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back to article US mercenary outfit shoots 11 Iraqis - and self in foot

The Cheney administration's lust for outsourcing work formerly performed by the government - and for favored contractors to profit handsomely thereby - is well-known and insatiable. But one of those pampered contracting firms is now in a bit of hot water, the AP reports. Lust, of course, can be blinding. Those favored …

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This is Being Smoothed Over Quckly

The government has released an "incident report" that contradicts Iraqi eyewitness accounts and even Blackwater's previous testimony.

The story now is that Iraqis started shooting at them and the Blackwater boys just shot back at those who shot at them. (Iraqis say that a car bomb someways off triggered the attack on Iraqi civilians. Blackwater previously said a nearby carbomb started it.)

But rest assured the poor Bw kids were under such heavy fire that they waited for a tow truck to haul their damaged vehicle out of there. Instead of , you know, piling everyone in the vehicle that still worked and getting the Hell outta Dodge.

So I guess the price of one Blackwater wagon is 8 human lives. It sure tells us a lot about what is happening there.

But Condi's schmoozing things over with Maliki.

And I'm guessing little will actually happen to the mercenaries.

BTW, it wasn't so long ago that, even to the US armed forces, any dead Sunni was automatically upgraded to "insurgent" so maybe Blackwater hadn't read the new rules, or maybe there were no new rules and this still happens all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

Mercenary - the oldest profession - I think not.

Pish posh - we all know the oldest profession is prostitution - journalistic and otherwise.

Heaven forbid something favorable like winning war would break out. I know that doesn't play well in the Peoples Republic of San Franciscostan - where burqas are de regur.

You do know they come for the inteligencia first? And I don't mean Blackwater.

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IT gets Political in the Management of Perception

But Blackwater all washed up and mercenaries returned to civvy street in the good ole US of A, would have civilians with acute terrorist training loose and looking for the good life. ........ and not a bit fussed or fazed about how they get it. After all, Uncle Sam has shown them what they can do and no one says ..Boo! ... but sadly Hurrah!

The grunts and the Military must sometimes be thinking that they are in a battle which is being created to keep the tanks and criminality rolling, with private enterprise concerns providing Al Qaeda recruits and recruiting agencies...... by Stealthy Proxy

Bravo Blackwater, it must make you proud to be servering American interests..... but can you see the flaw in the logic of the operation?

Another link in a mad chain of Cheney's ideas, is it? Does the buck stop at the desk of a failed soldier and cowardly bully of a man?

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Another fine example

I find this hard to take in.

As someone who is not in the military I was of the impression that countries frowned on this type of practice due to the lack of accountability of operatives. Those who push forward the war efforts and incited it in the first place are using tactics they preach are illegal in the first place.

If the foot were on the other shoe the US would no doubt call these individuals terrorists and tell the world they are saving us from them.

I think the accountability is very simple - the individual(s) in the governing body who authorized the use of such people are ultimately responsible for their actions - did Saddam not ultimately get held accountable for the actions of his soldiers?

It is now beginning to make sense why there is so much hostility towards the US if this is the type of tactics they employ - surely they must see that maybe they are protected legally to a degree but the people of the country won't care if there friend gets shot for no reason.

As for the American Embassy protecting the soldier - the official in the Embassy who made the decision to protect the individual is guilty of murder by association - diplomatic immunity or not. Does the US not preach that moral obligations must be met to maintain integrity? They should operate how the preach to others to operate - I wonder what would happen in the US if someone shot a bodyguard then walked into a local embassy - in fact I don't have to wonder!

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And the relevance to IT is?

Interesting article, although covered by BBC etc. The article does not mention IT contractors, so what is its relevance on El Reg?

John

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Anonymous Coward

Nicely put

"without a doubt one of the oldest professions – not that that makes it a respectable one."

Of course the other oldest profession isn't traditionally respectable either.

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Dogs of War

Nothing new here. World is going back to the golden days of mercenary warfare from the 60-es.

This is the way it started at the time - governments hiring private contractors.

It is more interesting where it continued. Once the contracts expired the private contractors went to find work for themselves with some very interesting effects on the world stability in the process.

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How Condi could help

She could rescind Order 17 of the Coalition Provisional Authority that prevents Iraqis from suing contractors in domestic courts or even putting them on trial.

We know the Americans won't extradite suspects to international or foreign courts, and there's no obvious way Iraqis could get justice in the American court system, so the CPA law has to be struck down.

But I won't hold my breath.

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Of course this isn't market-based...

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of economics can see that private contractors are nothing more than graft and corruption writ large, usually in exchange for campaign contributions. You cannot have a market-based service unless there are low barriers to entry to promote competition. But security contracting, by it's very nature, has very steep barriers to entry - after all, nobody wants untrained and uncontrolled contractors wandering around with M-16s and SAWs in a battleground. So there is very much an element of trust in hiring, which of course you cannot get if you haven't done it before - and can prove it.

And of course, the non-competitive nature of the bidding process for much of this work is the final nail in the coffin of competition. Much of it is awarded without an RFP, in part because of the trust issues above, in part because that just makes for nice campaign kick-backs.

So given that this function can never exist as a real market-economy, it is time to put security back where it should exist, in uniformed soldiers hand's...I hope Blackwater is kicked out of Iraq, but I do doubt that as unlikely, given the level of political connections they have.

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wow

The Iraqi goverment going against what the yanks want?

THE SKY IS FALLING!

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Well whaddya know ?

How ironic. The puppet government Dubya set in place is actually growing some teeth. Who'd a thought that Iraqis would actually want peace ?

In any case, it seems clear that they have understood that no US-based organization is going to provide it for them.

