BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 — The Iraqi government said it had revoked the license of Blackwater USA, a private security company that provides protection for American diplomats across Iraq, after shots fired from an American convoy killed eight Iraqis.
Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, said the authorities had canceled the company’s license and barred its activity across Iraq. He said the government would prosecute the deaths, though according to the rules that govern private contractors, it was not clear whether the Iraqis had the legal authority to do so.
“This is a big crime that we can’t stay silent before,” said Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, speaking on satellite television. “Anyone who wants to have good relations with Iraq has to respect Iraqis.”
The incident took place on Sunday in Nisour Square, an area in western Baghdad that is clogged with construction and concrete blocks. American officials said that a convoy of State Department vehicles came under fire, causing one to break down. It was towed. The officials did not say whether any of the convoy’s security guards fired back or whether they worked for Blackwater.
Typical US government reaction: denial.
The state department's spokespuppet, Sean McCormack, today promised an investigation which will no doubt spare Blackwater any grief.
As I wrote last week, the glaring omission in the testimony of Petraeus, Crocker and the speech given by Commander Guy™ was any reference to the private contractors in Iraq. They certainly won't be able to ignore that reality now and will be all over al Maliki to restore Blackwater's license.
Blackwater USA was co-founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince, a "billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan Republican family. A major Republican campaign contributor, he interned in the White House of President George H.W. Bush and campaigned for Pat Buchanan in 1992. He founded the mercenary firm Blackwater USA in 1997 with Gary Jackson, another former Navy SEAL."
Prince's father, Edgar Prince, and Gary Bauer started the Family Research Council, where Prince interned. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
Blackwater USA received no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "post-Katrina New Orleans" from the current Bush administration.
"America's Holy Warriors"
Erik Prince is "the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq," Chris Hedges wrote December 31, 2006, in Truthdig.
Prince "champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is deceitful, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future. It was a stark reminder that the tyranny we impose on others we will one day impose on ourselves," Hedges wrote.
If Blackwater is kicked out of Iraq, the US military will be extremely hard-pressed to fill the spots of those 20,000 since it's already stretched so thin. And with Prince being such a close ally of the Bush's, the White House is bound to fight hard to keep the company there. Pressure on al Maliki will be massive. I wouldn't be surprised if he reverses or modifies his government's decision in the next few days.
Contractors in Iraq make costs balloon
Citizens' Oversight Projects offers a very detailed list of links, videos and information about Blackwater.