Blogs > Liberty and Power > Contractors & Marines Clash in Iraq

Jun 13, 2005 1:56 pm

Contractors & Marines Clash in Iraq

Tom Palmer in an earlier comment indicated there was only one report of a clash between regular American forces and contractors in Iraq, as if the number of reports was of great significance. Well, Tom, it certainly took a long time for the American media to get around to even mentioning the Downing Street Memo.

But here is a piece from the Christian Science Monitor, one of the better papers on what has been going on in Iraq. As noted these tensions have been around for a while.

One should remember it was the abuses by contractors in Falllujah that precipitated things a year ago April. There is little control over the highly paid contractors who the regular forces have to protect.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Tom G Palmer - 6/16/2005

I'm afraid that's not the case. No evidence for the strange claim about Mexicans trooping to America to sell their body parts. And no evidence that there was more than "only one report of a clash between regular American forces and contractors in Iraq." The CSM cite was about the same single clash. That doesn't count as evidence of more clashes. The others you provided above were about "abuses" by U.S. contractors, such as overbilling and reckless behavior. Not one was evidence of what you had claimed. So they don't count as evidence, either. And about the Mexicans...really, you can't tell us about press reports because you were doing research for Sears? Face it, you have embarrassed yourself by passing off the kind of thing that I would get after an undergraduate student for doing -- stating as fact something that "ought" to be true, or would be interesting if true, or if true would support whatever conclusion you have set out, but for which you have no evidence. Not good for a self-described historian. Not good at all.

William Marina - 6/16/2005

If one is familiar with the work of the psychologist Fritz Perls then the meaning of ES, as compared to CS, or BS, ought to be quite clear.

William Marina - 6/16/2005

I did give the evidence.

Jason Kuznicki - 6/16/2005

Tom, you are so full of the nastiest elephant shit.

You know, with a first line like that, why would I even bother reading the rest? I hate to say it, but this whole comment thread has been one giant embarrassment for the Liberty & Power crew. Asking for evidence of a claim is perfectly reasonable--and if you're not prepared to give that evidence, then you have no business making the claim.

William Marina - 6/16/2005

Tom, you are so full of the nastiest elephant shit.
I came across the citation about Mexicans selling their organs, with several specific cases cited, back in 1979 when I was doing public policy research studies for Sears, one of which was on Immigration.
I no longer have all that stuff. Even if I did, I could not release it, as I signed a confidentiality note with Sears. I tried to make those studies as complete as possible since they were paying me $100 a page.
I have provided at least one source for everything I said in the recent comments, initiated by David Beito, but joined by others. When it doesn't suit your views, you simply say it is untrue unless multiple sources are provided.
By that logic, since Deep Throat was W&B's only source for many things, they ought to have rejected everything he said.
This will be my last reply to your pile.
Bill Marina

Tom G Palmer - 6/16/2005

It's now been 28.5 hours and still no citation or evidence. Did you hear the one about the Giant Peruvian Rat? Or how "Mikey" died because he ate a box of "Pop Rocks"? Or about the alligators in the New York sewer system? Or how you can get high by dissolving an aspirin in a bottle of Coke? You'll find lots of other such stories at You can learn a lot of cool things there -- stuff almost as cool as the story about waves of Mexicans trooping over the border to the U.S. to sell their organs so they could send money back home. It's really amazing what you can learn on the internet!

Tom G Palmer - 6/15/2005

Good question. The one example was of an armed clash. In response to Bill Woolsey's charitable note:

If Mr. Marina is trying to suggest that a "clash of opinions" is the same as holding someone at gunpoint, he's abusing the English language. It was quite clear from both the text and the context that he was suggesting that there were more examples of clashes of the sort that occurred on May 28. The best he can do to "document" the claim is "Well, Tom, it certainly took a long time for the American media to get around to even mentioning the Downing Street Memo." So it's a matter of blind faith. The media are covering it up. Right.

If there are other examples, it would indeed be quite interesting. Mr. Marina seems to think so, but can't show any evidence (other than another news story about the same incident).

On the strange claim that Mexicans used to come to the U.S. and sell their organs....I'd be interested to know whether it's true. I suspect that it has the same epistemic status as stories of giant alligators in the New York sewer system. Trafficking in urban legends is what expect from undergraduates who are just learning how to unravel "stuff-I-saw-on-the-internet/something-a-friend-told-me" from documented facts.

Bill Woolsey - 6/15/2005

Perhaps the problem is in the meaning of the
word "clash?"

