Update: Blackwater Lawsuit Details and Other Thoughts

Some quick notes on the lawsuit against Blackwater stemming from the brutal desecration of four contractors in Fallujah back in March 2004. The deaths of Stephen S. Helvenston, Mike R. Teague, Jerko Gerald Zovko, and Wesley J.K. Batalona is winding its way through the courts. Mercury News includes critical issues in an Aug 2005 article:

Blackwater contracted with ESS Support Services Worldwide to guard food shipments to U.S. bases in Iraq. According to the lawsuit, the contract called for security teams to have two armored vehicles and a minimum of six people, as well as a heavy machine gun that could fire up to 850 rounds a minute.

The four men who died were sent out in unarmored vehicles, without the heavy machine gun and without a map and got lost, the lawsuit said. Having lacked time to become familiar with their weapons or routes around Fallujah, they went directly through the violent city.

I had been personally told there was supposed to be a fifth man on the mission watching the rear approach.

Corpwatch has a little detail and analysis.

The lawsuit alleges that one week before the deaths, Blackwater fired a project manager who had insisted that the contractors use armored vehicles. Eliminating the armored vehicles saved Blackwater $1.5 million, the lawsuit says.

Nope, no other comment from me on this at this time besides the obvious framing of the issue. This is about the level of (combat) service provided by a private corporation in a war zone. This is not about accountability (MEJA, UCMJ, ICC, etc) or prisoner status (Geneva Conventions, Mercenary Status... see PMC Hostages in Colombia).

I have mentioned elsewhere that Blackwater requires an oath of allegiance of its employees for United States’ paid missions. While this is a step in fudging the difference between private and public military force, the company (like any other private military / security company... it is not my intention to single out Blackwater) is still for-profit, still outside of military control, a vendor to the civilian leadership (there is at most a dotted line to the military leadership, although they have the power to impact the private forces through a variety of means besides arrest, assistance, etc), and less frequently infused with US Armed Forces trained and indoctrinated professional soldiers. These four contractors killed in allegedly died in part because a fifth man for rear cover to save money did not provide adequate situational intelligence and did not allow the contractors to become familiar with the territory.

The decision of a private military force to withdraw from a combat zone because of rising interest rates, leverage for contract negotiations, or loss of the contract may seriously damage and reduce military capacity with virtual impunity. Outsourcing to private parties shortens the decision making horizon into immediate “commercial concerns and lobbying rather than real gains to the nation and citizens” that encourage the use of companies that “lack verification and mandatory evaluation safeguards to deliver promised results”.

Technorati Tags: PMC, Blackwater, Iraq