Newspaper logo  
 
 
Bookmark and Share
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters
Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

04.23 American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire - Full Film

04.23 New map could refocus California's pollution battles

04.23 How Medicaid forces the disabled to be poor (but some bipartisan help is on the way).

04.23 These maps tell you everything that’s wrong with our drug pricing system

04.23 Eight major UK renewable energy projects receive government backing

04.23 The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External

04.22 Apple: climate change is real and it's a real problem [1:50 video]

04.22 The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

04.22 Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain From Depression

04.21 Saving Planet Earth & Stop Climate Change - Full Documentary

04.21 Corn biofuels worse than gasoline on global warming in short term – study

04.21 Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights

04.21 Telltale Rainbow Sheens Show Thousands Of Spills Across The Gulf

04.21 ROUGH FORECASTS

04.21 CHEMICAL VALLEY

04.20 Has Al Gore been Vindicated? The Former VP speaks out on Climate Menace In Hawaii

04.20 Far More Asteroids Have Hit The Earth Than We Thought, Astronauts Say

News Media

Daily FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

Justice Matters

04.23 LOCKED UP IN AMERICA [stories & documentary videos]

04.19 Obama's First-Amendment Defense of Political Liars

US Politics, Policy & Culture

04.23 The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest [graphs]

04.23 Moving in with parents becomes more common for the middle-aged

04.23 What you’d need to make in every county in America to afford a decent one-bedroom [maps]

04.22 Housing Secretary: “the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known”

04.22 America's Coming Manufacturing Revolution

04.20 The mentality of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI undergirds today’s surveillance state

04.20 Scientists Successfully Teach Monkey Theory of Evolution

04.18 G.O.P. Discovers Useful Voter Outreach Tool: Gun Sweepstakes

04.18 9 Maps that Show How The GOP is Destroying Southern States

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

04.22 Why Economist Thomas Piketty Has Scared the Pants Off the American Right

04.22 Why Corporations Fail to Do the Right Thing

04.20 Banks Cling to Bundles Holding Risk

04.20 Wall Street deregulation pushed by Clinton advisers, documents reveal

04.20 Abigail Field: Our Corrupt Tax Code

04.19 Bill Moyers on America’s Mad Dash Toward Oligarchy [2:56 video]

04.19 What the 1% Don’t Want You to Know [24:30 video w/ transcript]

04.19 Casinos and Offshore Gaming Sites Furiously Battle Over Billions in Gambling Revenue

04.18 Salvation Gets Cheap

04.18 Inequality and the Inevitable Collapse

04.18 Privatization is a Ramp for Corruption and Insouciance is a Ramp for War

International

04.23 US warns Russia over Ukraine as Moscow announces military exercises

04.23 North Korean health system crumbling as shortages and sanctions bite

04.22 North Korea: the new generation losing faith in the regime<

04.22 The Future of Europe: An Interview with George Soros

04.22 Exodus Of Japan Inc. Slams China

04.21 Cheer up – a renewed left is coming

04.20 Celebrating Easter? Which Contradicting Biblical Account of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Are You Going to Pick?

04.19 5 Things to Know About How Corporations Block Access to Everything from Miracle Drugs to Science Research

04.18 Ukraine crisis: Deal to 'de-escalate' agreed in Geneva

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  ''Blackwater'' Reveals Underpinnings of 'Private Security' Industry
Newspaper logo

BOOK SYNOPSIS & REVIEW:

Blackwater Reveals Underpinnings of 'Private Security' Industry

Reviewed by Alice Cherbonnier
Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
by Jeremy Scahill
NY: Avalon Publishing Group, Inc./Nation Books, 2007. 438 pp. $26.95.

Questions arise for which there are no known answers at this time, such as: Who else besides Erik Prince has a financial stake in Blackwater?
Among the many topics covered in his new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill shows how politically powerful Christian fundamentalists and Neocons are pressing forward with their battle for what they call 'freedom' and 'democracy'—whether the U.S. public, or indeed the rest of the world, wants to fight or not.

They envision, as a Baltimore Sun letter to the editor expressed on March 25, "a global war, with the United States serving as the primary defender of Western civilization against our rarely named enemy, Islamist totalitarianism..."