Apparently, Marina is using the term broadly
to mean something like conflict of perceived

Palmer is looking for evidence of firefights
between regular U.S. forces and armed private

Of course, that there might be some kind of
disagreement between U.S. forces and security
contractors isn't very sensational.

If they are fighting battles, then that would be
"big news."


Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

"give me an hour and I will provide the precise citation on the organ donation as soon as I can find the articles and books." -- Chris Pettit

It has been three hours. If you can produce evidence that it was a practice of Mexicans to come to the U.S. and sell their organs, I'll read it. You may be right. I asked simply for evidence that it was a common practice and I got a lot of nothing.

I also still haven't seen any evidence that there have been any clashes "between regular American forces and contractors in Iraq," beyond the one case in May that had been reported in the media. Again, maybe there is. If so, I'll be happy to read it. But so far I've seen a lot of nothing from you two -- a lot of thing that's taken a lot of wasted words.

Some people will believe just anything that seems to support whatever conclusions they want to steer toward. I ask for evidence. You can produce it or not. To quote Mr. Pettit: "If not, I would ask you to consider keeping your trap shut as you obviously bring nothing but miseducation and lack of information to the table."

William Marina - 6/14/2005

Amen, Chris.
Thanks for the useful Bibliography.
Bill Marina

Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

Mr. Pettit didn't read the basis of the discussion. All of the issues that he and Mr. Marina raise are important and not answers to my question. I asked for evidence about claims that Mr. Marina made, namely that Mexican immigrants come to the U.S. and sell their organs and that there was evidence of clashes between U.S. military forces and private security forces. Not that the former might happen or could happen and not that there have been gross examples of overcharging of the taxpayer by construction firms in Iraq, or reckless endangerment or criminal behavior by security forces, or that the war was illegal. Mr. Marina made two claims for which I asked for evidence: that Mexican immigrants come to the U.S. and then sell their organs to send money back home and that there have been multiple instances of armed clashes between private security contractors and U.S. military forces. Neither he nor you offer any *evidence for those claims.* You can put in the New York telephone book and it still won't count as evidence for those claims. You've provided citations that would support other claims, but *not the ones I questioned.* Is that really so hard to get through your head? I didn't even say that the claims were false; I just asked for evidence that they were true. I did not get any. Just lots of evidence that could be used to support other claims. Again, pathetic.

chris l pettit - 6/14/2005

Having done an entire book chapter on the topic...maybe you will listen to an authority on the topic. But of course your pathetic research on Judge Weeramantry did not find anything (maybe because you cannot research outside of US sources?)...give me an hour and I will provide the precise citation on the organ donation as soon as I can find the articles and books. if all you are worried about is the confrontation between soldiers and PMFs, it is interesting that we are treading on a topic that has not been dealt with directly, although many soldiers in the military consider those in PMFs cowboys and mercenaries. My sources for the addition to crimes by Private Military Firms, both in Iraq and worldwide (particularly in Africa and the Balkans)?

