In Defense of Blackwater and the Modern Day ‘Merc’

The mere mention of private military companies is enough to panic the OH MY GOD squad of American society and leaves them loudly shrieking fascism and totalitarianism, murder and thuggery.


There have been scores of private military companies and security firms employed by the Department of Defense and the State Department in Iraq since the war began. The most famous of all the “professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firms” is the North Carolina based Blackwater USA.

In addition to Blackwater, other significant private security/military companies include DynCorp, Erinys, Aegis Defense Services, Kroll Inc., ArmorGroup, Hart, Steele Foundation, Global Risk Strategies, and CACI. According to the Pentagon, private military companies are subject to both U.S. military law and to more recent statutes governing the conduct of contractors who deploy with U.S. troops.

So far this year Blackwater has guarded 1,873 convoys, out of which there were 56 shootings, or less than 3% of all assignments. Last year, the company had 6,254 missions and 38 incidents. Since the beginning of the Iraq war 27 Blackwater contractors have been killed while guarding U.S. officials and no U.S. diplomat had lost their life on missions protected by Blackwater. Overall, some 428 security contractors have been killed in Iraq and an unknown number wounded. There are no definitive public figures for the amount of mission’s that have been completed by armed private contractors in Iraq or how many shooting ‘incidents’ they may have been engaged in.

The usual suspects have smeared such companies as whores of war, fascists, SA, Freikorps, soldiers of fortune, and even as some sort of Praetorian Guard. And while such grasping analogies are fun for the attention grabbers, partisan hacks, professional pundits, and uninformed rabble rousers they are poor historical comparisons at best. Hysteria and histrionics attracts attention to your cause and makes great headlines but in the real world they make a poor contribution to the debate on public policy.

Private military companies are in fact a new and unique twist on an old idea; private citizens engaging in warfare as partners with their government against a common enemy. They are the ultimate outsourcing in the global War on Terror and an integral part of the United States ability to wage counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations throughout the world.

It seems to me that the latest media frenzy about private military companies and Blackwater in particular, is just another attempt to politically damage President Bush and to undermine the overall mission in Iraq. The sudden ‘outrage’ now being expressed on Capitol Hill and in the press about Blackwater, and private security contractors in general, seems to be little more than the latest manufactured outrage of the week. (Remember the “outrage” over Haliburton?)

If the critics of the current administration and the guardians of perpetual outrage would show this much anger and outrage at the enemy the U.S. would be a lot closer to winning the Iraq war and the larger War on Terror. The pacifists and appeasers on the Left have decided that they cannot win by attacking the military and smearing General Petraus so now they have moved on to attacking the underpinning organizations that are supporting the mission in the field. They have suffered severe blowback in the past for questioning and attacking the troops and for threatening to pull the financial rug out from under them. The ‘modern day merc’ is a relatively unknown and mysterious entity that makes a far easier target than the uniformed military and it does not have the reflexive patriotic defenders that the military enjoys.

Much has been made about the Iraq government’s complaints about Blackwater. I think we can kindly, and with little consequence, tell the Iraqi leader to mind his P’s and Q’s and we’ll remove any and all armed combatants when we are good and ready, and not a minute before that. When he gets his political situation and own military up to snuff then he can complain about a handful of incidents among the tens of thousands of armed security contractors in Iraq.

The security contractors play an important role supplementing troop strength by guarding infrastructure, politicians and diplomats, and vital convoys. By doing so they free up the uniformed members of the military for combat, patrols, raids and the other necessary roles that they play in a combat zone. There is no argument that the U.S. military is limited in size and that there have been difficulties in maintaining the elevated troop levels needed to provide the military stability required to suppress the various terrorist and militia insurgents and to prevent sectarian violence.

If private military companies are not allowed to operate in the Iraqi theater of operations, the estimated 50,000 armed contractors would be extremely difficult to replace. There has already been an outcry at the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. boots on the ground (the Surge). To suddenly announce that we need tens of thousands of additional troops to babysit journalists, drive trucks, protect convoys and guard diplomats would be absurd and a no-starter both politically and militarily.

"There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts." – current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker

The private security contractors in Iraq are almost entirely ex-military and most are from elite fighting units. They are familiar and comfortable working with the military establishment and have been trained by the very governments they are working for. The modern day ‘merc’ is not the bloodthirsty soldier of fortune slaughtering, raping and pillaging across the landscape in the service of a warlord as many of the loudest voices of criticism would seem to have you believe.

In stark contrast, the average armed contractor is highly trained, highly motivated and willing to risk life and limb in an often very dangerous environment. They have been accused of being gung ho, cocky, swashbuckling and foul-mouthed on occasion but I wouldn’t expect any less from such types in a volatile war zone facing off against the most ruthless of enemies. Though mistakes and poor decisions have undoubtedly been made, private security contractors have not been shown to have participated in a greater amount of questionable ‘incidents’ than the regular U.S. military or its allies in the country.

They are far more reliable, trustworthy and disciplined than many of their counterparts in the Iraqi military, police and security forces. Until the day comes that the Iraqis themselves are able to provide the security and services that the private security companies provide, or stabilize the situation so such companies are not needed, they should and will remain a valuable piece of the security establishment not just in Iraq, but wherever the battle against Islamofascism and rogue regimes takes them.

The concept of the privatized army will gain momentum in the future as a nervous public increasingly doesn’t like troops in harms way and politicians panic everytime the public expresses a bit of displeasure. But the level of public interest, outrage or concern about the deaths and injuries occuring among the private military companies is minimal and, amazingly, many on the Left have actually cheered these casualties.But that makes them invaluable as well. They (normally) exist beneath the radar. Despite the various qualms and public aversion, there is a global need, nonetheless, for well-trained, well-armed forces loyal to the capitalist, democratic West.

