Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘mercenaries

If you want incompetence, you have to reward it

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And the Bush Administration does:

Spencer Ackerman reports that the State Department has quietly given bonuses for “outstanding performance” to two officials who had “direct oversight” over Blackwater:

On November 20, an internal cable, listed as State 158575, went out to State employees announcing the recipients of bonuses ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 for “outstanding performance.” Among them: Kevin Barry and Justine Sincavage. You can read the cable here. Barry’s name is listed on page 2, and Sincavage’s is on page 5. Both Barry and Sincavage already earn approximately $150,000 annually. Their bonuses are scheduled to take effect on December 20, in time for the holidays.

In October, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also promoted Barry and Sincavage.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 3:09 pm

Murder 17 people, with immunity

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Nice. The Bush Administration has already promised Blackwater that the men who shot down the 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians will not face trial or punishment:

The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month’s deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

“Once you give immunity, you can’t take it away,” said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

State Department officials declined to confirm or deny that immunity had been granted. One official, who refused to be quoted by name, said: “If, in fact, such a decision was made, it was done without any input or authorization from any senior State Department official in Washington.”

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Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2007 at 4:22 pm

The Bush style

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From Dan Froomkin today:

In the wake of last month’s shooting of 17 civilians by Blackwater gunmen in Baghdad, the Bush administration is finally acknowledging — more than four years late — that private security contractors in Iraq should operate under the law.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted to Congress that the State Department had inadequately supervised those contractors. As Karen DeYoung wrote in Friday’s Washington Post, “Pressed to express regret for what Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) called “the failures of your department, your failures,” Rice said, “I certainly regret that we did not have the kind of oversight that I would have insisted upon.”

Rice agreed that “there is a hole” in U.S. law that has prevented prosecution of contractors.

But did we really need an apparent massacre to point out this giant loophole and its perils?

As it happens, President Bush has been aware of the hole for some time — and deserves some of the blame for not fixing it earlier. Confronted about it in public more than a year ago, Bush literally laughed off the question — and then, tellingly, described his response as a case study in how he does his job.

The setting was a question-and-answer session after Bush spoke at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in April of 2006. (Here’s a video clip.)

One student, a first-year in South Asia studies, told the president: “My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

Bush: “I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)”

Student: “I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against — over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?”

Bush: “I appreciate that very much. I wasn’t kidding — (laughter.) I was going to — I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I’ve got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation — I don’t mean to be dodging the question, although it’s kind of convenient in this case, but never — (laughter.) I really will — I’m going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That’s how I work. I’m — thanks. (Laughter.)”

He’s the Decider. That’s why he gets the big bucks.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2007 at 2:49 pm

Who started the mercenary push?

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Oddly enough, it turns out that one man can be identified as the prime mover into the US hiring mercenaries and setting them loose in a war zone: Mike McConnell. Frank Viviano of CBS reports:

Where does the buck stop? It’s a question that Washington has ignored through a long succession of scandals in Iraq, while senior officials plead ignorance and the buck – responsibility – skids to a halt at grunt level.

It is the question we ought be asking today about the widespread and controversial use of mercenaries, known formally as “private contractors,” in war zones. And it should be directed squarely at Admiral J. “Mike” McConnell, the Bush Administration’s Director of National Intelligence.

Admiral McConnell is not simply the boss of sixteen separate U.S. intelligence and security agencies. In the netherworld where private security firms and public institutions do business, he was a principal architect of the system that led to the Blackwater USA disaster, with its revelations of trigger-happy hired gunmen shooting innocent civilians in the name of the State Department.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 7:45 am

More Blackwater

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From ThinkProgress (and more at the link, including video clip):

In a memo released today, House Oversight And Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reveals that of the 195 “escalation of force” incidents Blackwater has been involved in since 2005, Blackwater forces fired first in over 160 of them:

According to the Blackwater incident reports received by the Committee, Blackwater personnel have participated in 195 incidents in Iraq from January 1,2005, through September 12, 2007 , that involved firearms discharges by Blackwater personnel. This is an average of 1.4 incidents per week. In 32 of those incidents, Blackwater personnel were returning fire after an attack, while on 163 occasions (84% of the shooting incidents), Blackwater personnel were the first to fire.

Despite the controversy around Blackwater, the Pentagon recently awarded the firm a new contract worth $92 million. Tomorrow, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince will testify before Waxman’s committee tomorrow.

Read more highlights from Waxman’s memo here and here.

UPDATE: The Oversight Committee’s staff also found evidence that the State Department “helped create an environment where Blackwater guards could use deadly force with minimum reprisal.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2007 at 3:49 pm

Can Blackwater look any worse? Can the State Department?

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Condi Rice is running a criminal enterprise, it seems:

Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report to a Congressional committee said today.

The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets.

In one incident, the State Department and Blackwater agreed to pay $15,000 to the family of a man killed by “a drunken Blackwater contractor,” the report said. As a State Department official wrote, “We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2007 at 1:59 pm

Blackwater’s immunity really works

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ThinkProgress:

Earlier this month, Blackwater USA was involved in the fatal shooting of 11 Iraqi civilians. While the Iraqi government swiftly condemned the contractor, the Bush administration has continued to back Blackwater’s story that it was “defensive fire.”

Last Thursday, Gen. Peter Pace told reporters, “Blackwater has been a contractor in the past with the department and could certainly be in the future.” The next day, that future was already here. The Pentagon had issued a new list of contracts, including one worth $92 million to Presidential Airways, the “aviation unit of parent company Blackwater.” From the release:

Presidential Airways, Inc., an aviation Worldwide Services company (d/b/a Blackwater Aviation), Moyock, N.C., is being awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) type contract for $92,000,000.00. The contractor is to provide all fixed-wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger, cargo and combi Short Take-Off and Landing air transportation services between locations in the Area of Responsibility of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. This contract was competitively procured and two timely offers were received. The performance period is from 1 Oct. 2007 to 30 September 2011.

Government officials have repeatedly ignored Blackwater’s transgressions. Senior Iraqi officials “repeatedly complained to U.S. officials” about Blackwater’s “alleged involvement in the deaths of numerous Iraqis, but the Americans took little action to regulate the private security firm.”

Next week. Rep. David Price (D-NC) plans to introduce legislationto extend the reach of U.S. civil courts to include security contractors in Iraq.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2007 at 4:03 pm

More on the US use of mercenaries

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From the Boston Globe, titled “The Shadow Army“:

If there is a quagmire in Iraq, it was created more than a decade ago when the United States instituted a flawed system governing the use of contractors to perform governmental functions. Now, despite Iraqi fury at Blackwater USA, some of whose employees are accused of fatally shooting Iraqis, Washington is so reliant on the firm that it dare not order it from the field.

The heavy dependence on private contractors in the military is relatively recent. In the Gulf War only 9,200 contractors supported 540,000 military personnel. The estimated 180,000 US-funded contractors now in Iraq (of which about 21,000 are Americans) outnumber the 160,000 US troops.

All too often this private army has been unmanageable and unaccountable, its interests dangerously divergent from those of the US and the Iraqi governments. The troubles exposed by the Blackwater debacle provide a glimpse into a much larger, systemic problem that pervades military, intelligence, and homeland security efforts alike.

The Bush administration came into office bent on privatizing as many government functions as possible and threw billions into the mix in its Iraq venture. It was changes in the contracting system, instituted during the Clinton administration, though, that transformed the contracting rules and undercut oversight, transparency, and competition.

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Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2007 at 1:28 pm

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