And now, some potentially disturbing developments in the Global War on Terror™. It appears that the gung ho private mercs from Blackwater Security Consulting are keen to get a little more face time with the bad guys. Not satisfied with just providing private personal security, they're looking to get a bit more involved:
This week at a conference in Jordan, Blackwater USA vice chairman Cofer Black announced that the private security company is ready to shift from a security role to a more “overt combat role,” essentially becoming an army for hire.
And why is this cause for concern? Mostly because these yahoos don't have good relations with the regular grunts and are just downright dangerous (emphasis added):
For American soldiers and Marines in Iraq, the rapid proliferation of contractors is, at best, a mixed blessing. Some troops I talked to say the contractors' presence frees up their own thinly stretched units to carry out operational activities--including running security patrols, searching for improvised explosive devices, and battling the growing insurgency. "We fight the war, and they do the shit work," one top officer in Baghdad said.
But many troops resent the fact that the private gunmen earn as much as $1,000 per day--ten times the average Marine's salary. And several told me that they find it alarming that so many private gunmen are on the loose in Iraq, unbeholden to military regulations...
Sometimes, however, the mercenaries' activities do more harm than good. The uneasy relationship between the troops and the contractors reached its nadir on March 31, when the four Blackwater men were brutally murdered in Falluja, their body parts strung up on a bridge. The previous day, the four contractors, all heavily armed but driving unarmored vehicles, had reportedly escorted a food convoy to a nearby Marine base. They spent the night at the base, apparently ate alongside the troops, and then left the next morning for Baghdad, inexplicably taking a shortcut through the resistance stronghold. "We would have told them not do it," said one Marine officer. The officer angrily called the contractors "cowboys" and said they had failed to inform anyone on the base about their plans, a direct violation of military policy.
And, like I said, these two groups don't typically get along:
Blackwater charges its clients $1,500 to $2,000 a day for each hired gun. Most security contractors, like Blackwater's teams, live a comfortable if exhausting existence in Baghdad, staying at the Sheraton or Palestine hotels, which are not plush but at least have running water. Locals often mistake the guards for special forces or CIA personnel, which makes active-duty military troops a bit edgy. "Those Blackwater guys," says an intelligence officer in Iraq, "they drive around wearing Oakley sunglasses and pointing their guns out of car windows. They have pointed their guns at me, and it pissed me off. Imagine what a guy in Fallujah thinks." Adds an Army officer who just returned from Baghdad, "They are a subculture."
The obvious question is, of course, are there any Blackwater personnel in Afghanistan, fighting alongside Canadians? And are they still the demented, arrogant dipshits they've always been? And if those contractors get themselves into trouble again, will it be the responsibility of the regular Canadian forces to bail their sorry asses out?
It's one thing to put your life at risk for a "brother" in the line of duty. It's quite another to do that for an obscenely-paid private merc who can swagger around, stir up trouble, not be responsible for any of it, and then walk away leaving the grunts to clean up the mess afterwards.
So what's happening in Afghanistan, Blackwater-wise? Anyone know?
OH, CHRIST. Read it and weep. And I'm pretty sure this doesn't fill you with confidence.
BETTER AND BETTER: Sort of like I was just saying:
We seem to have a bit of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to our military, what our politicians have sent them to do, and what is acceptable behaviour. Have any Canadians, in Afghanistan or serving with exchange programs with the US military, participated in any of the “softening up” of prisoners that the rest of the civilised world considers to be torture? One would like to think that Canadian soldiers are not part of anything like that, but our soldiers have made similar mistakes in the past and we do pass prisoners to the US even though we know that the US commits torture.
Seldom discussed is that Canada’s ever-increasing commitments in Afghanistan allow US troops to go and fight in Iraq or that the US may need every warm body available to invade Iran. Instead we are told that we are on a humanitarian mission that is not peacekeeping, but war-making. We are then told that we don’t understand our mission.
Even less often are we allowed to hear discussion on exactly who we are working with in Afghanistan. We get the list of NATO countries, but we don’t get a list of CIA contractors, Blackwater mercenaries, regional warlords and other unsavoury characters; many of whom the United States would no doubt dub “illegal combatants” were they on the other side of this war.
Delightful. Just delightful.