mercenary fascists” or “traitorous cowards.”

  22. In the interest of toning down the paranoia a bit,
    yes the story of these families is tragic. Well, so is the war. What can we do to get the the war stopped?

    Does anyone know what are the rights bestowed upon employees of Blackwater? In other words, are they subservient more to military or to civilian law? Can a Blackwater soldier be quartered in my house without my permission? Are they guilty until proven innocent? etc..

  23. Thanks, Hey Barb, it is worth the read.

    Ghost, I believe the question of who they answer to has been the topic of some debate in Congress and recently someone stuck something in a bill (the recent funding bill?) late at night to bring Blackwater under some oversight. Perhaps someone else can give us specifics. Those are all good questions.

    I suspect that should martial law be declared in the future and Blackwater hired by the government that they could be quartered in your house without permission…much the same as I’m sure our military could be. Which makes Ghost’s question about which laws they fall under, military or civilian, ever so relevant.

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