If the Blackwater types are becoming the American equivalent of the French Foreign Legion fighting ‘unpopular wars’ for national interest, then they have my blessing. The wars that the U.S. will be fighting around the globe need to be fought utilizing special forces, overwhelming air power, proxy armies, native militias, warlords, tribal clans, good intelligence, massive power, and, if need be, private U.S. and allied ‘armies’ of ex-military types willing to risk it all for a good paycheck. I support doing what it takes to avoid bogging the military down as we have succeeded in doing in Iraq, reducing U.S. military casualties, and ensuring victory against Islamofascists and the enemies of Western Civilization throughout the world.

Posted by David M. Huntwork at October 3, 2007 10:07 PM
Comments
Comment #235200

“Previously undisclosed information reveals (1) Blackwater has engaged in 195 “escalation of force” incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 per week, including over 160 incidents in which Blackwater forces fired first; (2) after a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President, the State Department allowed the contractor to leave Iraq and advised Blackwater on the size of the payment needed “to help them resolve this”; and (3) Blackwater, which has received over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001, is charging the federal government over $1,200 per day for each “protective security specialist” employed by the company.”
http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1510

David, what are your sources? The House Report includes a link which goes into considerable detail.

You write: “Much has been made about the Iraq government’s complaints about Blackwater. I think we can kindly, and with little consequence, tell the Iraqi leader to mind his P’s and Q’s and we’ll remove any and all armed combatants when we are good and ready, and not a minute before that.”

This disregards the obvious. Iraq does not belong to the US. We may have broken Iraq, but we do not “own” it. In theory, Iraqi is a sovereign state, and in a situation which is essentially a battle for hearts and minds, it is the height of foolishness to treat Iraqis like conquered vassals.

We lost Iraq a long time ago, and this kind of attitude played an important role in the losing the war.

Omigosh! Does anyone else- anyone at all- seriously believe mercenaries are a good idea? What happened to our country? How could we fall so low?


Posted by: phx8 at October 4, 2007 12:04 AM
Comment #235201

David H., my first question is, why does America need professional killers outside its military? Answer: because our political leaders take out country to war without first securing the American people’s commitment to it.

Which begs a second question. Why do the American people ALLOW out country’s leaders to take us into wars which the majority of people won’t commit their personal volunteer service to, in sufficient numbers as to avoid $1200. per day private soldiers? Answer: it is better than being drafted.

As an enlistee during one of America’s previous unsupported wars, I will say that America’s leaders are ignorant and stupid to engage in wars the American people won’t support, against people who did not attack or threaten attack against our American homeland. And that the American people are ignorant and stupid when it comes to reelecting these leaders.

When a political system is allowed to shift its first and foremost attention and priority to elections, and leave the interests and needs of the nation to flounder for attention after the fact, that political system will become incredibly inefficient, wasteful, and ineffective. Which are the 3 adjectives that describe our involvement in Iraq perfectly. These 3 adjectives describe our contract with Blackwater also to a T.

America is an inefficient, wasteful, and ineffective nation regarding most of the issues which its government should be addressing. Education, border and national security, Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Queda, illegal immigration, entitlement programs, deficits and debt, infrastructure of bridges, dams, and levees. And this is only a partial list.

Americans are themselves, as voters, inefficient, wasteful, and ineffective. Perpetually and ignorantly voting as if the incumbent politician is the only name on the ballot, when the truth is, voting for the incumbent is easier than researching the challenger and taking a gamble on someone new, as opposed to sticking with the familiar inefficient, wasteful, and ineffective incumbent seeking reelection.

America’s future is going down the tubes because of these facts and factors. And it is the height of folly and ignorance to be pointing fingers across the political aisle, which only perpetuates the ineffectiveness, wastefulness, and inefficiencies. It’s like Larry, Moe, and Curly each calling each other dumb and responsible for everything that happens. Everything they do, they do together.

If voters continue to vote the same way, election after election, expecting different results, they are nuts, to paraphrase Albert Einstein. The very existence of Blackwater is an admission of failure by our nation’s leaders. If our Administration and Congress had their act together, America would not need the services of private military forces at 8 to 20 times the price of a regular military.

Blackwater is a badge of shame on America, glaringly displaying the deficiencies and incompetencies of its political leaders and government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 4, 2007 12:44 AM
Comment #235202

Just more of the “good-ol’-boys” network !

Personnel Erik Prince.Blackwater’s owner and founder is Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL. Prince’s father, Edgar Prince, who died in 1995, was a wealthy businessman who created the lighted car visor, among other things. Erik Prince attended the Naval Academy, graduated from Hillsdale College, and was an intern in George H.W. Bush’s White House. Prince has contributed $168,000 to the Republican National Committee since 1998, and also has supported the candidacies of conservatives such as President George W. Bush and Senator Tom Coburn.[10] He also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a nonprofit group that provides Bibles, food and other help to Christians in countries where they face persecution.

