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September 18, 2007


But doesn't the flex of Iraqi muscle in this direction, at the very least send a rippling message across the world? It makes it clear to the world exactly what our intentions are, it publicizes Blackwater, it forces us to make a recommitment to the mission, so to speak, in a more public way? Even the name makes it's mission obvious. (just as Bush is saying he'll be withdrawing troops) I think at the least it's an interesting juxtaposition and we are better for the discussion. Many americans do not understand what it is and what it does there.

It may not accomplish much in the short term but may generate discussion that lends itself to a solution in the long run.

The U.S. never got a license, or even an invitation, to invade Iraq but what the heck. What is true for Blackwater must be true for the U.S: "The Iraqi government has zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater. For starters, Blackwater has a bigger air force and more armored vehicles then the Iraqi Army and police put together."

Some sovereign nation Bush created.

A link on Crooks and Liars sent me to this Scahill guy, who seems to be the progressive Blackwater guru: he wrote the book, testified before congress in May, talks about the "shadow war." Scahill seems like a strong player on our side of the line. As always, it's a big festering pile of violence, lies, and corruption, straight out of the Cheney-Rumsfeld imperial playbook.

Talk about cooking the books, twisting the facts, and our new bestest buddy Big Ed's back-to-school Petraeus stagecraft: not a lot of numbers about private contractors in the Petraeus report. But apparently Petraeus has used Blackwater for his own security at times. We know about the surge numbers and the withdrawl headfake, but it seems very difficult to get a handle on the exact number of USA mercenaries, not to mention the truck drivers and other privatized/subsidized American gold-seekers.

Bushco's Septemberfest was pathetic from the beginning, but after his charming Anbar sheikh buddy was killed and now that Blackwater crossed way over the line--and you know Blackwater has to do something a lot worse than just run-of-the-mill immunized murder to draw any attention--it's not going quite as well as they might have been thinking around the middle of last week.

Blackwater and privatization are a huge mess of muck. They're apparently rolling out a marketing campaign to large corporations now. Like, say, companies that sell banannas.

The question I would have liked to ask Petraeus," When can we withdraw all the arms carrying contractors? My understanding that we have more contractors carrying arms in Iraq than we have uniformed soldiers."

Of course there are other questions I'd have liked to ask as well, " Have you any idea where those 200,000 weapons which have disappeared, and have you or anyone under your command seen them? " "Has your command been able to satisfy any of the GAO's accounting recommendations? And what steps has your command been taking in that direction? " "Have any of the contractors under your command had anything to do with the death squads?" "What was the thinking behind arming the Sunnis?"

Guess we will be able to ask those questions in Magical Marvelous March.

I tend to disagree with Larry Johnson here. He's assuming that the Iraqi government is going to go after Blackwater in the reality-based universe. It's already obvious that they're not. They seem quite happy to play by Bushworld rules. So they're withdrawing Blackwater's license to stay in Iraq. Bush has very few good options for a response. If he ignores the whole thing and lets Blackwater stay, the Iraqis can huff and puff about interfering with their sovereignty. If he points out that Blackwater never had a license to begin with, the Iraqis can counter by saying that Blackwater never filled out the appropriate paperwork, so they never should have even been in the country to begin with, and now they REALLY need to leave. If he says that none of the other mercenary groups have licenses to be in Iraq, the Iraqis can counter with, "There are OTHER mercenary groups in Iraq?!" This is a PR play by the Iraqis, and it seems like a pretty good one to me.

so if I were to organize a buyout of blackwater corporation, would I also be buying Iraq in the bargain ???

I'm having trouble working out george bush's definition of a "Soverign" nation

I'm pretty sure it has something to do with being a wholly owned subsidiary of blackwater corp, right ???

so you all be careful, or george just might make a "Soverign" nation out of y'all

then john mccain can get blackwater corporation to kick y'all out of this country, along with moveon.org and anybody else who questions the dear leader

is there anybody out there over the age of 40 who ever suspected America could get this fucked up ???

EW - If you haven't seen this, check it out re:USAs:
Of course, with little to no funding for all the work necessitated by the Bushies, OSC probably won't be able to go very far here either.


