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Old 07-11-2007, 04:05 PM   #211
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I recently attended a talk by Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now investigative reporter and author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" http://www.blackwaterbook.com/ and he said that on his book tour he'd had so many US soldiers come up to him and say that one of the most discouraging things for them is that the troops typically enter a village and do everything possible to let the Iraqi civilians know that they're there to help and they earn the people's trust, then the Blackwater mercenaries (ahem, "contractors") roll into town in their fancy armored vehicles and wrap-around sunglasses looking like something out of a Tom Cruise movie, and start shooting at anything that moves. So unfortunately when I hear that "US troops" are shooting fuckloads of Iraqi civilians, I tend to lean towards thinking there's some truth there.
If you liked the book, see if you can get a DVD copy of "Iraq for Sale" - it's an absolutely fantastic documentary precisely on the way this war has been outsourced. Blackwater is heavily featured, including the way they abandon their own people out there. It's a must-see film.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:15 PM   #212
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i can't seem to find it right now, but i thought i read somewhere that the number of civilian casualties was greater than the number of insurgent casualties. does anybody know if this is true?
Easily.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:39 PM   #213
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If you liked the book, see if you can get a DVD copy of "Iraq for Sale" - it's an absolutely fantastic documentary precisely on the way this war has been outsourced. Blackwater is heavily featured, including the way they abandon their own people out there. It's a must-see film.
I've added it to my Netflix queue.

For those less familiar with this issue, here is the text from Scahill's testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. What he mentioned in his talk that I attended, and which he mentions here, is how little Congress actually knows about any of this, such is the level of secrecy around it. These contractors answer to no court of law, and no official record of the number of contractor deaths and injuries is kept. Sorry this quote is so long but it's really important.



Published on Saturday, May 12, 2007 by The Nation
Outsourcing the War
by Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, bestselling author and investigative reporter for The Nation, testified May 10 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on the impact of private military contractors on the conduct of the Iraq War. This is the full text of his remarks:

My name is Jeremy Scahill. I have submitted my full remarks and request they be entered into the record. I am an investigative reporter for The Nation magazine and the author of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. I have spent the better part of the past two and a half years researching privatized warfare. I have interviewed scores of sources, filed many Freedom of Information Act requests, obtained government contracts and private company documents of firms operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

As this Committee is well aware, we are now in the midst of the most privatized war in the history of our country. This is hardly a new phenomenon, but it is one that has greatly accelerated since the launch of the “global war on terror” and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Many Americans are under the impression that the US currently has about 145,000 active duty troops on the ground in Iraq. What is seldom mentioned is the fact that there are at least 126,000 private personnel deployed alongside the official armed forces. These private forces effectively double the size of the occupation force, largely without the knowledge of the US taxpayers that foot the bill.

But despite the similarity in size of these respective forces in Iraq, there are key differences with the way our government approaches the active-duty military and these private war contractors. For instance, we know that nearly 3,400 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than 25,000 wounded. We do not know the exact number of private contractors killed or wounded. Through the US Department of Labor, we have been able to determine that at least 770 contractors had been killed in Iraq as of December 2006 along with at least 7,700 wounded. These casualties are not included in the official death count and help to mask the human costs of the war. More disturbing is what this means for our democracy: at a time when the administration seems unwilling to subject its war strategy to oversight by the Congress, we face the widespread use of private forces seemingly accountable to no effective system of oversight or law.

While tens of thousands of these contractors provide logistical support, thousands are heavily armed private soldiers roaming Iraq. We do know that there are some 48,000 employees of private military companies in Iraq alone.

These forces work for US companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp as well as companies from across the globe. Some contractors make in a month what many active-duty soldiers make in a year. Indeed, there are private contractors in Iraq making more money than the Secretary of Defense and more than the commanding generals. The testimony about private contractors that I hear most often from active duty soldiers falls into two categories: resentment and envy.

They ask what message their country is sending them. While many soldiers lack basic protective equipment–facts well-known to this committee–they are in a war zone where they see the private soldiers whiz by in better vehicles, with better armor, better weapons, wearing the corporate logo instead of the American flag and pulling in much more money. They ask: Are our lives worth less?

Of course, there are many cases where war contractors have hoarded the profits at the top and money has not filtered down to the individual contractors on the ground or the armor to protect them.

The second reaction is that the active-duty soldiers see the “rock star” private contractors and they want to be like them. So we have a phenomenon of soldiers leaving active duty to join the private sector.

There is slang in Iraq now for this jump. It is called “Going Blackwater.” To put it bluntly, these private forces create a system where national duty is outbid by profits. And yet these forces are being used for mission-critical activities. Indeed, in January Gen. David Petraeus admitted that on his last tour in Iraq, he himself was protected not by the active-duty military but by private “contract security.”