Blackwater’s president, Gary Jackson, is also a former Navy SEAL.[11]

Cofer Black, the company’s current vice chairman, and national security advisor for Mitt Romney, was the Bush administration’s top counter terrorism official when 9/11 occurred. In 2002, he famously stated: “There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves come off.” Blackwater has become home to a significant number of former senior CIA and Pentagon officials. Robert Richer became the firm’s Vice President of Intelligence immediately after he resigned his position as Associate Deputy Director of Operations in fall 2005. He is formerly the head of the CIA’s Near East Division.[12]

….from Wikipedia
Posted by: Sandra Davidson at October 4, 2007 12:47 AM
Comment #235203

My sources was basically Wikipedia and the Los Angeles Times. I also cruised through a couple of news stories that appeared today concerning the Capitol Hill Blackwater testimony by Mr. Prince. All statistics cited are not disputed by either supporters or detractors of Blackwater and the private security companies in Iraq and are accepted as accurate.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at October 4, 2007 12:57 AM
Comment #235212

Apart from everyone jumping to the tune of the current news cycle, I haven’t seen much discussion in the corporate media of the role of mercs in Iraq.

Posted by: Gerrold at October 4, 2007 6:11 AM
Comment #235220

Blackwater is just one member of the bush crime family merchants of death!!!!!!!

With the 9-11 events it was a god send for these traitors, allowing them to raid the treasury department with out any kind of accountability!!!!!!! They could not even take the time to do some under the table bid rigging; they just went for the no bid contracts (Blank Checks)!!!!!

All they had to do was play the fear card in every speech they made. (The boogie man is in Iraq!!!!!!) Now the boogie man is in Iran!!!!!!! There is still a lot of cash to be made by these merchants of death!!!!!! Bush still has over one more year left of his rein of terror!!!!!

There is still enough time to start a war in Iran and then move into North Korea!!!!!!!

Posted by: Outraged at October 4, 2007 9:43 AM
Comment #235223

David Huntwork-
A recent report revealed that one of the reasons those four contractors got killed driving through Fallujah over three years ago, was that Blackwater was lowballing to get the contract.

Here’s the thing: no matter what fancy language folks on the right apply to these people, they are outside the chain of command, outside the direct control of our elected officials. They have also, largely, remained outside of the system that helps keep the discipline of our soldiers together.

What’s more, for all the fancy talk about saving money, these guys are more expensive. Contractors relating to convoys and other kinds of duty are doubly expensive, because they are often untrained, and therefore require other people in addition to themselves to provide security.

What’s more, when these people misbehave, the Iraqis do not make a distinction between them and us. To them, Blackwater is under our control. Explaining that they’re mercenaries doesn’t help, only feeds the sense that these people are there to do things that would otherwise get our hands dirty. Military commanders on the ground are quoted as saying that this is worse than Abu Ghraib.

And getting back to Fallujah, their foolishness lead to a major, unwanted, unplanned escalation of the insurgency, which is part of what brought us to today’s troubled situation.

The Bush Administration has ruined this war by operating everything on the razor’s edge of functionality, and by employing a laissez fair attitude towards the Army and Marine Corp’s Strength in these areas.

What you defend here is more of what you’ve been defending all along: a dysfunctional approach to nation-building, to fighting a war. You keep on reasoning that an imperfect war is better than no war at all, but as this Adminstration’s policies keep screwing up, they become more and more self-defeating.

At the end of the day, the dilemma of privatization in Iraq is emblematic of what this country has lost the war in Iraq: This administration can’t fight this war without the private companies taking up the slack on logistics, but by making the war more complicated, more expensive, and more out of control, they’re mostly just helping us to lose it.

Not all mistakes are recoverable, and employing such a massive mercenary and private presence in Iraq is one of the unrecoverable mistakes of the war.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 4, 2007 10:04 AM
Comment #235224

David,
It is well worth asking what the larger sociological role of mercenaries in any form most closely resembles, and whether it is wise in any event for the government to be contracting mercenaries in very large numbers.
The answer is that private mercenary organizations closely resemble tribal militias and private armies in developing nations. We are not even pretending they are the same thing as the second amendment local militas of colonial times. I find that troubling.

Were these companies employed in small numbers, say, up to 10,000, one could see how their much greater unit flexibility in a controlled situation could be a tremendous advantage for military units to which they were contractually obligated. As they are though, for whatever reason, they are being used as a workaround, like someone wiring around a faulty electric meter.

Foundationally, the fact that we need them is immoral. It is a product of the viciously adversarial political brawl foisted on us by both parties in a effort to use the war to political advantage.
Conceptually, the extent to which we lean on them entrenches a peculiar extragovernmental paramilitary organism in our military structure. That, given the things these creatures most closely resemble, can’t bode well for the future.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 10:27 AM
Comment #235225

David,

Unless we envision a world of endless war, what are we supposed to do with these guys when they come home?
There was an article on NPR the other day about (for lack of a better word) the re-grooving of troops coming home and the possible results of being too long in the field. The gist of the article was that the DoD was requiring those that might be susceptible to PTS or other issues (divorce, etc) stemming from over-deployment overseas to undergo analysis to enable them to re-integrate into society.

Who will require the mercs to do the same thing?

Do we assume that because they were paid so handsomely for their “service” they will be as “stable” coming out as they were going in?

Posted by: Rocky at October 4, 2007 10:58 AM
Comment #235237

Many years ago my MOS was phased out and civilian contractors hired, at much higher pay than I was making. Not only was this a waste of money, but it was also a waste of the year of schools the Marine Corps sent me to.

This farming out of military jobs is expensive and wasteful.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 4, 2007 1:07 PM
Comment #235241

Lee Jamison-
No, actually, a large part of the private contractor presence in Iraq was there early, before the Army needed any such work arounds. KBR practically rode in the back of the tanks as they went to Baghdad. The fact that Blackwater employees were the ones whose burnt corpses were mutilated and hung from the bridge, starting the whole thing in Fallujah, is an indication of how early they showed up.

These people are more like a crutch, a means to get around having to have the army take care of these things directly, and thereby expose just how thin our forces really are.