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Erm, for the unaware

Blackwater are an extremist fundamentalist christian organisation.

So its hardly a surprise the iraqis want rid

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Anonymous Coward

Back in the day....

....this sort of thing happened a lot in the Middle East & Africa in the 60's & 70's - a lot of SAS guys left the regiment to work as mercenaries under loose British control for a lot more cash to do the stuff the regulars couldn't be seen to be doing. When it all ended some of the guys returned to the regiment.

I dare say the same thing is happening in Eye-rak at this very moment....

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Anonymous Coward

Easy answer

Turn them over the UK Authorities, they would return them to the UK in disgrace prosecute them relentlessly etc.

Oh sorry the mercenaries are foreign nationals, they would probably get a free council house and benefits for the 16 children they supposedly have living in Monaco or Switzerland. We only prosecute highly decorated war heroes!

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Unlawful combatants?

If they're not the American army and not civilians then surely they're unlawful combatants and should be taken to Guantánamo!

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Oil?

There is oil in Iraq?

Well, it is a good thing law abiding citizens went over there to restore order.

Who knows what would have happened if that country was allowed to plunder its own resources.

You can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much.

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A Store of Trouble..... c/o Warmongers and Land Pirates.

"If they're not the American army and not civilians then surely they're unlawful combatants and should be taken to Guantánamo!"

It is hard to see that as not being right, Craig. It is certainly more contemporary than thinking that they are acting like Wild West cowboys.

Does Blackwater not realise the psychopaths are dangerous to all but the sociopath and crazed mentor.

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@Pascal

"How ironic. The puppet government Dubya set in place is actually growing some teeth. Who'd a thought that Iraqis would actually want peace ?"

Erm... you do of course realise that this is exactly what America wants? Just like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Saddam himself in Iraq, this new American-sponsored Iraqi government will become the next decade's crop of "terrorists" to justify America's next round of defence-contractor profit-making exercises, passed off as a "war"...

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Slight misrepresentation?

Perhaps there are as many contractors in Iraq as there are US soldiers, but the size of the Blackwater force and all other mercenaries is hardly close to the number of combat troops. Blackwater has to the order of 10k mercenaries and most of them provide ancillary functions such as protection and surveillance.

What happened here was a bunch of security people doing their job. If it was a bunch of official Bureau of Diplomatic Security folks instead, it never would have made the press. It made the press, Maliki picked it up and it's all downhill from there. Is anyone but me happy that an American diplomat's life was saved?

In case no one noticed, there's a war going on in Iraq. People shoot, others shoot back, people die, and so on. The AP claims they know what happened by reading a report. The only people who may know what happened are the people who were there. They may not even know, seeing as they were being shot at while it all happened. Then, some time later, someone wrote some stuff down on a piece of paper and now everyone claims that it's Blackwater's fault. Please folks, use both of your brain cells simultaneously when making unfair judgements about situations you know nothing about.

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Anonymous Coward

oldest profession

I'm a bit late into the oldest profession bit here, but isn't mercenary work prostitution? Someone tells you to put (depending on the time) your sword/arrow/bullet into that guy over there, and hey, you just might get another long phallic symbol put back into you!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slight misrepresentation?

"Then, some time later, someone wrote some stuff down on a piece of paper and now everyone claims that it's Blackwater's fault. Please folks, use both of your brain cells simultaneously when making unfair judgements about situations you know nothing about."

Like you did just then? Or did you see it first hand?

Thought not.

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Article Research and Inflammatory Comments

I'm not sure the research for this story was well done. This article confuses (deliberately??) general contractors with PMC/security contractors. According to the UN there are only about 40,000 PMC/security contractors in Iraq. There are 3x that amount of general contractors, construction workers, oil technicians, and IT professionals. Obviously the contractor/professional groups need security - firms like Blackwater supply that.

Efficiency vs. cost is not a good metric when considering the legitimate use of PMC's. PMC's generally employ the best of the best of ex-military fighting men - when they've learned all the military can teach, and they want to make a decent living, these super-badasses join PMC's so those who need their services are getting a higher quality of soldiers than military can provide in one place. In addition PMC's often get access to military tools/weapons/tech and which turn these super elite fighters into super equipped fighters too.

Soldiers join the military for a variety of reasons and pay ain't one of them. They are fully aware of what they get paid, and they willingly sign-on, and often die, for that pittance. If they aren't happy with the pay they should not have signed up and should leave as soon as their commitment expires. The military, is a civic minded decision full of sacrifice, and that includes salary.

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A contractor's brief perspective

A mercenary is someone who fights for money alone - and they go on offensive operations.

A security contractor only fights in self-defence - in other words, *only* if and when attacked and they certainly don't go on offensive ops. I imagine that little difference makes a lovely whooshing sound as it goes over your heads, though...

Contractors are 99% ex-military and, surprise, surprise, are already on your hometown streets. Seen any terrorism lately? I thought not...

I was on a PSD team in Iraq for a year and the ignorance in the Comments-section is staggering. You'd think people who'd never been there would wind their necks in before pontificating over matters of which they have no knowledge.

Civilians shot - well, I haven't yet seen an insurgent wearing a uniform... it's real simple: don't shoot at a PSD-team and we won't shoot either. On the other side of the coin, don't ambush us then cry when we turn it back on you.

Lack of accountability worries me, though - my opinion is that all contractors should be held responsible for any illegal actions they commit.

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@Andy Cummings

".. it's real simple: don't shoot at a PSD-team and we won't shoot either"

From the reports, that is exactly what this is about.

I agree that it's accountability that's the real problem. Soldiers get court-martialled, and potentially locked in the stockade or shot - contractors get fired (if they're unlucky)

Adrian

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