With teh added benefit, of course, that it's happening against the background of the Iran warmongering, and amidst discussions about our goals and legitimacy in the first place.

Iraq may not be able to kick out Blackwater. But if they can continue to get press about this, they can delegitimize the occupation.

EW--Hmmm. I hadn't considered the Iran angle. To be honest, I'm not really following the Iran chest-thumping all that much. I tend to think that Iran is just a useful boogieman as opposed to a true target. I think that if Darth Cheney had really wanted to bomb the shit out of Iran, he would have done it already.

Additionally, let's suppose Maliki wants to float a trial balloon within the warring Iraqi factions to test their ability to unify for a common cause?

He might just come out of that meeting with all the parties shaking their heads and saying in unison: "The Contractors must go - we've all decided."

How much trouble would Maliki have selling his fellow Iraqis, and the world, that Blackwater is the Ameri-Qaeda in Iraq?

A legitimate govt of Iraq would be free to change rules made by its predecessor govt(s), just as ours does, notwithstanding Bremer, et al's, moves to set in concrete rules that prohibit exactly that. (The draft oil law prohibiting nationalization and requiring very foreigner friendly RSAs, the attempt to insulate all contractors from local jurisdiction.) Those actions by the US are, by definition, the actions of an imperial power.

More important to the US are the questions Waxman's hearings should delve into. Just how much have we privatized military and non-military aspects of our armed services? To whom? At what direct and indirect costs in money and ability to act independently of the whims of any outside contractor? And oh, by the way, what do we do with a large, private, standing army and air force on US soil? The Founding Fathers feared a publicly financed one; what would they think of a private one in the hands of a religious and political wingnut?

Juan Cole says there is indeed a license for Blackwater to operate in Iraq, as I reported in a diary at dKos http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/9/18/114743/922

Hi, Mark.

Security companies working in Iraq do have to be licensed by the Iraqi government. Licensing was introduced by Paul Bremer.

I saw one report that suggested that Blackwater's license actually had just expired, though perhaps it was pursuing renewal. In any case, al-Maliki cannot survive in the Iraqi parliament if he lets American cowboys just shoot up downtown Baghdad at will. So of course he pulled the license.

cheers Juan


By the way, it wasn't just any gun that the helicopter was shooting with - it was a *minigun*, a 100 round-per-second firehose of death. See it in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLelyV4G-rI

I disagree with the existance of companies like Blackwater period. To carry a gun in a foriegn land one should be a member of the US Armed forces, it there aren't enough soldiers there should be a draft, and if the people won't support a draft, there should be no war. It's pretty simple, but the corporstocracy has shunted the system.

And no, Free, I never figured we could get this fucked up. Did we use mercs during Veitnam?

And while we are definately f-ed up at the moment. I can deal with it, but man people, the next step in that direction is a doozie.

Bones appear to be growing in Maliki, perhaps it will spread to other lawmakers, or puppets

It's my understanding that we did use some mercs during the vietnam war. I think however this is the first time that such an operation has been publicized and my guess is that's its the largest operation of it's kind.

Even the name "blackwater" is so, not weapons of mass destruction, save the world!! It's just so clear why we are there. Gee, I wonder what blackwater refers to?

But the sad part is that the american people oppose the war, they now accept that we went into Iraq for business reasons (not safety) and that corporate america is choosing to save it's investments instead of creating new investment ventures that would lead our country into a new era. (too risky, makes much more sense to get control of the oil cartel in any means necessary and then drain every last dime out of it before we are forced to change paths. Save those rich folks some bucks and some risk in choosing paths.) But regardless of how the american people feel, corporate america has it's hand around our throats and in 6 very short years has more control over our democracy than "we the people". It will take years for us to wrestle it back into the hands of the people, if we are ever able to get it back.

Socialism...we must accept that unchecked capitalism is as dangerous as unchecked socialism. We need to seek a balance, and stop allowing discussions that treat one as good and the other bad. Both are needed and both need regulations.

We didn't exactly use mercs in Vietnam -- we used to hire compliant dictators. See Korea.