You want to believe that Democrats are mainly to blame for this, but some of the strongest proponents of this force structuring and privatization sit in the White House, or at least sat there for the greater part of the war.

That includes Dick Cheney, who in fact heads up one of the main contractors in the whole mess. The whole situation is more incestuous than an Egyptian Pharaoh’s bloodline.

The Republicans must acknowledge that their policies have contributed to the failures in Iraq, and stop acting like it was simply backstab, part two. The Republicans have done much harm to themselves and their country trying to vindicate the faulty thinking and attitudes of the Vietnam era.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 4, 2007 1:37 PM
Comment #235242

Rocky,
There is an insinuation in your question that seems awfully disturbing. Did a whole generation of young men coming back from W.W.II turn out to be criminalized sociopathic basket cases? Not in my experience.

I’ve heard this expressed in various forms among people I suspect of trying to find ways to cast the current crop of service-oriented, self-sacrificing young people intent on serving this country as somehow deranged or dangerous.

That is an impulse that falls well beneath deserving the honor of contempt. I hope you are not drifting that way.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 1:43 PM
Comment #235244


David H: The Neocon Foreign Legion? Why does Dick Cheney need a mercenary army dedicated to the neocon mission? Oh, I see you answered these questions in your last paragraph. We will need mercenary armies as we continue to fight other wars around the globe.

You also say that we need the mercenaries to help prevent our soldiers from getting bogged down in Iraq and to hold down the number of our military deaths. In case you haven’t noticed, we are bogged down in Iraq. The Iraqi people do not distinguish a difference between our military personel and our mercenary soldiers. They often retaliate aginst our troops for things done by our mercenaries.

We are asking our troops in Iraq to, in many cases, go house to house, kicking in doors and fighting, killing and soemtimes being killed by insurgents while at the same time watching our cowboy mercenaries cruising by, knowing that these mercenaries are earning two to three times what our troops are getting.

You say that the mercenary armies are going to help insure that we are victorius against Islamofasicst and the ENEMIES of Western Civilization AROUND THE WORLD.

Neocon philosophy pronounces that LIBERALS are enemies of Western Civilization and AROUND THE WORLD includes right here in the U.S.A.

We know that the owner of Blackwater is a Neocon. His family has close ties, not with the Bush Administration per say, but to none other than Dick Cheney himself. Is Erik Prince loyal to the American People who have made it clear that they are against wars of aggression or is he loyal to the Neocon agenda to continue wars of aggression until the World submits to the Pax Americana? I wonder what the owners of the other mercenary companies are?

This is indeed a dangerous time in our history, but it is not because of Islamofacists or other enemies of Western Civilization. It is because the American People are faced with a government that seems determined to ignore the will of the PEOPLE.

“What has happened to our country.” It has been hijacked by the corporations. I called these mercenaries the Neocon Foreign Legion. The name that best describes them is The Neocon Militiary Industrial Complex Oil Corp.

Posted by: jlw at October 4, 2007 1:58 PM
Comment #235246

Stephen,
You have a remarkable capacity to read things that are not written. I wrote- “the fact that we need them is immoral. It is a product of the viciously adversarial political brawl foisted on us by both parties in a effort to use the war to political advantage.” That is what I meant as well.

Hyperpartizanship is a product of the so-called “social science” being taught today that is focused on political positions vis a vis various constituencies. It has created a government of posturing posers playing like a room full of five-year-olds for the attention of whoever is there to look. Van de Graff generators can make our hair stand on end and make sparks fly but they don’t really accomplish anything- a perfect model of Congress today.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, people are really trying to accomplish something and force limitations and
politizations get in the way. That is both those done by a president determined not to make this a painful seeming war back at home and a Congress determined to tie his hands without seeming to compromise the troops.

It is a disgusting political dance in which the partners keep us off the floor, but don’t accomplish anything, and harm everybody they claim to want to help. If you can find anyone I have given high praise there, well, I need a good psychic.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 2:06 PM
Comment #235249

Stephen,
“When politics becomes the sole determining factor in what we consider right and wrong, then anything that our leaders can convince us of can become morality for us. And taking that road, we are lost.”

Don’t assume because you wrote it that I don’t know it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 2:20 PM
Comment #235250

Lee,

“There is an insinuation in your question that seems awfully disturbing. Did a whole generation of young men coming back from W.W.II turn out to be criminalized sociopathic basket cases? Not in my experience.

I’ve heard this expressed in various forms among people I suspect of trying to find ways to cast the current crop of service-oriented, self-sacrificing young people intent on serving this country as somehow deranged or dangerous.”

This is such crap, and I am offended at the mere insinuation.

Do you really think that PTSD was a only VietNam War phenomenon?

Psychological distress was observed as early as 1900 BC.

Psychological trauma in war is a well documented fact.
http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_older_veterans.html

“It is, therefore, no surprise that when military personnel have had severe difficulty recovering from the trauma of war, their psychological difficulties have been described as “soldier’s heart” (in the Civil War), “shell shock” (in World War I), or “combat fatigue” (in World War II). After World War II, psychiatrists realized that these problems usually were not an inborn mental illness like schizophrenia or manic depressive illness but were a different form of psychological dis-ease that resulted from too much exposure to war trauma.”

I think that it is safe to assume that this has been a long observed phenomena, and without a proper support system in place, some returning mercs that face the same issues and will inevitably fall through the cracks.
The bigger issue might be who will finance this support system. These guys are contractors, and as such are probably responsible for their own physical and mental health care.

Here’s to hoping that not one more amoung us has to face the trauma of losing a limb, or seeing a buddy die in combat.

