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 itâ€™s totally unenforced. On paper, yes, thereâ€™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….