No, I didn't think we would be this fucked up. Silly me; the signs were there.

It would be too long for a comment here, but I believe, in essence, really the only issue is what Larry has as his second issue.

zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater

From a legal standpoint, technically - I think Iraq may have better footing that the US newspapers that reference CPA Order 17. If you buy CPA Order 17 grants immunity, now, then you would have to also buy that, whatever Iraqi licensing laws there are, Contractors are exempted. That exemption, though, to be specific would be because of the CPA Order, and NOT (repeat NOT) because the Contractors have a contract with the State Department.

Standard rule of law - you have to be authorized to do business where you are doing business. So, for example, a US company cannot enter into a contract here in the US with the State Dept to provide donuts and coffee on a daily basis in France, and then pretend French law re: visas for their workers, licensing, tax, registration, etc. just don't apply to them because they are only working IN France, but not FOR the French. People run into this all the time in the US for that matter - if you do business in more than one state, you have to register in each.

So the same CPA Order that provides for immunity waives application of licensing and the question really seems to be - what about that Order? I'm not the best googler, don't have Lexis/Nexus or an international database, etc. but for the life of me I can't find where the US (or the now defunct CPA, or the MNF -multinational force) has a separate SOFA (Status of Force Agreement) agreement with the Constitutionally elected Iraqi government.

There certainly was talk early on and references to trying to get SOFAs in place - but I can't find where they actually were ever put in place (and that may just be my poor online research skills) Here's an old article that sketches out some of the issues that would typically apply - but/for the "validity" of the CPA Order.


I find lots of references to discussions about Iraq SOFAs, but none where any were actually adopted. Instead, there was a backdoor approach whereby the CPA tried to say in its order that it stayed in effect until revoked then the CPA, right before it was dissolved, got a "Transitional Administrative Law" put in place for use by the "interim government" that the US installed pending the adoption of the COnstitution and elections.

That Transitional law specifically adopted and continued CPA orders - - - but that Transitional law was anulled and voided by the later adopted Constitution.

Of course, there were lots of issues anyway with respect to whether the CPA even had authority to operate as a government to make that kind of a unilateral "order."

I may have missed things, but there is a careful line of adopting all pre-existing Kurdish laws and decisions under the IRaqi Constitution - not so much the CPA orders.

And keep in mind, a SOFA was one of the very specific items that sent Khomeini rabid in Iran.

In 1964, the signing of a SOFA agreement between the United States and Iran granting legal immunity to U.S. personnel and (unusually) their dependents, produced a harsh anti-American backlash. Incensed, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned the agreement -- acidly noting that the SOFA granted an American dog in Iran more rights than an Iranian citizen -- and attacked the shah and the United States, leading to his exile to Iraq. This was a key event in Khomeini's rise to prominence and power, which he frequently recalled following his return to Iran in 1979, and it is not hard to imagine some Iraqi ayatollah or populist politician likewise using the issue of immunities granted in a standard SOFA to discredit establishment politicians and gain political advantage.

It sure looks to me like the Bush administration has chosen to just forget the problem stuff and diplomatic stuff and legal stuff and just rely on the CPA Order 17 window dressing.

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.

The United States would draw legal authority from Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law and the recent U.N. resolution recognizing the new government and approving a multinational force, but some U.S. officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity, U.S. officials said.

The administration is taking the step in an effort to prevent the new Iraqi government from having to grant a blanket waiver as one of its first acts, which could undermine its credibility just as it assumes power. But U.S. officials said Washington's act could also create the impression that the United States is not turning over full sovereignty -- and giving itself special privileges.

So IF a SOFA took the place of CPA Order 17 - I don't find it and no current Blackwater stories seem to mention it. And that Transitional Law - it's gone now.

Later times

This article on Blackwater's "little bird" helicopters, is worth reading. Taking on Blackwater in this way, in response to an incident involving a helicopter firing on civilians, could also be viewed as a way to demoralize the US troops.

this looks like "well, if you don't remove Blackwater, then all the rest of the contractors will suffer serious scrutiny."

It may be their only available ploy. About the only factor that might get Blackwater boosted would be if the rest of the contractors are somehow threatened. They are using the bullies against the bullies.

