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Iraq bans Blackwater? US State Dept turtle to operate without its shell?

Wow. Iraq has banned Blackwater, icon of the boom in military privatization, from operating anywhere in Iraq following a shootout involving some of its contractors in which civilians were killed.

I would have liked to think this was inevitable, but I am astonished. I'm told, however, that Blackwater doesn't need a license to operate in Iraq there since they work exclusively for the US State dept there. Wonder how this will play out.

One of the truisms of the private military industry is that everyone involved talks about the other guys being "cowboys" but describes themselves as professionals. The incident  that lead the Iraqi Interior Ministry to pull their license to operate in Iraq, as described by the AP, sounds like an Old West shootout.

The convoy carrying officials from the US state department came under attack at about 1230 local time on Sunday as it passed through Nisoor Square in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour.

The Blackwater security guards accompanying the convoy returned fire, killing eight people and wounding 13 others, Iraqi officials said.

Most of the dead and wounded were bystanders, the officials added. One of those killed was a policeman.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Baghdad later confirmed its security vehicles had been involved in the gunfight.

"They received small arms fire. One of the vehicles was disabled in the shooting and had to be towed from the scene," he said.

"The incident is being investigated by department of state diplomatic security service law enforcement officials in co-operation with the government of Iraq and multinational forces."

Blackwater has not yet commented on the incident.

Imagining how the US State Department would operate in Iraq without Blackwater is like imagining how a turtle would live without its shell.

Blackwater's website is only intermittently reachable this morning.

(Thanks, Rich. Also, thanks, RYP, for licensing info.)

See also Wired's write-up.

UPDATE: Apparently the work "inevitable" also came to P. W. Singer's mind. See Noah Shachtman's interesting piece Blackwater Ban "Inevitable." Looks to me like this is shaping up to be one of them there Historical Lessons.