Posted by: Rocky at October 4, 2007 2:21 PM
Comment #235258

I have to come down somewhere between David R and Lee here…

It is immoral for the United States of America to hire out for jobs like this… check that, we already do do this, and it is called our military. Our military is not answerable to stock holders, investors, or company owners, but to the American people through our elected representatives.

Anytime a nation needs to hire mercenaries (or private security… whatever you want to call it) to help with a war because it does not have the personnel required to carry out the mission in its volunteer force, maybe that nation should be asking itself if it is a just war it is fighting in the first place.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 3:09 PM
Comment #235259

Rocky,
PTSD is real and I appreciate a genuine concern for those who must endure it. I am also quite aware of the terrible straights endured by many who are wounded and must find a way to cope with the aftermath of their losses.

This sort of situation morally must be part of the business plan of any Blackwater-like company. It should be a stridently regulated portion of the contractual relationship between the company and any governmental organization with which they do business as well as any licensing by which the State Department would permit any U.S. citizen to bear arms outside of the United States.

I don’t think our young men are joining these organizations to be thugs. I think they see a need and want to fill it, and if they can get paid in a manner commensurate with the risk that probably helps them feel responsible to their families.

Still, it would be naive to think there are not people who wish to find some way of casting a cloud on these soldiers’ service and then extending that cloud to the service of our formal military soldiers.

We can all be pleased you are not one of them.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 3:17 PM
Comment #235261

Doug,
I wonder if this is looked at in a light similar to the issuance of “Letters of Marque” the Constitution authorizes the Congress to do? That at least authorized privateers.

Where do we give the government the power to work with thse folks?

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 4, 2007 3:24 PM
Comment #235264

Lee,

Our military put their lives on the line for the love of their country, and I am thankful they do.

These “contractors” are rolling the dice for a paycheck.

Had our fearless leaders done the job they were elected to do, and given our military a specific mission, and allowed them to complete that mission, and secure Iraq before inviting all manner of “guests” to tour the country, these “contractors” wouldn’t have been necessary.

Posted by: Rocky at October 4, 2007 3:40 PM
Comment #235265

Lee… wow, great question and you made me look sumthin’ up!

The Constitution is pretty clear that Congress is the only power authorized to do so. In 2002, the Dean of the Columbus School of Law of The Catholic University of America testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee the following:

Letters of Marque and Reprisal are grants of authority from Congress to private citizens, not the President. Their purpose is to expressly authorize seizure and forfeiture of goods by such citizens in the context of undeclared hostilities. Without such authorization, the citizen could be treated under international law as a pirate. Occasions where one’s citizens undertake hostile activity can often entangle the larger sovereignty, and therefore, it was sensible for Congress to desire to have a regulatory check upon it. Authorizing Congress to moderate or oversee private action, however, says absolutely nothing about the President’s responsibilities under the Constitution.

If I am reading correctly, according to the letter of the Consitution (which I know our elected officials don’t really like to do), and if Mr. Kmiec’s testimony is a proper interpetation… should the president, through the military, be authorizing this action at all?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 3:57 PM
Comment #235270

Doug,

From wikipedia;

“The issue of Marque and Reprisal was raised before Congress by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and again on July 21, 2007. Paul, defining the attacks as an act of “air piracy,” introduced the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001, which would have granted the president the authority to use Letters of Marque and Reprisal against the specific terrorists, instead of warring against a foreign state. Paul compared the terrorists to pirates in that they are difficult to fight by traditional military means.”

Posted by: Rocky at October 4, 2007 4:49 PM
Comment #235273

Rocky… yep, I read that, too… and not to be blunt or mean, but what is your point? I see no correlation between what one congressmen tried to enact after the 9/11 attacks and what the current administration DID enact in the war in Iraq (which has nothing to do with 9/11).

Also, IMHO, this proposal by Mr. Paul does not pass constitutional muster. The Constitution implicitly says that ONLY congress has the power to issue these letters. For Congress to authorize the president to do so would require a consitutional ammendment ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures, not one law passed by Congress… I was highly surprised to see such a consitutionalist as Mr. Paul put forth this proposal…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 5:03 PM
Comment #235274

Rocky… I just re-read my post, and “What is your point?” sounded harsher than what I meant… Please accept my apology…

What I meant was… What is the correlation? Are you seeing something I am not?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 5:08 PM
Comment #235280

Doug,

Don’t worry about an apology, I have done it myself.

I guess my point would be that this President really hasn’t allowed the Constitution to stand in his way while he bent the rules.
That Paul would put forth a bill that authorizes the President powers outside of his scope of office, but at the same time, limits their use, I find just a little curious, but 2001 was a curious time. We were willing to allow almost anything, Constitutional or not, to assure that the events of Sept. 11th weren’t repeated, and that the planners of that event were caught.

Thankfully we have now come to our collective senses.

Posted by: Rocky at October 4, 2007 5:48 PM
Comment #235282

Lee Jamison-
I was arguing that it wasn’t a workaround. This has become the way we run our army nowadays. It’s an integrated problem. A lot of promises were made, particular by people in the White House now. Now they’re jumping to the defense of this arrangement in both rhetoric and in a refusal to see these elements brought to greater accountability.

This approach was chosen by those in the White House, and their allies in Congress, after 2001. They created an unaccountable paramilitary force, and sent it to war. They raised the expense and lowered the accountability of logistical support.

Is it partisanship to point this out? To have hearings on this? I’m lucky, I heard about this Months ago. Of course, when I saw that documentary, the Republicans were in majority.