Whether the other contractors who are being drawn into this will react tghis way, who can guess. But it does seem as if the stakes got raised by the Iraqi government, to include ALL contractors.

On the NewsHour tonight: HIRED GUNS
Judy Woodruff reports on security contractors in Iraq after one firm was implicated in the fatal shooting of Iraqi civilians over the weekend. Then, Woodruff speaks with guests including: Jeremy Scahill, a writer for The Nation magazine and the radio program Democracy Now, as well as author of “Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”; and, Doug Brooks, founder and president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade organization for military services companies.

freepatriot asks, "is there anybody out there over the age of 40 who ever suspected America could get this fucked up ???"

Yes, I have worried about this, off and on, since 1971 (I was 11 years old). I relaxed a bit during the Carter administration, had a small brush with the mini-police state under Reagan during Iran-Contra, and worried about the long slow decline of civil liberties under Bush I and Clinton I. Since 9/11, I've watched my country stagger like a drunk towards a seemingly inevitable authoritarian dictatorship. I fully expect to be indefinitely detained for exercising my First Amendment rights at some point in the future. Until that happens, I will oppose rulers of darkness in this world as best I can with the freedom that remains.

No, I was naive. I too was 11 in '71.

Wo and Neil:

Ah, youngsters ....
I remember wondering what we were doing in Vietnam in 1965 or 1966, when I was in HS and they'd just changed figureheads in their government - I can't remember if it was assassination or just no confidence.

Then there was Watergate - it was stinky from the beginning. (I was raised with 'Nixon is a crook', by parents who remembered Gahagan, and I remembered not only 1960, but also 1962 and his losing run for governor.)

Hmmm. 1971. I remember the dress my great-Aunt Anastasia gave me for my birthday (my 3rd) and I remember asking my mother what those American soldiers were doing in Cambodia.

And I remember, vividly, getting lost in the corn field when we went to pick our own corn one day.

In 1971, I was ten. I don't remember anything except having complete horror as I watched the t.v and they would announce the war dead. It made me sick then and it makes me sick today. I really thought (naively) that my country would avoid making the mistake of starting a senseless war and my hope was that the only war we would ever see would be one that was "inevitable".

We are approaching "corn maize" season here in nebraska. It's hard not to think of Children of the Corn. I guess Stephen King came up with the story idea while traveling our interstate 80 on his way to the college world series...years ago. Scary.

Plus there is just nothing more frustrating. I've been lost in a corn field more than once. (when you live in the country that's where you go to do your underage drinking.) Which may explain my reluctance to take my children through the corn maizes. Going to the bathroom can be down right dangerous. It's weird when you can hear your friends but you can't find them.

I also used to think it would be romantic to make love in a wheat field. It may have been beautiful under a harvest moon, but once I got up close, it just wasn't the soft bed I thought it would be. Not even close.

if i were Iraq, i would line up all of the dirty rotten filthy scum mercenaries and gun 'em all down.

blackwater and its ilk are pure evil filthy scum.

Iraqi Report Says Blackwater Guards Fired First


A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.

The report, by the Ministry of Interior, was presented to the Iraqi cabinet and, though unverified, seemed to contradict an account offered by Blackwater USA that the guards were responding to gunfire by militants. The report said Blackwater helicopters had also fired. The Ministry of Defense said 20 Iraqis had been killed, a far higher number than had been reported before.

(big h/t to Scott Horton for reminding me of this timely instruction)

and further, it is part [of the nature of tyranny] to strive to see that all the affairs of the tyrant are secret, but that nothing is kept hidden of what any subject says or does, rather everywhere he will be spied upon…. Also it is part of these tyrannical measures to impoverish the nation so as to bolster the funds available for military defense, and so that the common citizens will be occupied with earning their livelihood and will have neither leisure nor opportunity to engage in conspiratorial acts…. Thus, the tyrant is inclined constantly to foment wars in order to preserve his own monopoly of power.

–Aristotle, Politics bk v, xi (350 BCE)

If I had to bet on a fight between Blackwater and the Iraqi Government, I would bet on Blackwater.

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