A Cautious Man
September 30, 2007
 
The Cold Black Water
The Blackwater security firm has been in the news lately, mostly because of reports about the "rules of engagement" (or lack thereof) of their personnel in Iraq, and the civilian deaths that have resulted. Then, just the other day, came a report about how Blackwater endandered its own personnel in Iraq, in connection with an investigation of the company's practices.
Democrats in Congress released a scathing report Thursday on the 2004 massacre of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, charging that the company rushed unprepared into a sloppy mission, skimped on security to save money and stonewalled when Congress tried to investigate.

The report ratchets up the pressure on Blackwater, already under intense scrutiny for a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad that left 11 Iraqis dead.

. . .

Thursday's report, based on government reports and internal Blackwater documents, said:

- Blackwater, a for-profit company, opted to use unarmored vehicles to save money and cut essential personnel from the mission. An internal Blackwater report said Blackwater's contract paid for armored vehicles but "management in North Carolina ... made the decision to go with soft skin due to the cost."

- Blackwater ignored the warnings of a British security firm, which had twice turned down the exact same mission "due to the obvious risk of transporting slow-moving loads through such a volatile area."

. . .

The mission through Fallujah had a hurried and slapdash quality, the congressional report said.

Blackwater was taking over operations from Control Risk Group, a British security company. Control Risk Groups twice rejected the mission to escort three flatbed trucks from Camp Taji through Fallujah to Camp Ridgeway because it was too dangerous to take a slow-moving convoy through such hostile territory.

Blackwater ignored the warnings, the report said. Blackwater also sent its men out short-staffed, with two men in each unarmored vehicle, rather than three. The absence of a third man left them open to attack from the rear. Contractors from another company, Kellogg Brown and Root, told Navy investigators that they met the Blackwater convoy the night before the ambush. The Blackwater team seemed unprepared and hurried, and it ignored warnings from the other contractors to avoid Fallujah because of ambushes.

"It almost felt like they were being pressured to get there and get there as quickly as possible," said one contractor, whom the report didn't name.

I was reminded of an "infamous" statement written by the proprietor/ringmaster of Daily Kos, Mr. Markos Moulitsas. At the time of the deaths of the Blackwater personnel in Faluja, he responded with a comment (not a post, you have to scroll down this linked comment page) that has been referenced by right-wingers ever since -
Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.
That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

Mr. Moulitsas himself described that as follows:"So I said something pretty stupid last week. I served up the wingnuts a big, juicy softball. They went into a tizzy, led by Instapundit." And, it lingered as a right-wing talking point, as this dialogue (gleefully reprinted by somebody at "Expose The Left") demonstrates -
KURTZ: Now as you know, “National Review’s” Byron York resurrected a quote from you, this was after four American contractors were killed in Iraq in 2004. The quote was, I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They are there to wage war for profits, screw them. You dealt with this at the time and you expressed regret. My question is, are you prepared for the extra scrutiny that comes with this higher profile you have, whether you particularly want to be out there as the symbol of the blogging movement or not?

MOULITSAS: Absolutely. To me in a way it’s funny that they have not updated their talking points in two years. And so they want to keep resurrecting an old quote, there’s nothing I can do about it. What I can do is I can say the fact is the reason, the context for that quote was solidarity with my brothers and sisters in arms, Marines and soldiers. I wore combat boots. I served during the first Gulf war and people are making a choice between private armies and mercenaries. I make my choice. I stand behind our men and women in uniform and I’m not going to apologize for that. But they’re going to keep resurrecting that and that’s fine. That’s what they do. They smear, they attack, they don’t like the fact that people are getting engaged in politics, that people are getting involved. There are too many turf to protect so they’ll keep doing that and that’s fine. I can fight back.

Now, why mention this? Well, the latest reports, noted at the start of this post, show that Mr. Moulitsas was not the first person to say "Screw them" about the Blackwater personnel. The reason those men died, was because the executives of Blackwater, in their zeal to make the Iraq War a lucrative, for-profit enterprise, skimped on training and safety, and essentially said about their own employees: "Screw them."

Another reason to question our government and its amorality in pursuing the war in Iraq.

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