Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Conservatism: The 5th Estate, Chapter Two (cont.)

Chapter Two
The Second Estate: The Nobility

According to Jeremy Scahill, one third of Iraq's Reconstruction Budget at one point was earmarked for security contractors such as Blackwater. Essentially co-opting a function ordinarily fulfilled by State Department security professionals, Blackwater USA (aka Blackwater Worldwide, aka Xe, aka the defendants) were handed billions in cost plus, no-bid contracts guarding State Dept. officials in Iraq. The crown jewel of this contract, guarding L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer, was as prestigious as the Secret Service’s presidential detail, in which mercenaries making at least $950 a day.

As was the case with virtually every one of the 1,100 or so contracting companies we’d fanned out across Iraq, Republicans who controlled Congress and the White House would guarantee that Blackwater would not be hampered and victimized for its countless crimes by Congressional or legal oversight.

For an indelible illustration of how untouchable Blackwater was even months after the Nisour Square massacre of September 16th, 2007 that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, try this on for size:

Before Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s dog and pony show testimony before Henry Waxman’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it was already understood by the bipartisan panel that Prince’s well-documented and iron-clad allegiance to the Republican Party not even be addressed. (Even so, during the testimony GOP Rep. Darryl Issa reminded the rest of the panel about their gentleman’s agreement, prompting his fellow California Congressman Chairman Waxman to say that no one had until Issa opened his big mouth.)

But Prince’s impressive facsimile of a testimony was good for window dressing only, to show America they were on the ball even if Blackwater and the White House never let Congress catch it. For several hours, Prince sneered and smirked at Congress as if he was one of their sons who just got pulled over by a rookie Sheriff’s deputy for speeding. He told outrageous lies about the Nisour Sq. shooting while Waxman and the OGR’s Democrats could only yip and snap at him from their short leases. Congress has neither the power to grant nor to revoke contracts, only to allocate the tax dollars and Prince knew this.

At the end of his testimony, Prince looked at Waxman and pocketed the name plate with his name on it as a souvenir, essentially telling Congress that he could take anything owned by the government and the people and there wasn’t a damned thing anyone could do about it.

Infuriatingly, Prince was right. Even after the Nisour Sq. massacre and several other wrongful death incidents, allegations from credible sources came trickling out like blood under a door about murder, gun running, pimping, using illegal ammo and directly engaging the enemy. Blackwater to this day is still getting multibillion dollar contracts to work in Iraq despite the Iraqi government kicking them out by May ’09.

George W. Bush’s silence on the whole matter in itself spoke volumes. Despite repeated requests to publicly call out Blackwater for its many war crimes, Bush refused. Instead, he’d fall back on the standard, “I won’t comment on an ongoing investigation” line without once realizing the irony that there were many investigations that focused on such crimes. The three investigations conducted by the American and Iraqi militaries as well as by the FBI (who didn’t arrive until two weeks after the massacre) all found Blackwater responsible for at least 15 of the 17 civilian deaths.

Instead, Bush extolled Blackwater’s dubious virtues and good work, essentially winking at their sociopath CEO and saying, “You’re doing a heckuva job, Princey.”

By 2005, Blackwater was able to take Uncle Sam for granted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Within hours after the storm made landfall, Blackwater had beaten FEMA there by days. Erik Prince had redeployed his mercenaries from Iraq to New Orleans before the government could do the same with the Louisiana National Guard.

By the beginning of September, Prince’s hired killers were patrolling the water-logged streets of the French Quarter, fully automatic weapons at the ready, looking for evidence of looting and all under the guise of a humanitarian mission done pro bono. (Meanwhile, unaffected Algiers Point became a killing field for white racists who were gunning down African Americans with complete impunity.)

The free part soon became academic because Blackwater USA eventually got $73,000,000 in post-Katrina contracts while local workers charged with the cleanup almost got the Bacon Davis Act, which guarantees a fair, prevailing wage, pulled out from under them. Yet, in terms if suspicious dispatch, corruption and sheer, heartless incompetence, Blackwater’s biggest rivals were Halliburton and its former subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root.


At September 30, 2009 at 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody on one of those liberal TV shows said that KBR is now up to 16 US Soldiers they've electrocuted with bad wiring. And I thought 12 was bad enough...

They yanked ACORN's funding in a heartbeat, how about these clowns in Congress, huh?


At September 30, 2009 at 9:06 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Jeremy Scahill's asking the same thing about Blackwater. Why are we continuing to fund them in violation of Iraqi law and while defunding ACORN over a bunch of nonscandals?

At September 30, 2009 at 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I fear for Jeremy. He's liable to have some sort of "accident".


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