This has been my experience with this war: I hear about some potential problem, start complaining about it, Republicans tell me I shouldn’t be concerned, and things become worse just as people said it would.

The truly disgusting political dance is the one this adminstration and its supporters do around the underlying problems of this war, letting them fester and get worse. The reason I oppose the continuation of this war is that I believe that they’ve screwed this one up irreversibly on so many levels, that it’s just not going to work. Do I know that it won’t work with absolute certainty? No, but I am certain enough that I’m doing what I really never thought I’d be doing when this decade starting: telling my country to cut its losses and go home from a losing war.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 4, 2007 6:06 PM
Comment #235283

Rocky… OK, cool… yes, I absolutely agree with your last post… And I found it especially troubling coming from a former libertarian like Paul… but you are correct, it was a wierd time and we were authorizing a lot of unconstitutional things… for the right reasons, maybe, but unconstitutional nonetheless…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 6:12 PM
Comment #235284

womanmarine:

Just out of curiosity, what was the MOS and what persons or firms were hired that presumably had more expertise than trained military?

Posted by: Beirut Vet at October 4, 2007 6:18 PM
Comment #235287

I’ve been thinking about this and I don’t really have a problem with Blackwater’s involvement in Iraq (apart from the high cost). Their mission is almost totally defensive, which frees up more troops for combat. If we were sending Blackwater personnel out on offensive missions then, yes, I’d have a problem.

That being said, if we must hire private security to guard government personnel, I would rather have them in other countries and leave places like Iraq and Afghanistan totally to the military. If nothing else, it would be one less group of civilians the military would have to coordinate with.

Posted by: TheTraveler at October 4, 2007 6:28 PM
Comment #235302

I agree with Rocky for the most part, except I’m not sure we have come to our collective senses. My main objection to Blackwater is that they are not accountable to U. S. law, military law, or Iraqi law. That and knowing one main reason for the fall of Rome was their reliance on mercenaries instead of their citizens in war.

Posted by: wbdace at October 4, 2007 8:35 PM
Comment #235306


How much does it cost the taxpayers to train a special opps. soldier or a navy seal?

Why do we allow private mercenary companies to recruit them out of our military right in the middle of the Iraqi conflict?

Why are we borrowing billions of dollars to pay them for riding shotgun on security details?

How many of those troops would have reinlisted if they weren’t offered double or triple the salery for doing less than they were call upon to do while they were in the military?

Posted by: jlw at October 4, 2007 9:03 PM
Comment #235307

>>In stark contrast, the average armed contractor is highly trained, highly motivated and willing to risk life and limb in an often very dangerous environment. They have been accused of being gung ho, cocky, swashbuckling and foul-mouthed on occasion…DRUNK??

Posted by David M. Huntwork at October 3, 2007 10:07 PM

David H.,

Didn’t George Washington cross the Delaware to overcome a bunch of drunken Hessens? Cheney/Bush certainly can’t learn from history…Mercs are everything you say, but honorable, and reliable are not a part of it.

Posted by: Marysdude at October 4, 2007 9:07 PM
Comment #235312

Beruit Vet:

It was so long ago I don’t remember. The MOS was 6665 I think, but not sure. I was aviation electronics, training device technician. I was trained on and trained pilots on flight simulators/weapons systems trainers. I was on the F4B weapons system trainer when we got a Harrier trainer. Never got to work on that. It was at that time that they began to phase out the MOS and because at that time women couldn’t work on the flight line, I was farmed out to station training, where I repaired film and projectors, manned the film library desk, and monitored attendance at basic military training. When I went to Iwakuni, I was TAD to the Human Relations department. Much better than the film library.

Like I said, a long time ago, but it was such a waste, I had gone to three different schools, including Pilot’s Fam.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 4, 2007 10:19 PM
Comment #235313

JLW: Excellent post!!

Posted by: womanmarine at October 4, 2007 10:24 PM
Comment #235315

wbdace… nice Rome reference! The one difference, however, was that Rome outsourced the Germanic barbarians to do it for them whereas the guys in question are American… but still a good analogy.

The other reason Rome fell was because it was not willing to share its culture with its neighbors who wanted nothing more than a piece of the Roman pie… but that’s another analogy for another day…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 4, 2007 10:53 PM
Comment #235316

The Traveller-
The trouble with these guys is that they are American soldiers in essence, but not in chain of command. The quickest way to f*** up a war is to have competing chains of commands each doing their own thing.

Which has happened not once, but numerous times. Bush puts too much faith in things he can’t control, leaves too much to chance, and declares victory far too early. He is a guy who feels an overwhelming compulsion to control things, but who is unwilling to consider that his gut impressions and deeply held beliefs could be misleading him.

There are many lesson learned during this war that had been learned before by others but disregarded by this crew. Use of Mercenaries and farming out of critical logistics are among them. The trick of things is, you want to keep as much of your learning curve outside the chaos of the battlefield, so your learning experiences teach you more and hurt you less. Trouble is, whenever you have folks who get to direct battle from the safety of the other side of an ocean, they don’t have quite the same experience of the learning curve as the soldiers do.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 4, 2007 11:07 PM
Comment #235318

“Mercenaries” is one thing, but I think that term is used a little too quickly in this case to describe what are actually security guards. Just as in civilian life, there is a big difference between those who are official representatives of the state and those who hired to do a very specific job—i.e., guard a bank, a person, an armored car, etc.

I’d have a serious problem with Blackwater and others like them actually being involved in proactive military operations, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest that that’s what’s going on.

