Sunday, January 28, 2007

The world's largest mercenary army - Blackwater

Most of us who have followed the military action and politics in Iraq have heard of the private contractor "Blackwater." The four men killed in Fallujah whose bodies were strung up on the bridge were Blackwater contract employees. This led to the first abortive attack on Fallujah by the U.S. Marines (apparently ordered by G. W. Bush in a fit of pigue at the deaths of the Blackwater guys) and then when the failure of that attack became celebrated by insurgents as an American defeat, the later attack that effectively levelled the town.

Apparently there is a great deal more to the Blackwater story, a tale involving Cheney's efforts to outsource military activities that go way beyond what he took advantage of at Halliburton. Let the reporter Jeremy Scahill describe what Blackwater really is. If nothing else, it will show why my list of recommended books on the right side of this screen includes books on politics, war, terrorism and right-wing fundamentalist Xtianity. Here is a quick summary from Scahill:
JEREMY SCAHILL: Blackwater is a company that began in 1996 as a private military training facility in -- it was built near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. And visionary executives, all of them former Navy Seals or other Elite Special Forces people, envisioned it as a project that would take advantage of the anticipated government outsourcing.

Well, here we are a decade later, and it’s the most powerful mercenary firm in the world. It has 20,000 soldiers on the ready, the world’s largest private military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships. It’s become nothing short of the Praetorian Guard for the Bush administration's so-called global war on terror. And it’s headed by a very rightwing Christian activist, ex-Navy Seal named Erik Prince, whose family was one of the major bankrollers of the Republican Revolution of the 1990s. He, himself, is a significant funder of President Bush and his allies.

And what they’ve done is they have built a very frightening empire near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina. They’ve got about 2,300 men actively deployed around the world. They provide the security for the US diplomats in Iraq. They’ve guarded everyone, from Paul Bremer and John Negroponte to the current US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. They’re training troops in Afghanistan. They have been active in the Caspian Sea, where they set up a Special Forces base miles from the Iranian border. They really are the frontline in what the Bush administration viewed as a necessary revolution in military affairs. In fact, they represent the life's work of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, the “life's work”?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Dick Cheney, when he was Defense Secretary under George H.W. Bush during the Gulf War, one of the last things he did before leaving office was to create an unprecedented lucrative market for the firm that he would go on to head, Halliburton. He commissioned [a] Halliburton [division] to do a study on how to privatize the military bureaucracy. That effectively created the groundwork for the absolute war profiteer bonanza that we’ve seen unfold in the aftermath of 9/11. I mean, Clinton was totally on board with all of this, but it has exploded since 9/11. And so, Cheney, after he left office, when the first Bush was the president, went on to work at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, which really led the push for privatization of the government, not just the military.
A 20,000 man army is the size of an American division, but Blackwater is unlikely to have support troops like Artillery, Engineers, and such.

The book below (available February 28, 2007) is published by Avalon Publishing Group. The following is their description it.
From Our Editors

In company handouts, Blackwater USA claims to run the largest privately owned firearms training facility in the country, but according to award-winning journalist Jeremy Scahill, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Although it's only ten years old, this North Carolina-based private military contractor has already been called "George Bush's favorite mercenary company," "the world's most secretive and powerful mercenary firm," and "the fastest-growing private army on the planet." Founded by a far-right, super-rich ex-Navy SEAL, this quasi-military group operates clandestinely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Scahill's detailed, 288-page Blackwater represents the fullest disclosure yet of this very shadowy organization.

From the Publisher

Meet BLACKWATER USA, the world's most secretive and powerful mercenary firm. Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest-growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet we know almost nothing about the firm's quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the US. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex- Navy Seal named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes.

Blackwater is the dark story of the rise of a powerful mercenary army, ranging from the blood-soaked streets of Fallujah to rooftop firefights in Najaf to the hurricane-ravaged US gulf to Washington DC, where Blackwater executives are hailed as new heroes in the war on terror. This is an extraordinary exposé by one of America's most exciting young radical journalists.

Blackwater: The Rise of the Most Powerful Mercenary Firm in the World
Blackwater: The Rise of the Most Powerful Mercenary Firm in the World

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