There’s two pieces on the ever growing Blackwater mess, that are in the must read category, that I wanted to point out before calling it a night…
First, is a piece in the Sunday N.Y. Times: New Evidence That Blackwater Guards Took No Fire.
Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.
The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.
The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.
Their statements, made in interviews with The New York Times, appeared to challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away. Since those initial accounts, Blackwater and the State Department have consistently refused to comment on the substance of the case.
The other must read on Blackwater is a 5 page expose in the WaPo: Building Blackwater.
In a decade, Blackwater’s revenue from federal government contracts has grown exponentially, from less than $100,000 to almost $600 million last year. In August, the company won its biggest deal ever, a five-year counternarcotics training contract worth up to $15 billion shared with four other companies.
Blackwater’s extraordinary rise would not have been possible without a swirl of historic forces, including sharp cuts in military and security staffing in the 1990s, the Bush administration’s drive to outsource government services to the private sector and the sudden demand for improved security in response to the threat of terrorism.
Some law enforcement officials trained by Blackwater consider the firm a resounding success.
“They’re the Cadillac of training services,” said J. Adler, national executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “You’ve got the best of the best teaching close-quarter-combat tactics.”
But critics focused more on Blackwater’s role in Iraq, where nearly a thousand of the firm’s heavily armed contractors provide security, describe the firm as a private army and Prince as a war profiteer. During a recent hearing, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) questioned whether Blackwater has “created a shadow military of mercenary forces that are not accountable to the United States government or to anyone else.”
“This started as a field of dreams: Build it, and they will come,” he said. “It was a little success that led to another success to another success.”
A review of legal papers, contracting documents, company literature and news accounts, along with interviews with Blackwater and government officials, suggests the story is more complicated.
One factor fueling the company’s ascent is the business savvy and deep pockets of Prince, 38, a zealous entrepreneur and heavy contributor to conservative and Christian causes.
Prince was a White House intern under President George H.W. Bush. His political donations over the past two decades total almost $263,000 to Pat Buchanan, Oliver North, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and former senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, among others. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is former chairwoman of the Republican party in Michigan. She’s married to Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway and a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan. After he was sued in 2005, Prince retained former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and current White House counsel Fred Fielding, who was then in private practice.
Read it all. Prince is on a “PR blitz” amid the “allegations his guards massacred Iraqis.”
“I’m glad they can be a neutral party,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “And if there’s further investigation or prosecution even needed, if someone really did wrong and meant badly, I’m all supportive.”
Prince also was to appear in an interview to air Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” and he was interviewed by Newsweek for an article posted Friday night.
Two senior officials have told The Associated Press the State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater’s contract or awarding it to another company.
Uh-huh. Blackwater is in deep with BushCo. It’s like a bad acid trip — Haliburton flashback.