Thursday, June 24, 2010
Power With No Accountability
The CIA has recently given Xe Services a $100 million contract to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and other, unspecified locations. A day earlier, members of a federal commission investigating military contractors expressed deep unhappiness that the State Dept. had just granted Xe a new contract for $120 million to guard US consulates being built in Afghanistan. More specifically, this is for 2 consulates being built. Apparently they’ll be very secure. Certainly far more secure than Afghani civilians.
Xe Services is a private military firm that was formerly known as Blackwater. In 2007 the company changed their name, in the hopes of duping us into forgetting the many crimes that they’ve been charged in Iraq. The name change was intended to be a whitewash. It does seem to have been successful, given that the US govt. is giving them new contracts after Blackwater was essentially thrown out of Iraq.
Private military firm is a euphemism for mercenaries. Companies like Blackwater are hired to provide security. They have an enormous amount of power, and no accountability to any government.
In Iraq, in 2005, Blackwater guards escorting a State Dept. convoy opened fire on an Iraqi car. They felt threatened by the car’s approach, so they shot 70 rounds into the car, and kept going. The State Dept. found the shooting unjustified, and found that the Blackwater employees gave false statements.
On Christmas Eve, 2006, a security guard for Iraq Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi was shot and killed on duty. The Iraqi government accused Blackwater employee Andrew Moonen of killing the guard while intoxicated. Blackwater shipped Moonen back to the US in a hurry, and Blackwater and the State Dept. tried to keep Moonen’s identity a secret, apparently to enable him to avoid being prosecuted by the Iraqi govt. In 2007, he was employed by another US defense contractor in Kuwait.
In May 2007, a Blackwater sniper on the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry fired and killed 3 guards working for the Iraqi Media Network. Witnesses reported that the guards had not fired at the Justice Ministry. The Iraqi police described this as “an incident of terrorism.” The State Dept, however, found that the actions fell “within the approved rules governing force.”
In September of 2007, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. The reports on what happened are many and varied. Iraqi Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf has said that the guards opened fire randomly at civilians. Iraqi investigators say that the guards fired at a woman driving a car, fired stun grenades, got into a shooting match with the Iraqi military and police who thought the mercenaries had fired fragmentation grenades, and that a Blackwater helicopter overhead fired at the crowd from overhead. Blackwater says a car bomb was detonated near the convoy they were guarding, and that they were fired on. They deny that the helicopter fired from the air. The State Dept. report backs up and covers for Blackwater. Later, a witness reported that one Blackwater guard continued to fire at civilians, even after his fellow mercenaries told him to stop. Finally, one of them pulled a gun on the guard, and he stopped shooting. One of the 17 unarmed civilians killed that day was a 9 year old boy. US military reports find that Blackwater was guilty of using excessive force and firing without provocation. The Iraqi government revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq. The Iraqi government announced plans to prosecute the Blackwater guards. The US State Dept. grants the guards immunity from prosecution. Blackwater changed its name to Xe.
Congressional hearings were held because of this incident. Blackwater founder and CEO, Erik Prince pretty much told the Oversight Committee that they were a private company and didn’t have to answer to anyone.
In October 2008, the State Dept. announced that their security agents would accompany Blackwater units working in and around Baghdad. Even though they had to be nursemaided, they continued to be paid by US taxpayers. We have subsidized Blackwater to the tune of at least a billion dollars. They were finally kicked out of Iraq, and the Iraqi government refused to renew their license to operate in the country.
In 2009, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against Blackwater, for killing 3 members of an Iraqi family, including a 9 year old boy. The suit also charges Blackwater with: kidnapping Iraqi citizens, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, destruction of evidence, and child prostitution. It seems that young Iraqi girls were brought to the Blackwater compound (known as the Man Camp) in Baghdad’s Green Zone for the purposes of providing oral sex to contractors for $1.
The story goes on. Five Xe officials were indicted on federal weapons charges. Allegedly they falsified documents to hide weapons gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Numerous families are suing Xe for the killings of family members. The Iraqi government wants to try the mercenaries responsible for the massacre in Nisour Square. In 2009, Erik Prince was implicated in the murders of whistleblowers who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. It is rumored that Prince, who stepped down as CEO of Xe, plans to move to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has no extradition treaty with the US, which will certainly come in handy for Mr. Prince. This is just the tip of the Blackwater/Xe iceberg.
In summary, the US government hired Blackwater, paid them huge sums of money, while they killed random civilians, destroyed US credibility in Iraq, and were thrown out of the country. The company is being sued, the CEO is implicated in more than one murder – and the response of our government to all of this is to give Xe new contracts to operate in Afghanistan.
This is outrageous, yet nary a peep from those same folks who bellowed and blustered about ACORN. ACORN received far less federal funding, and ACORN has been completely exonerated - something Blackwater will never be.
Published in the Conway Daily Sun on June 25, 2010
© 2010 sbruce
Posted by susanthe at 8:13 PM