Lots of people were reporting yesterday that Blackwater’s license was being revoked in Iraq.
Blackwater is a para-military / mercenary / security group, run by a former US Navy Seal, and based in Blackwater, North Carolina (from which it draws it’s name – the ominous ring is purely coincidental).
From the AP article:
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government said Monday that it was revoking the license of an American security firm accused of involvement in the deaths of eight civilians in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade.
Tens of thousands of foreign private security contractors work in Iraq — some with automatic weapons, body armor, helicopters and bulletproof vehicles — to provide protection for Westerners and dignitaries in Iraq as the country has plummeted toward anarchy and civil war.
Many of the contractors have been accused of indiscriminately firing at American and Iraqi troops, and of shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens who got too close to their heavily armed convoys, but none has faced charges or prosecution.
I did a bit of research on mercenary groups when I was writing Silver Age Sentinels, and have come back to that research when working on a few of the villain groups for City of Heroes. At that time I was primarily reading about Sandline International and Executive Outcomes (which is basically defunct, and/or morphed into a new beast).
They are fascinating and scary, and stories of paramilitary groups now hit closer to home as they are so heavily integrated into US activities. We’re no longer talking about Latin American dirty wars or “protecting” diamond mines in Sierra Leone…Blackwater guys were prominent in Katrina’s flooding of New Orleans, fer chrissakes.
Blackwater (and similar groups) have taken up a lot of the responsibilities normally thought of as for the US army.
The wartime numbers of private guards are unprecedented — as are their duties, many of which have traditionally been done by soldiers. They protect U.S. military operations and diplomats and have guarded high-ranking officials including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad.
They also protect journalists, visiting foreign officials and thousands of construction projects.
Blackwater has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and at least $800 million in government contracts. It is one of the most high-profile security firms in Iraq, with its fleet of “Little Bird” helicopters and armed door gunners swarming Baghdad and beyond.
It amazes me that high ranking army officers – like Gen. Petraeus – are bodyguarded by an independent firm (!!!). I mean, I’d guess that most of the Blackwater guys (at least those involved in a mission like this) are former US military, but c’mon, why can’t the US army protect its own guys, exactly?
Will Blackwater be thrown out of Iraq? Not really my focus, but a lot of people don’t think so. Pundits suggest they are too essential to the US mission, and thus either nothing will actually happen or perhaps a light slap on the wrist. We’ll see.
In the meantime, one of these days I need to pick up Jeremy Scahill’s book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.