In yesterday's post, Iraq: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, I added a bit at the end about the story that was just breaking, the death and mutilation of four "civilian contractors." In it, I insinuated that these civilians were in fact mercenaries. I felt I was being a bit mean-spirited making that speculation and hoped that I was wrong; but from the way the US military brass talked about them, it seemed the obvious conclusion.
In the comments, James MacLean points me toward the emerging details that these "civilians" were employees of Blackwater USA. Recall from yesterday that Blackwater was the outfit that recruited Pinochet-era Chilean commandos for their contract work in Iraq. Knight Ridder also reports:
Blackwater Security was formed last year and is part of an 8-year-old security training company. Last August, the Army awarded Blackwater a $21.3 million no-bid contract for security guards and two helicopters for U.S. Iraq civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer, according to the inspector general's report. The company also provides security for food shipments in the Fallujah area.
Here is the primary image from the Blackwater web site.
(I could not have done a better satirical graphic if I tried.)
First of all, L. Paul Bremer should resign; not because these guys got killed, but rather because he's filling Iraq with mercenaries. The fact that he needs to do that indicates that his is an extremely weak government on the brink of chaos. This growth industry cannot continue to grow without armed struggle and this course will never lead to a stable political situation in Iraq. And our mercenaries are not the only ones there. As the administration argued last August, Iraq is a magnet for "bad boys." Our mercenaries can shoot it out with their mercenaries until no one is left standing or until the owners of the private military companies feel they have enough yachts.
Secondly, the US media is being willfully obtuse about what those who dragged the charred bodies behind their cars wish to communicate. Very simply, they're saying Get your hired guns out of here! and Mercenaries: Keep Out.
I hope Blackwater's insurance premiums go through the roof.
OH, BY THE WAY: Here's a paragraph from an article I may have linked to a few weeks ago, concerning the mercenaries arrested in Zimbabwe:
The men arrested in Harare await their fate in the grim confines of the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Among them, according to Zimbabwe's CID Law and Order Division, are: Jacob Hermanus Carlse and Lourens Jacobus Horn. Both are believed to be involved in a South African firm that provides security services and training in Iraq; Sergeant Victor Dracula, an Angolan veteran who served with South Africa's notorious 32 Battalion counter-insurgency unit. Dracula has been awarded the Honoris Crux, South Africa's highest military honour; and Niel Steyl, the aircraft's pilot, Hendrik Hamman, the co-pilot, and Ken Payne, the flight engineer. Their attorney, Deon van Dyk, insists the men knew nothing about the plot.
Two question occur to me:
� Which firm "that provides security services and training in Iraq" are these guys connected to, and to whom does it provide security? Bremer? Brown & Root? Exxon? This is a serious question aimed at finding out whose payroll the mercenaries might be on.
. . . and
� Is Dracula the guy's real name? Or is it a pseudonym? There are a few obvious question that logically follow that I think I'll leave well enough alone (like, so, what happened when they presented Sargent Dracula with his cross?). I couldn't make this stuff up.
DEEPER INTO BLACKWATER: Mother Jones has a good piece:
The four Americans horrifically killed on Wednesday by a mob in Fallujah, Iraq, worked for Blackwater USA, one of a growing number of for-profit companies hired by the U.S. military to to do work traditionally performed by soldiers. In this article in the May 2003 issue of Mother Jones, Barry Yeoman detailed the Pentagon's increasing -- and increasingly perilous -- reliance on private military companies.
There's also a good Village Voice piece.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: I have inspired Cheryl Morgan to write a lovely, dead pan piece appropriate for today: The Great Dill Pickle Conspiracy. Enjoy.