Congress has the right idea, however, in making them subject to US law. That seems a fair compromise and one that accounts for their role in Iraq—guarding State Department staff and others, who ARE official representatives of the government.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Blackwater and others like them are being attacked at least in part as a backdoor to attacking the entire US involvement in Iraq without having to attack the military, which has become a big political risk.

Posted by: Liam at October 4, 2007 11:57 PM
Comment #235322

Liam… as is usual, you make some good points and bring some good perspective to the debate. You may be correct in pointing out that we should not be so quick to label them as mercenaries… however…

There is a difference between an armored guard, hired by a private company, doing a bank’s business, in the US, versus the government hiring private citizens to do what is essentially the work of military police in another (supposedly) sovereign country.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at October 5, 2007 12:14 AM
Comment #235324

Stephen,

The quickest way to f*** up a war is to have competing chains of commands each doing their own thing.

I agree. That’s why I would prefer Blackwater be used (if we really need them) in countries we are not at war in. I do believe, however, they are doing their best with what they are being asked to do (as is the military). I think the problems that have been brought up are due mostly to human nature and not the fact that they are acting as mercenaries.

The trick of things is, you want to keep as much of your learning curve outside the chaos of the battlefield, so your learning experiences teach you more and hurt you less.

I don’t training is a problem, at least where Blackwater is concerned. Many Blackwater employees are hired from the military and law enforcement. If what I’ve heard is correct, they actually do training for some our military units.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should be using them in a war zone.

Trouble is, whenever you have folks who get to direct battle from the safety of the other side of an ocean, they don’t have quite the same experience of the learning curve as the soldiers do.

I do agree with this. Battlefield commanders should be in the battlefield. Our current chain of command is much too long. This not only leads to long response time, but creates a lack of oversight that leads to problems like Abu Ghraib.

Posted by: TheTraveler at October 5, 2007 1:22 AM
Comment #235329

One of the biggest problems of this story is not how we view these mercenaries, but it is how the Iraq’s themselves view them. With over 160 thousand such personnel in Iraq we have to be concerned that they are all representatives of our country. While we may recognize them as security personnel, the Iraq’s view them as an extension of our occupying forces. Can the United States afford any incidences involving these mercenaries when 73 percent of Iraqi’s want us to leave immediately?

There have been reported problems with mercenaries for years now. I have noticed little articles raising concerns buried in the newspaper for sometime. I have read that our buried little articles are front-page news over there. It was only a matter of time before this issue hit our front page and it became addressed by our Congress.

The problem the United States has is not whether or not our military is trained to do the same duties as these mercenaries. The real problem the United States has is it that we do not have enough military personnel to replace them. Another problem that may arise is that many of these mercenaries do not even come from the United States.

Posted by: Cube at October 5, 2007 3:09 AM
Comment #235339

Thanks to Doug, Stephen, and Rocky for the discussion on constitutionality. What is clear from all this is that there is no constitutional foundation for the military or the executive branch to be contracting directly with mercenaries. All the prior examples given were from eras and governments with fundamentally different logical foundations.

If the Emperor or the King are considered the SOURCE of legal authority they can essentially do as they please with their millennium’s Germanic mercenaries. In our system THE PEOPLE are the source of legal authority and parcel that authority out through the Constitution. Our Constitution makes no provision for the Executive to be hiring private armed contractors to work in parallel with the military.

This issue is discussed, at least to a certain extent, in today’s Opinion Journal from the Wall Street Journal. The article really does not address constitutionality, though.

This is an issue where, oh, I feel faint just saying it, I have to agree with Stephen about the administration going around the Constitution.

It seems to me the logical way out is for the Iraqi government to be the contractee.

Someone coming in on this arcane discussion from the outside may wonder why all the fuss. The issue is the use of ARMED AMERICAN CIVILIANS ON FOREIGN SOIL, where they inevitably act as representatives of the country, but outside the purview of the formal structures of our government. Their freedom to bear arms becomes subject to the sovereignty of the country in which they are acting, not to our Second Amendment. Our government’s use of those civilians is, thus, an imposition on the other country’s sovereignty if we have no legal structure for authorization and regulation of these civilian mercenaries.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at October 5, 2007 9:55 AM
Comment #235349

Womanmarine:

Just out of curiosity, what was your MOS and what was the firm or firms replacing it that were presumably more qualified than our traind military personel?

Posted by: Beirut Vet at October 5, 2007 12:05 PM
Comment #235350

Sorry, that should have been “trained” military personel.

We spend the money to train us, why not use us?

Posted by: Beirut Vet at October 5, 2007 12:07 PM
Comment #235351

Beirut Vet:

I answered you in Comment #235312. I think it’s all an amazing waste of money, and it started a long time ago. It has gotten completely out of hand in my opinion, both financially and operationally. It puts the US at great risk.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 5, 2007 12:11 PM
Comment #235353

Womanmarine:

Sorry, did not see your answer.

I see the reasoning in SOME civilian contracts but not all. There are simply some jobs that should never be outsourced from the military.

Were you a fellow cold warrior?

Posted by: Beirut Vet at October 5, 2007 12:22 PM
Comment #235409

Beirut Vet:

Sorry, don’t know what you mean by fellow cold warrior? I was in in the late 60s-early 70s.

I’m not sure I see the reasoning for any of them if they cost more. It makes no sense to hire someone to fill the job of a trained military person for more money, and less accountability/control. Just me.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 5, 2007 11:13 PM
Comment #235429

The Traveler-
When somebody is described as mercenary, it implies a willingness to do dirty work others wouldn’t touch, coupled with the willingness to do that for whoever would reward them materially.

I like the idea of these people operating off on their own even less than I like the idea of them screwing around on our battlefield.