Arnold, Guy, Mercenaries: Scourge of the Third World, MacMillan (1999)
Bidwell, Shelford, Dogs of War or Soldiers of Honour, Harper Collins (1988
Botha, C. From Mercenaries to "Private Military Companies': The Collapse of the African State
and the Outsourcing of State Security, 23 South African Yearbook of International Law
133-148 (1999)
Brayton, Steve, Outsourcing War: Mercenaries and the Privatization of Peacekeeping, J. Int’l.
Affairs, Vol. 55 (2002)
Cohen, Nick, Mercenaries Who Fight for Britain, The New Statesman, Vol. 132, Jan, 27, 2003
Davis, James, Fortune’s Warriors: Private Armies and the New World Order, Douglas and
McIntyre (2000)
Dinnen, Sinclair, Militaristic Solutions in a Weak State: Internal Security, Private Contractors
and Political Leadership, 11 Contemp. Pac. 279 (1999)
Hoover, MS, The Laws of War and the Angolan Trial of Mercenaries: Death to the Dogs of War,
9 Case Western J. Intl. Law 25, (1997)
Howe, Herbert, The Privatization of International Affairs: Global Order and the Privatization of
Security, 22 Fletcher F. World Aff. 1 (1998)
Fatau Musa, Abel, Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma, Pluto Press (2002)
Garmon, Tina, Domesticating International Corporate Responsibility: Holding Private Military
Firms Accountable Under the Alien Tort Claims Act, 11 Tul. J. Int’l. & Comp. L. 325
Hampson, F.J. Mercenaries: Diagnosis Before Proscription, 22 Netherlands Yearbook of
International Law 3-38 (1991)
Heil, Jennifer, African Private Security Companies and the Alien Tort Claims Act: Could
Multi-National Oil and Mining Companies Be Liable?, 22 NW J. Int’l. L. & Bus. 291
Keen, Maurice (ed), Medieval Warfare: A History, Oxford (1997)
Kritsiotis, Dino, Mercenaries and the Privatization of Warfare, 22 Fletcher F. World Aff. 11
Kwakwa, Edward, The Current Status of Mercenaries in the Law of Armed Conflict, 14 Hastings
Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 67, 88-89 (1990)
Lanning, Michael, Mercenaries: Soldiers of Fortune from Ancient Greece to Today’s Private
Military Companies, Presidio Press (2005)
Madsen, Wayne, Mercenaries in Kosovo, The Progressive, Vol. 6, August 1999
Mandel, Robert, Armies Without States: The Privatization of Security, L.Rienner (2002)
Milliard, Todd, Overcoming Post-Colonial Myopia: A Call to Recognize and Regulate Private
Military Corporations, 176 Mil. L. Rev. 1 (2003)
Mockler, Anthony, The New Mercenaries, Oxford (1985)
Okoth-Obbo, G. Mercenaries and Humanitarian Law, with Particular Reference to Protocol I
additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, 15 Indian Journal of International Law
33-57 (1988)
Peter, C.M. Mercenaries and International Humanitarian Law, 24 Indian Journal of International
Law 373-392 (1984)
Shearer, David, Private Armies and Military Intervention, Oxford (1998)
Sheppard, Simon, Soldiers for Hire, Contemporary Review, Vol. 275, Aug. 1999
Silverstein, Ken, Private Warriors, Verso (2001)
Smith, Ron, Mercenaries: What’s the Problem?, New Zealand Int’l. Review, Vol.22 (1997)
Singer, P.W. Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Its
Ramifications for International Security, 26 Int’l. Sec. 186 (2001/02)
- Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, Yale Press
- War, Profits, and the Vacuum of Law: Privatized Military Firms and International Law,
42 Columbia J. of Trans. Law 521 (2004)
Thompson, Janice, Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns, Princeton (1996)
Venter, Al, War Dog: Fighting Other People’s Wars, Casemate (2005)
Zarate, Juan Carlos, The Emergence of a New Dog of War: Private International Security
Companies, International Law, and the New World Disorder, 34 Stan. J. Int’l L. 75

There are even articles in there that you might support regarding the regulation of PMFs instead of outright banning...but they must be held accountable for their offenses. There have been constant violations of international law, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by the PMFs in Iraq IN AN INSTITUTIONALISED ENVIRONMENT that is encouraged by the US State apparatus. The fact that they are even being utilised in an illegal war (under international law) that is unsupported by the majority of the international community is also a blatant violation of international law. I for one am encouraged to see that there are at least some sensible soldiers standing up to those PMFs who commit atrocities (and yes, the PMFs in Fallujah were the instigators, and ended up reaping what they was dastardly, inhuman, and illegal action by the insurgents and population, but no more so than the crimes of the PMFs...and since you live in a power relationship based world where rights and law don't seem to exist, you hardly have a leg to bitch on about this one without being a total hypocrite...but I figure you will try anyway).

I could care less about your stance on the war...whatever the stance and reasoning it is probably not based in law and rights anyway. What bothers me is that you attack Bill for speaking on a topic which admittedly has not been focused on directly, but that has been mentioned in many studies regarding PMFs, and then demonstrate that you have no idea what you are talking about regarding the topic. If you want to learn, just say those and there are those of us who are actually well versed on the topic. If not, I would ask you to consider keeping your trap shut as you obviously bring nothing but miseducation and lack of information to the table.


Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

At last, something that looks almost like evidence! (And I'll set aside the claim about being a "Shill," which shows no understanding of what the term means. You should learn to use a dictionary.)

The problem is that they are not evidence of your claim. They provide zero support -- zero -- for your remarks. They are about (your words) "abuses by contractors in Iraq" (including overcharging, abuse of prisoners, and recklessness toward civilians) but not one concerns (your words in your charge at the top of this posting) "a clash between regular American forces and contractors in Iraq." I said that we had only one report of such a clash and asked for evidence of any more. You evidently have no such evidence. Why not admit it? Why continue to embarrass yourself?

