I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blackwater and the mission

One of the major goals of the military in Iraq was to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Certainly not an easy task from the beginning but made all the more difficult with the Abu Ghraib prison incident and a few high profile murders by US troops. In those cases there was at least the appearance that the guilty were brought to justice. It is now becoming clear that the private contractors like Blackwater are undermining those efforts with little or no accountability. The military is painfully aware of this.

This morning the Washington Post reports that many if not a majority of shootings by private security guards go unreported.
Most of the more than 100 private security companies in Iraq open fire far more frequently than has been publicly acknowledged and rarely report such incidents to U.S. or Iraqi authorities, according to U.S. officials and current and former private security company employees.

Violence caused by private security guards in Iraq has come under scrutiny since a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad involving employees of Blackwater USA. The company's chairman, Erik Prince, told a congressional committee Tuesday that Blackwater guards opened fire on 195 occasions during more than 16,000 missions in Iraq since 2005.

However, two former Blackwater security guards said they believed employees fired more often than the company has disclosed. One, a former Blackwater guard who spent nearly three years in Iraq, said his 20-man team averaged "four or five" shootings a week, or several times the rate of 1.4 incidents a week reported by the company. The underreporting of shooting incidents was routine in Iraq, according to this former guard.

"The thing is, even the good companies, how many bad incidents occurred where guys involved didn't say anything, because they didn't want to be questioned, or have any downtime today to have to go over what happened yesterday?" he said. "I'm sure there were some companies that just didn't report anything."
Now the citizens of Iraq knew about Abu Ghraib prison long before we here at home did and just because an incident goes unreported doesn't mean the Iraqis don't know about it - they do. So much for winning hearts and minds.

More details are coming out on the most recent incident by Blackwater as reported by the New York Times
From Errand to Fatal Shot to Hail of Fire to 17 Deaths
BAGHDAD, Oct. 2 — It started out as a family errand: Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching.

Moments later a bullet tore through Mr. Ahmed’s head, he slumped, and the car rolled forward. Then Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded — a higher toll than previously thought, according to Iraqi investigators.
What we see here is an undisciplined group of mercenaries with no regard for the life of the Iraqis. That's what the Iraqis see as well.

If the US and the military are really serious about the mission they will replace all of these heavily armed mercenaries with disciplined US troops at once. The wild west actions of Blackwater will only increase the hate the Iraqis feel toward the Americans and will result in additional deaths of US troops. Support the troops - get rid of Blackwater and other private security firms now.

Al-Malaki is taking a tough stand on Blackwater again:
Iraq PM Maliki questions future role of Blackwater
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki questioned on Wednesday whether U.S. private security firm Blackwater had any future role in Iraq because of the high number of shooting incidents in which it had been involved.

Maliki appeared to toughen his stand again against Blackwater over a September 16 shooting in Baghdad in which 11 Iraqis died, an incident that sparked outrage among Iraqis who see the firm as a private army which acts with impunity.


"I believe the big numbers of accusations directed against (Blackwater) do not make it valid to stay in Iraq," Maliki told a news conference in Baghdad.

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