Iraqi government may ban Blackwater security group
An incident that left eight Iraqi civilians dead has raised concerns about the private military contractor in Iraq.
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On Freerepublic, a popular pro-war blog, one fairly representative comment was: "Methinks they were just doing their job. The message is, if terrorists dress like civilians you can't shoot at them even if they blow up your vehicle. What cowardice."Skip to next paragraph
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At Democratic Underground, which sits firmly on the left of the US blog divide, this was a fairly typical comment. "Goes to show what I think of the sovereignty of the Iraqi government. It will be interesting to see if they can make this stick, and improve their rep, or if [it] fails and provides another evidence of their government's impotence."
The controversy comes even as Blackwater appears set to begin offering direct counterinsurgency training to foreign air forces. A number of blogs, including Danger Room, a national security blog for Wired Magazine, referred to a subscription-only article in Jane's, a defense magazine, in late August, that said Blackwater was seeking to buy a Super Tucano light-attack plane. The Wired blog shares the following passage from the Jane's article.
Blackwater President Gary Jackson confirmed to Jane's at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration in Stafford, Virginia, in mid-August that the company is in the process of acquiring the Super Tucano for a new training programme.
If the deal goes through, it will give the company a significant boost in a growing international market for fixed-wing tactical flight instruction, as well as a potential platform for counter-insurgency-style training.
The Super Tucano is in service with the Brazilian Air Force, which operates the aircraft as a primary aircraft trainer and in border-patrol missions under its SIVAM (Sistema de Vigilância da Amazônia) programme. Colombia finalised a contract for 25 Super Tucanos in December 2005; the aircraft has also been marketed to Singapore and the Dominican Republic. Fully equipped, the aircraft features five weapon hardpoints and a night-vision goggle (NVG)-compatible 'glass cockpit'.
In an interview with PBS Frontline, Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institute in Washington who has tracked the rise of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) like Blackwater, said the business is worth $100 billion a year and worries about the impact their role is having on policy and accountability.
You're talking about an industry that really didn't exist until the start of the 1990s. And since then, it's grown in size, in monetary terms to about $100 billion worth of revenue a year. In geographic terms, it operates in over 50 different countries. It's operated on every single continent but Antarctica.
It operates in poor states, rich states -- you know, the Saudi Arabias, the Congo-Brazzavilles. It operates in superpowers like United States -- we're the largest client of that industry; the Pentagon's entered into over 3,000 contracts with it in the last couple years -- to weak states, failed states, Sierra Leones, Liberias, Afghanistans of the world.
… sometimes [the Pentagon has] outsourced things that infringed upon the core function of the military. And that's when you see all these kind of questions of accountability, all these kind of questions of how the heck did we get contractors in that role, where it's not only the public that's surprised, but people in the military themselves who are surprised and offended by it.