Monday, September 17, 2007

Breaking: Blackwater Banned From Iraq

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of thugs and mercenaries:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead. The U.S. State Department said it plans to investigate what it calls a "terrible incident."

Earlier this year I attended a workshop with an Iraq War veteran, a National Guardsman. He told me when U.S. troops would get to a street or area they needed “cleared” (his word, not mine), something that the military is forbidden to do, they’d call in the guys from DynCorp and Blackwater and have them do it. I have no way of verifying what he told me, but let me add he was very pro-war, and believed in the mission. He’d be there now if his wife hadn’t told him she’d divorce him if he reenlisted.

In all of this talk about the troop “surge” and numbers of soldiers deployed, no one has ever mentioned all of the private contractors serving in Iraq. This CNN story puts the number at 25,000, but last December the Washington Post reported on a new military census that put the total closer to 100,000:

There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

[ ... ]

In addition to about 140,000 U.S. troops, Iraq is now filled with a hodgepodge of contractors. DynCorp International has about 1,500 employees in Iraq, including about 700 helping train the police force. Blackwater USA has more than 1,000 employees in the country, most of them providing private security. Kellogg, Brown and Root, one of the largest contractors in Iraq, said it does not delineate its workforce by country but that it has more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications, has about 500 employees working on 12 contracts, including providing mentors to the Iraqi Defense Ministry for strategic planning, budgeting and establishing its public affairs office. Titan, another L-3 division, has 6,500 linguists in the country.

The Pentagon's latest estimate "further demonstrates the need for Congress to finally engage in responsible, serious and aggressive oversight over the questionable and growing U.S. practice of private military contracting," said Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has been critical of the military's reliance on contractors.

Indeed, for those serious about ending this war, instead of demanding an end to funding, what if we demanded an end to private contractors? Because short of reinstating the draft, I just don’t see how we could make up for the loss of those additional 100,000.

Unless some pro-war conservatives out there want to enlist?

* crickets *