Sounds over the top, doesn't it? Yet those who believe "Western civilization" (read "Christendom" or perhaps "Judeo-Christendom") is imperiled by 'infidels' are pushing hard to confront and defeat 'the enemy.'

War that serves the purposes of this 'belief' faction also fuels profits for war-related businesses. Scahill demonstrates the added risks that can occur when these two powerful motivations (one might even substitute the word "addictions") come together.

Blackwater USA is prominent among many companies that provide "contract security" personnel for governments, corporations and wealthy individuals. It began in 1987 by offering advanced military training at its 7,000-acre main training facility in Moyock, North Carolina, near the Great Dismal Swamp, and has rapidly expanded. It is now doing business on a global scale, with its operations horizontally and vertically integrated to cover just about any imaginable security need.

Blackwater merits being singled out for attention because of its leaders' well-placed political, social, and religious connections, and its founder Erik Prince's immense wealth and Catholic extremist connections.
In addition to its size, Blackwater merits being singled out for attention because of its leaders' well-placed political, social, and religious connections, and its founder Erik Prince's immense wealth and Catholic extremist connections. Scahill's meticulously researched and thoroughly documented account makes for fascinating—and disturbing—reading.

Scahill reports that Blackwater currently has over $500 million in U.S. government contracts, not including secret "black budget" contracts for U.S. intelligence agencies. And this isn't counting Blackwater's revenues from contracts with other governments, corporations and individuals.

Questions arise for which there are no known answers at this time, such as: How much seed money did Prince put up to start Blackwater? How much profit did he make on his initial investment? Who else besides Erik Prince has a financial stake in Blackwater?

Among the company's first Iraq War assignments was the high-profile job of protecting top U.S. officials stationed there. One wonders why such an important and sensitive assignment wasn't given to top-notch U.S. military personnel; but by the end of this book, one wonders if the U.S. military even has all that much skill and authority left, as so many of its traditional functions have been privatized and outsourced. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld famously included military contractors as part of the Pentagon's "Total Force," which he said included "active and reserve military components, civil servants, and its contractors." Though they are part of the "Total Force," however, mercenary soldiers are not subject to the structure and checks and balances of the U.S. military chain of command.

One of the last acts of Presidential Envoy to Iraq L. Paul Bremer before he left his post in June 2004 was to issue a decree, known as Order 17, that made private contractors in Iraq immune from prosecution. (An attempt has been made to rectify this exemption in the 2007 defense spending bill, which includes a line "that could," according to Scahill [emphasis provided], "subject contractors in war zones to the Pentagon's UCMJ" [Uniform Code of Military Justice].)

Blackwater is expanding rapidly, adding training campuses in California and Illinois and a jungle-training base in the Philippines. It has about 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries, including the U.S., and claims a database of over 20,000 former military personnel who are on-call.

Following the deployment of Blackwater mercenaries to New Orleans post-Katrina, the company saw a growth opportunity, establishing a domestic operations division that is seeking permits to contract for work in all 50 states.

Blackwater's Greystone Ltd. division (registered in Barbados and classified by the U.S. as a "tax-exempt" corporate entity) offers to hire out "Proactive Engagement Teams" to meet client needs overseas (asset protection and recovery, emergency personnel withdrawal, defensive and offensive small group operations), using mercenary recruits from other countries, including some from Chile who served as commandos under Pinochet. Greystone has been seeking applicants qualified in such weapons as AK-47s, Glock 19s, M-16 series rifles, machine guns, and shoulder-fired weapons, and skilled in such specialties as sniper and door gunner. Scahill reports that pay scales for recruits from such countries as El Salvador, Nepal, Honduras and Chile are substantially lower than for Blackwater's U.S. recruits.

Another Blackwater division, Presidential Airways, is known to use the same airports as those used in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program. The company claims to hold a Secret Facility Clearance with the U.S. Department of Defense.

While Blackwater specializes in training and deploying contract mercenaries, it is simultanously reframing its mission, calling its work "humanitarian" and "peacekeeping." Realizing there will be questions about how their workers conduct themselves, and for whom they work, Blackwater and some other private mercenary companies have established a private military trade group called the International Peace Operations Association, and some are also signatories to The Global Compact espoused by the U.N. (which Blackwater's president, Gary Black, has critiqued as ineffective). Adherence to the standards promulgated by these entities is voluntary, however, with no outside oversight or enforcement mechanisms.

