Blogs > Cliopatria > Blackwater, the Surge, and Imperialism

Sep 19, 2007 4:45 pm

Blackwater, the Surge, and Imperialism

One of the many reasons that it is hard to credit the surge with anything more than a temporary effect—if that—is the fundamentally insane way in which the United States goes about day-to-day activities. The present controversy over Blackwater underscores one of those insanities. This article provides a good sense of the situation.

The insanity is not simply that we are using mercenary forces. It is that we rely on mercenary forces for basic security, and we have established a legal situation in which they have no masters except, maybe, the Bush Administration.

For those who like to talk about an Imperial America, I can think of no better evidence than our demanding that these forces be outside of Iraqi law. Extraterritoriality is what the British, the French, and every other imperial power has demanded for its troops and mercenaries.

That the Bush administration has exempted these forces from Iraqi law shows how little it really trusts the Iraqi government. That these forces are also outside American law is more proof that this administration remains both arrogant and incompetent. Iraqis see these forces as American, as well they should. We brought them there, and their crimes are on our hands. If we do not act, the Iraqis will draw their own conclusions.

If we cannot act, if as the linked article states these forces so essential that they cannot be curtailed, then what reason do we have to think that we can control anything else there? What good can such uncontrolled forces accomplish?

One last thought: to what extent is the proposed force drawdown dependent on maintaining or even increasing our reliance on private forces like Blackwater?

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Mike A Mainello - 9/25/2007

your welcome

Oscar Chamberlain - 9/25/2007

Thanks for the links and the information.

Mike A Mainello - 9/25/2007

The Public Affairs Officer for the COE in Iraq wrote back and said they don't have separate reconstruction map for medical facilities.

She recommended the web site and newsletter for updates. I have also included the web site for the Multi-National Force Iraq. I get an RSS feed from the site to keep up with various news articles.

Mike A Mainello - 9/21/2007

I wasnt able to find a map, but if you go to this web site,

Type in "Sector: Health Care" to find on the page and it will take you the Health Care section.

Lots of public information.

If I find map, I will let you know.

Oscar Chamberlain - 9/21/2007


Do you know of any source that maps the project locations?

Mike A Mainello - 9/20/2007

I totally agree with your assessment that the US will have to keep a sizable force in place for quite awhile. This supports what Senators Biden and Hagel wrote in a 2003 Op-Ed piece. They estimated it would take a decade of post war support. I am not sure why they have changed their position, but I guess running for president has something to do with it.

Next, a lot of construction, to include medical infrastructure continues in Iraq. I have provided a link to the latest engineer fact sheet

and also to the COE Iraq Web Site.

With regards to Blackwater and other PSC's, the Congressional Research Services document outlined the applicable laws and I am willing to bet that they will be held accountable.

It will take time, we were in Europe for 50 years with over 1 million service members in Europe during the Cold War. Obviously this wasn't totally for reconstruction, but we didn't win WW2 and then leave in 2 or 3 years. Just as an aside, when I was stationed in Germany in 1985, the US military was still rebuilding outdated German facilities and then turning them over to the Germans.

Stephen Kislock - 9/20/2007

The US took a Country that was not Broken and Broke it!

No Electricity, No potable Water, Over 4 Million Iraqi's left the Country or are Displaced.

The Body Count of Killed/Murdered Iraqi's Civilians stands at 1,000,000 Plus.

The consequence of the Incompetence of the Cheney/Bush administration is beyond belief! No, on second thought that was their Plan, Just Destroy Iraq and you have access to all the OIL, the US Needs.......

Oscar Chamberlain - 9/19/2007

Actually I had read two of your posts. I have not had a lot of time lately to respond due to a deadline. Today was the first day that I could come up for air.

There are good things that we have done in Iraq. There always have been. On a couple of occasions I've had veterans talk to my classes, and they have emphasized the very real good that they have done.

But that does not mean that we are winning. Nor does that mean that the totality of our actions is to the good.

As I read about Blackwater, and the other mercenary groups, I found myself categorizing the lack of discipline imposed upon them as one of the systemic flaws of our invasion and occupation. Others include the total botching of our promises to build a new health infrastructure; the concentration of our effective construction efforts on the Embassy--which in its scope just reeks of imperial pretensions; and the manipulation of economic rules to allow foreign countries to buy their way in (unlike the Marshall Plan which encouraged those nations to keep control of their own wealth).

Of course the latter has not been that big a problem as there has been little incentive for foreign companies to do so.

In short, I see a somewhat improved military situation that does not appear sustainable unless we maintain current manpower levels (which we can't), and a reconstruction effort that is still being grossly mismanaged.

Mike A Mainello - 9/19/2007

Mr. Chamberlain,

You are usually a bit more moderate, but I believe you are jumping to conclusions just a little bit.

First, there a many laws in which Blackwater and other security firms operate in. It took me almost 30 seconds to find this CRS report outlining many areas in which the firms are regulated. It does say some gray areas exist, but hey lawyers wrote it.

Contrary to what you think, most service members are not blood thirsty warriors, but people wanting to bring peace to a troubled land. Why don't you wait and see what the entire story reveals instead of jumping to BDS conclusions.

With regards to the surge, in case you haven't read my other recent posts, why don't you read some positive developments from different sources.

1. Here is a snippet from an article written about Ramadi. The article provides a glimpse of AQ tactics and why it has taken a long time for Iraqi's to help us and take over responsibility for their country. A link to the entire article is provided below.

“Al Qaeda hit a six month old baby with a mortar when they were trying to hit us,” Lieutenant Hightower said when he got off the phone. “They also hit a six year old girl. We went in and medi-vacced the victims, and we made lots of friends that day. It was a clarifying experience for the Iraqis.”

It was a clarifying experience for the Iraqis because they had been raised on virulent anti-American conspiracy theories and propaganda from Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. They truly believed the Army and Marines were there to steal their oil and women. Americans saving the lives of children wounded by fellow Sunni Arabs who passed themselves off as liberators was not what many Iraqis ever expected to see.

“The six month baby had shrapnel in his head,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “The six year old girl had shrapnel in her leg. It was the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since I got here.” This from a man who saw one of his own men shot in the head by a sniper.

2. Liberals are always talking about compassion and children. Stop thinking that this will help President Bush or the republicans. This is about people helping themselves and people helping people.

This is what real leadership is - not giving up when the going gets tough, but re-evaluating, adjusting and implementing proper tactics.

This from an independent reporter (again, read the whole article, it is fascinating):

“We hand out care packages from the U.S. to Iraqis now that the area has been cleared of terrorists,” one Marine told me. “When we tell them that some of these packages aren’t from the military or the government, that they were donated by average American citizens in places like Kansas, people choke up and sometimes even cry. They just can’t comprehend it. It is so different from the lies they were told about us and how we’re supposed to be evil.”

The literacy class for women and girls may have been cancelled, but the local would-be students wanted me to take pictures of them at their desks. So the classroom was opened and they sat in their seats for staged photos. We had no language in common. It was just obvious, from their beckoning hand gestures, what they wanted me to do. They seemed to be proud that they were learning to read, and that women and girls were allowed to be schooled again now that Al Qaeda is gone.

3. More good news in Iraq. This time from Reuters.

Read and rejoice. Things are definitely improving. How about that General Petreaus and President Bush.

"Last month the fall was particularly dramatic, with 70 percent fewer bodies and half the number of wounded brought in compared to July, hospital director Haqi Ismail said.

"The major incidents, like explosions and car bombs, sometimes reached six or seven a day. Now it's more like one or two a week," he told Reuters.";;feedName=worldNews&pageNumber=2