Just as there is a double standard in pay, there is a double standard in the application of the law. Soldiers who commit crimes or acts of misconduct are prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There have been some 64 courts martial on murder-related charges in Iraq alone. Compare that to the lack of prosecution of contractors. Despite the fact that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have streamed in and out of Iraq since March of 2003, only two private contractors have faced any criminal prosecution. Two. One was a KBR employee alleged to have stabbed a co-worker, the other pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography images on his computer at Abu Ghraib prison. In four years, there have been no prosecutions for crimes against Iraqis and not a single known prosecution of an armed contractor.

That either means we have tens of thousands of Boy Scouts working as armed contractors or something is fundamentally wrong with the system. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst of the 3rd Infantry Division became so outraged by contractor unaccountability that he began tracking contractor violence in Baghdad. In just two months he documented twelve cases of contractors shooting at civilians, resulting in six deaths and three injuries. That is just two months and one general.

They have not been prosecuted under the UCMJ, under US civilian law or under Iraqi law. US contractors in Iraq reportedly have their own motto: “What happens here today, stays here today.” That should be chilling to everyone who believes that warfare, above all government functions, must be subject to transparency, accountability and the rule of law.

These are forces operating in the name of the United States of America. Iraqis do not see contractors as separate from soldiers–understandably, they see them all as “the occupation.” Contractor misconduct is viewed as American misconduct.

While there is currently a debate in Congress about how to hold these private forces accountable, the political will to act remains shockingly absent.

Given the vast size of this private force, spread across the most dangerous war zone in the world, it is not at all clear how effective oversight would work. We already know that auditors cannot visit many reconstruction sites because of security concerns. Journalists are locked in the Green Zone. The army is stretched to the max. So what entity then is supposed to have the capacity or ability to oversee the men who have been brought to Iraq to go where no one else will?

Members of Congress tell me they have been stonewalled in their attempts to gain detailed information about the activities of these companies. I think it is a disturbing commentary that I have received phone calls from several Congress members asking me for government documents on war contractors and not the other way around.

In the current discussion in the Congress on this issue, what is seldom discussed is how this system, the privatization of war, has both encouraged and enabled the growth and creation of companies who have benefited and stand to gain even more from an escalation of the war.

In closing, while I think this Congress needs to take urgent action on issues of oversight, accountability and transparency of these private forces operating with our tax dollars and in the name of the United States, there is a deeper issue that often gets overlooked. This war contracting system has intimately linked corporate profits to an escalation of war and conflict. These companies have no incentive to decrease their footprint in the war zone and every incentive to increase it.

As the country debates current and future Iraq policy, Congress owes it to the public to take down the curtain of secrecy surrounding these shadow forces that often act in the name and on the payroll of the people of this country. Thank you for your time. I am prepared to answer any questions.

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:52 PM   #214
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perhaps a number of those directly involved in this combat don't. but i've seen enough civilian propaganda to indicate otherwise. and they think it's funny.
am i reading this wrong, or are you saying that americans want to kill iraqis??? if so, you are far from the truth. i haven't seen that anywhere. no one here is saying, "let's go kill those iraqis." we sympathize w/ the iraqi citizens who are killed by pathetic insurgents who are willing to murder their own children for personal gain. pathetic human beings if you ask me, who don't deserve to live. anyone who respects them doesn't either. they want you dead if you are of western blood. do you think they cared about who was in the twin towers, or the london subway? no, they want all of us extinct and that is why we must continue to kill them.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:57 PM   #215
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they want you dead if you are of western blood
No, Islam is a universal creed - it isn't a question a race it is one of faith.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:59 PM   #216
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am i reading this wrong, or are you saying that americans want to kill iraqis??? if so, you are far from the truth. i haven't seen that anywhere. no one here is saying, "let's go kill those iraqis." we sympathize w/ the iraqi citizens who are killed by pathetic insurgents who are willing to murder their own children for personal gain. pathetic human beings if you ask me, who don't deserve to live. anyone who respects them doesn't either. they want you dead if you are of western blood. do you think they cared about who was in the twin towers, or the london subway? no, they want all of us extinct and that is why we must continue to kill them.


yes, but as has been stated, wars always always kill innocent civilians. collateral damage. do we not worry about that when we make our decisions whether or not to go to war?

further, what about Abu Ghraib? "coercive interrogation techniques"?
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:00 PM   #217
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No, Islam is a universal creed - it isn't a question a race it is one of faith.
Whatever.

I am not saying every Muslim is like that. I am saying that these Islamist radicals need to be extinct, and we must go after them, for if we don't, they will come after us. That is the point. What do you not get about that?
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:01 PM   #218
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Whatever.