Your first response to my challenge to produce evidence was to attempt to poison the well by raising the issue of my stance on the war, hoping (evidently) that I had been for it, rather than against it. Pathetic.

William Marina - 6/14/2005

Here are four citations with respect to abuses by contractors in Iraq:

Gee, Tom, if one wants to get nasty, what are you, a Catotonic Shill?

Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

The reader did not give me chapter and verse. He gave me a name of an author and nothing more. I checked his articles and found abstract discussions of the ethical problems that would be raised if people were to sell body parts. That's hardly chapter and verse. I asked for evidence that people had done what you alleged, not that other people had thought about the ethical problems that would be posed if people were to do that. Are you unaware that there is a difference between claims of fact and hypotheticals?

You gave me a citation to an article that discussed the same event. I asked if there was evidence of any other events. You did not provide any evidence. Absolutely none. Is it evidence of a prejudice to ask for evidence when someone makes a factual claim that, were it true, would be interesting and important?

I'll remember your attitude toward evidence the next time you are described as a "historian."

William Marina - 6/14/2005

I provided the citation from the CSM. Earlier when you doubted the sale of body parts, another reader gave you chapter and verse, and you just blathered on. There is no evidence that will refute your prejudices, Tom, as I have noticed in a number of your acerbic comments here at the Blog.

Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

You gave me zero evidence. Zip. I checked what you suggested and found nothing. There are millions of citations for "Iraq contractors" but none for what you claim. Those citations are mainly about construction contractors, Halliburton, etc. They are not about what you claimed, viz. that there is evidence of conflict between U.S. military personnel and security contractors beyond the one case that had been reported in the media. I asked if you had any evidence. You don't. You should have just admitted it.

William Marina - 6/14/2005

I gave you some evidence, Tom. When there are not enoough citations to suit you, since in your mind, mass counts, you then say there is "no" evidence, which is not true as you cited some of it.

Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

In short, you don't have an answer. I just googled "Iraq contractors" and came up with 2,490,000 results, of which after reviewing a few hundred the only example of a fight between security contractors and U.S. military personnel I could find are about the one case that has been reported so far. So I googled "Iraq contractors conflict U.S. military" and found 442,000 results; after reviewing a few pages I found reports of the same incident and also a few mentions of an October 21, 2003 AP story that included a report of a possible (but denied) case of a friendly fire incident in which one contractor working for European Landmine Solutions was killed. It seemed that you didn't google "Iraq contractors" yourself or if you did, you had much more patience than I did to go through 2,490,000 results.

Regarding the Blackwater contractors who were ambushed, killed, and mutilated in Fallujah, I did indeed read the news articles, none of which mentioned that the ambush was precipitated by any abuses. I also spoke in Baghdad informally with people who had first hand knowledge of the case, who described the events of the case but none of whom mentioned anything of the sort you mention. Lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack, mind you. I'm not insisting on a negative; I'm asking for any positive evidence, and you evidently don't have any.

Regarding the war, I believe that it was a colossal blunder and I opposed it at the time. My opinion has not changed. Does my view on the wisdom/goodness or foolishness/badness of the decision to go to war have any relevance to the question of whether there is any evidence for your unsubstantiated factual claims? That's a remarkably weak fallback position in defense of a factual claim that was offered with no evidence.

William Marina - 6/14/2005

Dear Tom,
Try Googling "Iraq Contractors" for numerous articles about the activities of these guys.
No wonder the regulars are upset about this "Privatization."
You need to read a bit more about the Blackwater boys antics last year, which were about a bit more than just passing thru. Even other Contractors interviewed at the time said the abuses by that comapny were an embarrassment, and they were not surprised by the Iraqi reaction to same.
What, exactly, is your position on this latest of oour many Imperial Interventions, anyway?
Bill Marina

Tom G Palmer - 6/14/2005

Let's see now, Bill. You cite reports of one ugly confrontation. Then, when I mention that so far we have seen reports of only one confrontation, you provide a citation of an article about....the same single confrontation. Good work. You know, Bill, it does seem to me "as if the number of reports was of great significance" when one is making sweeping claims about the relations between U.S. military personnel and private security details. Call me old fashioned, but facts matter. To me, at least.

(And, by the way, Bill, the ambushing, butchery, and mutilitation of the contractors in Fallujah was indeed what "precipitated" the later military assaults on that city, but in what way was it an "abuse" for them to have driven through that city to their ambush? Were you there, or do you have better intel than anyone else about what really happened there?)