After Fallujah: The Truth About the Blackwater Mercenaries

Revolutionary Worker #1236, April 11, 2004, posted at

"We have established a global presence and provide training and tactical solutions for the 21st century. Our clients include federal law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Transportation, local and state entities from around the country, multinational corporations and friendly nations from all over the globe."

Blackwater corporate website

"I would like to have the largest, most professional private army in the world."

Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA

"Blackwater . right now has contracts that [Gary Jackson] says are so secret that he is not able to tell one branch of the Feds that he's working for a different branch of the Feds.. Much of the interview I had with them was couched in this -- this almost cowboy-like secrecy. They were very proud of being on these top secret missions."

Barry Yeoman, author of "Soldiers of Good Fortune," on Democracy Now

Soon after the four U.S. "civilian contractors" died in Fallujah, it became obvious they weren't "civilians" at all. All four were trained commandos--at least three had years of experience in elite U.S. military units. They were working for the private mercenary army called "Blackwater USA." All were heavily armed. One carried a Department of Defense ID card.

What were they doing deep in Fallujah? At this point, it is not known.

The official story is that these heavily armed mercenaries were in Fallujah to "protect food shipments." But that day, there were no "food shipments" in sight. The Marines had just gone door-to-door arresting men for interrogation--and so there has been speculation in Fallujah that these commandos were on a mission to capture or assassinate people fingered as part of the resistance.

When asked about their mission, Blackwater refused to comment--and told reporters to talk to their lawyers. The Geneva Conventions make hired mercenaries illegal--so private armies today "officially" claim that they are not in the battle zones to actually fight or assassinate, but only for "security" or "training" or (perhaps) "guarding food shipments."

Blackwater is a highly connected mercenary corporation--based in North Carolina, but with offices in McLean, Virginia, near CIA headquarters. They operate a 5,200-acre state-of-the-art commando training ground in North Carolina's Great Dismal Swamp--basically a private military base. It provides privatized training for U.S. military personnel and police.

For example, the company won a five-year Navy contract in 2002 worth $35.7 million to train Navy personnel in "force protection, shipboard security, search-and-seizure techniques, and armed sentry duties."

Increasingly, however, the main work of Blackwater has been deploying its own mercenary army-- recruited from elite U.S. military forces (especially from Navy SEALS and Marine Recon), SWAT police forces, and international "soldiers of fortune." In February it started training former Chilean commandos--some of whom served under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet--for use in Iraq.

In August 2003, Blackwater was awarded a $21 million contract to supply security guards and two helicopters for Paul Bremer III, head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Other Blackwater operations in Iraq are merely described as full protective teams "for any threat scenario."

Privatizing the Empire's Dirty Work

"Private military corporations become a way [for government officials] to distance themselves and create what we used to call `plausible deniability.'"

Daniel Nelson, former professor at the Defense Department's Marshall European Center for Security Studies

"In recent years, soldiers-for-profit have served in Liberia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. They have guarded Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, and built the military detention facilities holding Al Qaeda suspects in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. They have been an essential part of the American war on drugs in Latin America."

Barry Yeoman, Mother Jones , May/June 2003

"Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don't have the same level of accountability."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Blackwater was founded in 1997. Like dozens of similar companies, it has been growing with amazing speed, thanks to huge contracts from the Pentagon.

And Blackwater is just a small piece of a much, much larger trend.

Barry Yeoman describes another corporate mercenary operation in Mother Jones (May/June 2003): "Military Professional Resources Inc., one of the largest and most prestigious firms, boasts that it can call on 12,500 veterans with expertise in everything from nuclear operations to submarine attacks. MPRI deploys its private troops to run Army recruitment centers across the country, train soldiers to serve as key staff officers in the field, beef up security at U.S. military bases in Korea, and train foreign armies from Kuwait to South Africa. At the highest echelons, the Virginia-based firm is led by retired General Carl Vuono, who served as Army chief of staff during the Gulf War and the U.S. invasion of Panama. Assisting him are General Crosbie Saint, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe; Lt. General Harry Soyster, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and General Ron Griffith, former Army vice chief of staff. MPRI's parent company, L-3 Communications, had more than a dozen lobbyists working on its behalf, including Linda Daschle, wife of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle."

Privatized corporate military operations now draw an estimated $100 billion in business worldwide each year -- much of it going to top U.S. corporations like Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Grumman, and Raytheon. The military-industrial companies that once just created the guns and warplanes now provide mercenary forces for "privately" carrying out the military attacks and defoliation-- especially in Colombia where large numbers of "contractors" serve as agents and trainers for the U.S government.

Over 15,000 military "contractors" are now stationed in Iraq, working for dozens of companies--a force larger than the British contingent in the war zone. There is reportedly one mercenary in place for every 10 occupation soldiers. "Private" military firms and contractors operate mess halls, guard bases, serve as bodyguards, train soldiers, and maintain key weapons systems. The New York Times reported that "contractors" are now starting to deploy their own fleets of armored cars.

Such "contract" soldiers have had a free hand in threatening and killing Iraqi people. A former Special Forces member documented ( Washington Times , October 6, 2003) that military contractors guarding ministries on behalf of coalition authorities repeatedly killed Iraqis--without punishment or inquiry.

From the point of view of the Pentagon and CIA, there are several clear advantages to privatizing their more controversial operations.

The U.S. government does not count mercenaries as their soldiers, and it does not count dead mercenaries as military casualties. In other words, using mercenaries means the Pentagon can downplay the size of its involvement.

On March 31, when the four mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, their deaths were not even mentioned on the Coalition Provisional Authority's online list of casualties and news. One U.S. news agency documented that at least 33 mercenaries have died--but no one knows if the real number is much higher.

Second, the U.S. government is involved in growing numbers of "under the radar" interventions and mini-wars all over the world. Using mercenaries to carry out these operations enables the U.S. government to keep "plausible deniability" in the violation of sovereignty and the commitment of atrocities.

The third advantage is massive profit and corruption for the military officer corps. Military experts leave the government payroll--but use their in-house contacts to win massive contracts for the same operations of logistics, training, and special operations they were already performing. They become millionaires while continuing their former military assignments "in the private sector"--and conduct these operations far outside the usual budgetary and political scrutiny.

In an empire that worships private capitalism and profit, large parts of the global machinery of killing is increasingly sliding into corporate hands. And business is very, very good.