When I talked about learning as many lessons as you could outside the battlefield, I meant in general. Use of mercenaries in a war like this is usually not a good idea. You have to really not care what these people do in your name. Plausible deniability is usually the main reason to go to these people.

The lesson for people using mercenaries is that when good relationships with the country you’re occupying are important, don’t use them. They’re inherently less accountable, inherently more autonomous, and nothing guarantees that they’ll bring the most disciplined soldiers to the fight.

On the subject of chains of command? Length is not the problem. It’s the leadership who don’t acknowledge their own capacity to be ignorant, to be wrong, who don’t school themselves in the subject at hand, and who, having little experience of war, are quick to send others without a thought to what comes of it.

Commanders on the ground alone cannot win a war. Fact remains, the military’s hierarchical approach is employed for a reason. There need to be those who have a broader view of the campaign at hand, and above them, a civilian government that decides what policies the campaign is to serve in our country.

It’s the overly academic approach, one which seeks to vindicate doctrines and political factions rather than focus on practical considerations that gives us our problem.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 6, 2007 12:03 PM
Comment #235617

Yes, privatization is the way to make the invisible hand operate:

Medicare Audits Show Problems in Private Plans

Posted by: mental wimp at October 8, 2007 6:14 PM
Comment #235655

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071008/iraq-blackwater-report/
Looks like Iraq is starting to take control of things…………

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at October 9, 2007 1:42 AM
Comment #238070

Blackwater, waterboarding, torture, blah, blah, blah. As long as they keep the oil flowing, who cares anymore? As far as I concern there is no differences between Democrats and Republicans Clinton is just Bush in a dress. The rich run this country, they always have and they always will. But be my guest and keep playing this shill game of Democracy where your vote is about as important as your opinion. I rather focus on where the real power in this country comes from, money. And if I am success at making enough money, I can become one the elite that runs this country. That is the road to power in America, always has been and always will been. So keep you ballot box. Keep your political candidates and their campaigns for office. I got better things to do with my time.

Posted by: Lester Louis at November 11, 2007 1:31 PM
Comment #378241

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Emporio Armani AR2432 Men’s Chronograph Stainless Steel Black Leather Watch
Emporio Armani AR2433 Classic Mens Chronograph Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR2434 Classic Chronograph Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR2435 Men’s Chronograph Black Dial Stainless Steel Watch
Emporio Armani AR2436 Unisex Black Leather Quartz Watch
Emporio Armani AR2440 Men’s Black Dial Stainless Steel Watch
Emporio Armani AR2442 Classic Leather Strap Black Dial Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR2444 Classic Black Leather Date Strap Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR2447 Men’s Renato Chronograph Watch
Emporio Armani AR2448 Chronograph Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR2452 Stainless Steel Pink Dial Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR3151 Diamond Mother Of Pearl Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4200 Mens MECCANICO Leather Strap Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4201 Meccanico Automatic Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4203 Mens MECCANICO Leather Strap Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4204 Black Leather Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4205 Mens Meccanico Leather Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4206 Mens Quartz Watch
Emporio Armani AR4207 Mens Meccanico Stainless Steel Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4208 Meccanico Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR4209 Meccanico Small Seconds Gents Watch
Emporio Armani AR4210 Brown Leather Meccanico Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4213 Classic Chronograph Black Dial Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR4214 Meccanico Mens Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4218 Mens MECCANICO Stainless Steel Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4219 Mens Rose Gold Classic Meccanico Watch
Emporio Armani AR4224 Meccanico Open Heart Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4226 Black Rubber Meccanico Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4228 Meccanico Automatic Black Leather Black Dial Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4229 Meccanico Automatic Brown Leather Yellow Dial Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4231 Mens Meccanico Rubber Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4601 Jungle Combat Mens Leather Wrist Watch
Emporio Armani AR4602 Black Leather Mens Designer Meccanico Watch
Emporio Armani AR4603 Men’s Watch Automatic Chronograph Watch
Emporio Armani AR4604 Meccanico Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4606 MECCANICO Leather Strap Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4607 Men’s Black Leather Quartz Watch
Emporio Armani AR4608 Meccanico Mens Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4609 Mens Meccanico Automatic Dk Blue /Black Leather Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4610 Meccanico Mens Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4611 Meccanico Gents Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4612 Meccanico Gents Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4613 Meccanico Gents Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR4619 Meccanico Men’s Automatic Rose Gold Watch
Emporio Armani AR4620 Men Meccanico Calendar Watch
Emporio Armani AR4625 Meccanico Automatic Mens Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4627 Meccanico Mens Automatic Watch
Emporio Armani AR4628 Men’s Meccanico Black Leather Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4630 Meccanico Rubber Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4633 Gents Automatic Strap Watch
Emporio Armani AR4634 Meccanico Automatic Mens Designer Watch
Emporio Armani AR4635 Meccanico Automatic Black Men’s Watch
Emporio Armani AR4643 Men’s Meccanico Brown Dial Watch
Emporio Armani AR4644 Men’s Meccanico Brown Leather Strap Silver Dial watch
Emporio Armani AR5300 Striking gents dress watch
Emporio Armani AR5316 Mens Chronograph Sports Watch
Emporio Armani AR5321 Black Leather Chronograph Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR5324 Men’s Stainless Steel Dial Watch
Emporio Armani AR5327 Stainless Large Gents Watch
Emporio Armani AR5328 Black Leather Mens Watch
Emporio Armani AR5329 Leather Gents Watch
Emporio Armani AR5330 Classic GMT Dual Time Gents Watch
Emporio Armani AR5331 Stainless Gents Watch

Posted by: burberry watch new stlye at May 8, 2014 8:31 AM
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