I am not saying every Muslim is like that. I am saying that these Islamist radicals need to be extinct, and we must go after them, for if we don't, they will come after us. That is the point. What do you not get about that?


so should we go invade Gaza? after all, there are islamic terrorists there, it's run by Hamas, do we invade?

after all, there's a chance they could get us.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:01 PM   #219
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yes, but as has been stated, wars always always kill innocent civilians. collateral damage. do we not worry about that when we make our decisions whether or not to go to war?

further, what about Abu Ghraib? "coercive interrogation techniques"?
What was the punishment to those involved in that. They are all serving years in jail. They were not let off the hook.

No where did I say that there wasn't collateral damage. However, our purpose is completely different than that of a jihadist.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:04 PM   #220
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so should we go invade Gaza? after all, there are islamic terrorists there, it's run by Hamas, do we invade?

after all, there's a chance they could get us.
should we? No. Should an international force, yes. Hamas the political movement, like the Ba'ath movement of Iraq, is legit, however the leadership of Hamas is not. Therefore, it cannot be trusted and a international force must be put in to stop both Israel from advancing and doing something stupid, and Hamas from firing its rockets at Israel. That is what is necessary. Then Abbas' must continue to build his forces and when he is strong enough re-take Gaza and setup a unified state of Palestine.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:05 PM   #221
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What was the punishment to those involved in that. They are all serving years in jail. They were not let off the hook.



yes, the military managed to scapegoat a few individuals, fully ignorning the fact that it was a direct result of Rumsfeld's policies. these were not lone wolves having fun one drunken night. we've seen the adoption of "coercive interrogation techniques" by the Republican party -- torture by any other name, things like waterboarding that were enthusastically employed by Stalin and Pol Pot.

don't kid yourself. they are doing this in your name. and once you start to torture, there's no turning back. the intelligent people get kicked aside and the sadists take over.


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No where did I say that there wasn't collateral damage. However, our purpose is completely different than that of a jihadist.
does that really make any difference to the 4 year old standing over her mother's dead body or her 14 year old brother who's now convinced that, yes, the Americans are declaring war on Islam, so it's time to go to that suicide bomber meeting down the road.

democracy cannot arrive at the barrel of a gun.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:05 PM   #222
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I get the notion that there is a movement that wants to bring the large swaths of the Islamic world and eventually (as in centuries) the entire world into line with Gods true message but it simply isn't a race issue.

Short of wiping out a whole religion you can't entirely stop radicalism but you can tackle the flashpoints that drive support for it, the backing of oil states and autocracies would fall under that.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:07 PM   #223
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should we? No. Should an international force, yes. Hamas the political movement, like the Ba'ath movement of Iraq, is legit, however the leadership of Hamas is not. Therefore, it cannot be trusted and a international force must be put in to stop both Israel from advancing and doing something stupid, and Hamas from firing its rockets at Israel. That is what is necessary. Then Abbas' must continue to build his forces and when he is strong enough re-take Gaza and setup a unified state of Palestine.


then you and i can wish this administration good luck with assembling an international force to do anything, after it totally destroyed whatever credibility it had with the Iraq war.

so we invade Gaza, and Iraq, and Afghanistan. who's next? Iran? Syria? where does it end? how many trops will it take? at what financial cost? are you ready to stand in the sand with a rifle? if not you, then who?
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:09 PM   #224
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then you and i can wish this administration good luck with assembling an international force to do anything, after it totally destroyed whatever credibility it had with the Iraq war.

so we invade Gaza, and Iraq, and Afghanistan. who's next? Iran? Syria? where does it end? how many trops will it take? at what financial cost? are you ready to stand in the sand with a rifle? if not you, then who?
egypt is more than happy to supply troops. i am sure jordan would as well.

where did i say we invade gaza? the international force would be on its borders, and when abbas' forces are strong enough would be supported by the international force.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:11 PM   #225
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should we? No. Should an international force, yes. Hamas the political movement, like the Ba'ath movement of Iraq, is legit, however the leadership of Hamas is not. Therefore, it cannot be trusted and a international force must be put in to stop both Israel from advancing and doing something stupid, and Hamas from firing its rockets at Israel. That is what is necessary. Then Abbas' must continue to build his forces and when he is strong enough re-take Gaza and setup a unified state of Palestine.
Don't buy it, Hamas has a charter which cites the koranic justification for the killing of Jews and the enforcement of Sharia law across all of Palestine (including all of what is today Israel). It isn't a question of leadership, it is a listed terrorist organisation and it won't compromise it's big goals regardless of what hudna they put in place for concessions.

As far as backing the PLO against them, good luck, a little civil war doesn't have any concequences.
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