If you haven't heard by now, the Bush Administration has been outsourcing work that used to be performed by uniformed American military personnel to a private outfit called Blackwater. It is important to note that, as a private company, Blackwater's primary goal, as with any privately owned business, is to turn a profit for its investors/owners. It might not surprise you to discover that Blackwater has deep roots within the Bush Administration and the Christian Right. This relationship is explained in great detail in Ben Van Heuvelen's article in Salon.com. In the article, Van Heuvelen describes Eric Prince's (founder and CEO of Blackwater) ties to the Family Research Council and the secretive Council for National Policy, whose members include Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, and James Dobson and whose meetings have been on the itineraries of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer.
Did I imply that, as a private company, profit might be a prime motivation for Blackwater? Couple that motivation with the Bush Administration's insistence that the "war" continue indefinitely, at least as long as Bush is in power, and one might be inclined to believe that the continued occupation of Iraq might be driven by interests well beyond American, or even Iraqi, security. But, I digress....
As this Salon.com piece states, Blackwater's men can be somewhat trigger-happy.
Blackwater has been under scrutiny lately as a result of an incident in which Blackwater personnel are said, by eyewitnesses, to have fired upon and killed a number of Iraqi civilians, as Alex Koppelman and Mark Benjamin recently reported in Salon.com. Hearts and minds? Who needs either if you just kill people? It is almost as if the shoot-'em-up tough-guy image that George Bush and many Republicans strive to maintain is actually enacted by Blackwater's relatively (compared to regular military personnel) well-paid commandos.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the Blackwater mentality more than the tale of the black box that was recovered from a Blackwater-operated flight that crashed in Afghanistan back in 2004. According to a CNN.com article, an NTSB report quoted the plane's co-pilot, Loren Hammer, saying during the flight, "You're an X-wing fighter Star Wars man," - a reference to a dizzying battle in the 1977 film. "You're [expletive] right. This is fun," the pilot, Noel English, responded.
Wheeee!!! War is fun! I can just picture the scene in the cockpit – two cocky young aviators high-fiving each other as they navigate between mountain peaks, acting out the fighter pilot dreams that they never realized (they were in a CASA C-212, a boxy air-minivan. X-wing fighter pilots, just like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars!
The CNN.com article states that, "About eight minutes later, the plane slammed into the wall of the canyon, which was flanked by ridgelines that rose nearly a mile above surrounding terrain." Reality bites. Both English and Hammer had been in Afghanistan for less than two weeks. The CNN.com article states that Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat – California) said that a company e-mail stated the company had overlooked experience requirements "in favor of getting the requisite number of personnel on board to start up the contract." Waxman went on to say, "The corporation hired inexperienced pilots. They sent them on a route they didn't know about," Waxman said. "It seems to me that it's more than pilot error. There ought to be corporate responsibility, and Blackwater was the corporation involved."
A total of six people died in the crash, three Blackwater employees, and three genuine troops. There ought to be corporate responsibility, indeed. But, I'm betting that Blackwater's primary responsibility is to its investors. Given Blackwater's cozy relationship with the Bush Administration, it is undoubtedly delivering on its primary responsibilities. Welcome to the Republican dream of privatized warfare.