There's nothing wrong, per se, for an employer to engage contract personnel, especially for occasions when work is seasonal or there's temporary work to be done that's beyond the capacity of day-to-day staff. Scahill shows, however, that the use of "temp" armed personnel, when engaged by governments and other entities bent on pursuing military and economic advantage, presents substantial moral and ethical issues, as well as practical ones: Who will police the police? What legal oversight exists for these mercenaries? What's the chain of command, and can the public trust it? How can the public be assured that such mercenaries won't be turned against them? What weapons systems will be entrusted to them, and by whom? What other normal government functions—police, disaster relief, corrections—will be turned over to such entities, and what could be the outcomes? What worker safety protections will be provided for individuals employed by mercenary contractors? What public safety and human rights guarantees will they follow? Are governments irrelevant if wealthy private entities can rent-an-army? Where will the next mercenary hot spots be—Sudan? Iran? Nigeria? Venezuela?

The experience of reading Jeremy Scahill's book about Blackwater USA compares with reading Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: there's just no way around the mountain of information, you have to go through it.
Are you suffering from reader fatigue yet? Imagine what it's like to slog through Blackwater's nearly 400 pages of dense facts, figures, references, and interconnections—all important to know and understand. The reader wishes for diagrams and lists of dramatis personae to help keep track of all the characters and subplots. The experience of reading this book compares with reading Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: there's just no way around the essential mountain of information, you have to go through it. Fortunately Scahill, like Branch, is a strong writer and skilled synthesizer. He also had support: it is obvious, from the meticulous attention to detail throughout, that all involved with this book were dedicated to doing it right.

Make the effort to read Blackwater: you'll emerge refreshed and revitalized, for the information it conveys can propel concerned readers to seek to change what needs to be changed. Jeremy Scahill has performed an immense public service by gathering such a huge amount of information—and making sense of it while Blackwater's story is still emerging.


Jeremy Scahill is a producer and correspondent for "Democracy Now!," a daily radio and TV news program, and a regular contributor to The Nation magazine.

Notes:
  • Author Jeremy Scahill acknowledges the help of many people in the writing, fact-checking and copy-editing of this book, and credits The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their support.

  • Blackwater founder Erik Prince is a major contributor to the Republican Party. He and his family are known to support Christian right causes (e.g., ban gay marriage, oppose abortions, favor school vouchers and prayer in public schools, oppose stem-cell research), and also, according Scahill, are friends and benefactors of (among others) ex-con Chuck Colson's faith-based Prison Fellowship; Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer, founder of the Family Research Council Christian lobby group; and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Christian Freedom International.

  • Blackwater was founded the same year (1997) as the Neocon think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC), an outgrowth of the New Citizenship Project, a 501(c)(3) organization funded by the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Bradley Foundation, according to the watchdog group Media Transparency. Closely related to the American Enterprise Institute, PNAC's charter members included Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Other prominent PNAC members have included Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, James Woolsey, Lewis Libby and Elliott Abrams. Not surprisingly, PNAC was a major proponent of the Iraq War.

  • Some Blackwater executives are members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a pre-Crusades Christian militia that has a mission of defending territories the Crusaders conquered from Islamic control.

  • J. Cofer Black, former chief of the CIA's counterterrorism division, joined Blackwater as vice president in 2005. He is believed to have started the post-9/11 rendition program.

  • Killology Research Group aims to study "the psychological cost of learning to kill."

  • Joseph E. Schmitz, the scandal-ridden former Pentagon Inspector General during the first years of the Iraq war, is a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Says Scahill, Schmitz "comes from one of the most bizarre, scandal-plagued, right-wing political families in U.S. history," and the facts back him up. Schmitz left the Pentagon in 2005 to take job as Blackwater's Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel.

  • Aegis Defense Services, another mercenary company, was founded and run by Tim Spicer, who merits a book of his own. See Vanity Fair magazine's story (April 2007), "Iraq's Mercenary King."

  • In addition to Blackwater USA, other significant companies that offer contract mercenary soldiers include DynCorp, Erinys, Aegis Defense Services, Kroll Inc., ArmorGroup, Hart, Steele Foundation, Global Risk Strategies, CACI.

Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on March 26, 2007.
 


Public Service Ads: