AWCheney’s Forum On Immigration

Blackwater, Part 2: How Did This Happen?

Since its inception the United States Military forces have historically used civilian personnel to perform some support functions. While some of these personnel have been trained and equipped to defend themselves at need, the use of civilian contractors to provide combat personnel outside the control of the military and/or government is a very recent development.

As recently as last month there were as many civilian support personnel in Iraq as there were military personnel – approximately 190,000 of each for a 1 to 1 ratio. This also occurred during the Balkan missions but not on such a large scale.

During the Korean War there was 1 civilian per every 2.5 military to provide support. During the Vietnam conflict the ratio was 1 civilian per every 5 military.

Record number of US contractors in Iraq

Up until the latest Iraq war these civilians provided support services and, except for a few that were hired to guard other civilians, were not expected to face combat situations on a regular basis and even the guards would not be expected to face the types of attacks that have been seen in Iraq.

Because of the limited number of ground combat forces available in the U.S. military the government could not afford to assign military personnel to perform protective functions for all of the non military functions taking place in Iraq, whether by government agencies or private companies that were hired to assist in the rebuilding efforts. This is where Blackwater and other private protective services companies became so involved.

Unfortunately the Coalition Provisional Government put a law in place prior to its being disbanded that puts all such companies out of the reach of the Iraqi government:

“A law drawn up in 2004 by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – the now-defunct interim body set up by the US-led coalition in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein – grants such firms immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.” BBC report, Monday, 8 October 2007, Profile: Blackwater USA

Therefore these companies are allowed to act outside the control of all local management as well as, apparently, the control of any U.S. government agency. This can lead to instances such as the following:

Use of gas by Blackwater leaves questions

Blackwater most often shoots first, congressional report says

Things do seem to be coming to a head though with both the Iraq and U.S. governments finally starting to ask questions as to who is responsible for controlling these organizations and who can bring their personnel to justice when the commit illegal acts.

Contractor ‘command center’ recommended in Iraq, sources say

Iraq: ‘Blackwater must go’

For a current list of stories from CNN about Blackwater go here: Blackwater

Of course, there are also other private security contractors operating in Iraq as well, such as the British firm AEGIS…


September 8, 2008 8:30 pm - Posted by | National Security | , , ,


  1. Are they involved in this?

    Comment by Red Dawn | September 9, 2008 9:14 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t believe so. This is just the city trying to save money. There may be some Blackwater personnel providing security for candidates or for the convention but nothing has been published about it.

    Comment by scheney | September 10, 2008 5:46 pm | Reply

  3. Steve, I don’t know very much about Blackwater at all, and would like to know more. I find your information helpful, but am generally suspicious of authors who give an expose is a “for profit” book. There is no doubt that our military has been weakened over the years and it is certainly not politic to support resurrection of the selective service (draft)– we all know the corruption that we had within THAT program — could it be reinstituted in a fair and equitable manner? I don’t know. Is it possible that the American people support an “armed corporation” to shoulder more combat responsibility as an alternative to the draft?

    Also, “shooting first” is not always a bad thing; in fact, it’s often kind important in combat…and unfortunately, innocent people are sometimes hurt and/or killed. Assuming that prudence is employed, I must say, “better them than us.”

    I believe that our military should be conducting what we would call normal “combat operations.” I do believe however that winning is important…and to win as soon as practical. So, toward that end, I believe that there are times when “the best we have” should be briefed on a problem and they should be tasked to develop and execute a successful, no fanfare solution. Those circumstances would require that only a handful of personnel, perhaps with specialized experience, specialized training, and specialized weapons (perhaps) undertake and successfully complete the mission. Often, the military does not have (and doesn’t normally need) this kind of specialized training and personnel. Furthermore, the command and control structure of the military is such that it is very, very difficult to conduct covert operations.

    Comment by freedom | September 14, 2008 7:53 am | Reply

  4. Freedom,

    The information that I have provide in my posts are from many different sources, mostly from news organizations (which I know slant their information to meet their own agendas) and scholarly sources (which again can be slanted) and usually find the same information is multiple places before I will use it on my posts.

    I think a universal draft for everyone regardless of who they are would be a very good idea. The service performed would not need to be in the military, any service to the country would be acceptable. The main problem then would be ensuring that enough people entered the military services. That is the only thing that I would be worried about. Of course I was draft eligible so I guess that affects my thinking.

    Shooting first is always the ideal situation but do you really want everyone shooting at anyone and anything that they think is a threat? Remember that most of the instances we are talking about occur in heavily populated civilian areas, not out in the country with few people around. That would be like telling the police to patrol with their firearms drawn and to shoot at anything that looks threatening! How may people would die just because of the way they looked or carried themselves? And that isn’t always the problem in Iraq with the armed contractors. The ones that are a problem just shoot because they feel like it or are bored.

    The people you are talking about in your last paragraph exist in the U.S. Military. They are called special forces and each branch of service has their own group whether they are Green Beret, SEAL or whatever and these are the people that DO perform these missions. The thing is, unless something goes spectacularly wrong or a very special person is involved you won’t hear about it. Unfortunately that is all I can say about them and that might be too much as it is.

    Comment by scheney | September 14, 2008 9:53 am | Reply

  5. I agree with most of what you say, Steve, and I do know that the Special Forces guys are truly “special.” …but we have more specialized folks available for certain tasking…a prime example of such a task is the flubbed-up attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran…and the Mogadishu fiasco. Did you ever see “Blackhawk Down”? I started to watch it but couldn’t continue…:(

    Comment by freedom | September 14, 2008 10:37 am | Reply

  6. Unfortunately not all “Special Forces” personnel are as highly trained. I was actually recruited at one point and turned down the chance as I knew I was not qualified. The truly qualified personnel are the ones you don’t hear about.

    The mission to rescue the hostages in Iran was a multiple forces mission that happened to include some specially trained personnel that I would not consider to be part of our elite forces and was managed by people outside the special forces resulting in the fiasco. If it had truly been planned and performed by only our elite forces it would have succeeded.

    Blackhawk down is an example of decisions by committee and the failure of the political forces of our country to fully commit their entire support to political decisions. There were too few personnel on the ground in Somalia at the time and the commitment to support our personnel was half hearted at best.

    Comment by scheney | September 14, 2008 10:50 am | Reply

  7. With respect to the Iranian deal, it’s the “…managed by people outside the special forces…” part that gives me real concern…and makes me wonder if the Special Forces folks could ever be managed otherwise. What an utter embarassment that was. I was a SAC intelligence briefer at the time and had to brief that situation, the morning after.

    Fully agree with your comments on Somalia…absolutely shameful!

    Comment by freedom | September 14, 2008 11:41 am | Reply

  8. Has anyone talked about the fact that the contract to pre-train all Navy recruits who are signed up for the SEAL program are Blackwater employees?

    Now that SEALs have their own career field, they recruit direct from the civilian market (mostly wrestlers and swimmers from high school) and spend nearly a year training with blackwater contracted employees to “prepare” for boot camp.

    That is a HUGE contract and a lot of tax payer dollars that could be saved with a few fit Sailors running the program.

    Comment by dragonflydm | October 15, 2008 3:52 pm | Reply

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