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December 10, 2008 09:40 AM UTC

A request for Barron-X

  • by: redstateblues

I really want to get your take on the five Blackwater guards who are on trial. You are the resident expert, and I wanted to see if there was another side of this story I wasn’t seeing in the MSM.


7 thoughts on “A request for Barron-X

    1. .

      RSB, I may be making a distinction here that is hard to follow.  

      A Mercenary is a Mercenary, and when the US Government hires mercenaries to perform military functions, including participation in combat, that goes against some basic principles and creates some unacceptable risks.   The Declaration of Independence specifically states that employing them is unworthy.  A federal law (5 USC 3108) specifically prohibits employing them, according to a federal court.  

      But to me, I have a lot bigger problem with the people in decision-making positions who create the demand for Mercenaries than with the individuals who end up serving in the Mercenary posts.

      I haven’t followed this particular story very much, but I’m guessing that they are all US military vets, either US Army or USMC.  I’m guessing that they all served in Iraq as Infantrymen.  

      For that they have my lasting respect.  

      I strongly disagree with their decisions to serve with Blackwater as private soldiers for hire.  But I think I understand these decisions, made mostly because the work pays so darn much.

      And those decisions are easy to rationalize, since they are protecting diplomats from the US Department of State and USAID bureaucrats.  

      About the conduct of individual Mercenaries:

      those Blackwater guys acted like they were in the wild west seen in Western movies.  But they were hardly the worst.

      Early in the war, the Army Corps of Engineers hired 4 companies to collect and destroy captured enemy munitions.  Among them were Zapata Engineering and EOD Technologies.  A third one was a company I worked with when I was in civil service at the Denver Federal Center.  

      These companies made the war unwinnable.  

      They would fire up every village they drove through.  One Zapata team even attacked a USMC unit, who proceeded to capture and detain them.  

      It is impossible today for us to win any hearts and minds in Iraq.  As far as Iraqi civilians are concerned, those Mercenaries were American soldiers.  

      Those monsters were representing the USA when they committed those war crimes.  

      The Army officers who permitted this to happen should have been court martialed.  

      Which gets to my real point: while it is dishonorable, in my opinion, to serve as a Mercenary, it is criminal to have made decisions that led to the US employing mercenaries.  

      I blame government officials far more than I blame the Mercenaries or even their corporate employers.  While I find Erik Prince disgusting, Dave Petraeus is far worse, and far more culpable.  

      Every Commanding General who served in Iraq was presented with a leadership challenge: do I follow the principles that make America great, or do I hire Mercenaries as an expedient because it will make my job easier ?  They all made the wrong choice.  They all got anti-American advice from their lawyers and advisors.  

      When TQM was the fad, about 15 years ago, I heard a quip that still rings true today:  

      “All problems are Management problems.”

      Going after these 5 Mercenaries who did the actual murdering is the right thing to do, but it misses the larger point:

      Those cowards who refused military service during the Vietnam war, only to end up in charge of this war, do not hold the values stated in the Declaration of Independence that define the idea and the nation called “America.”  

      They were unfit for the responsibilities of the high offices to which they were appointed.  They betrayed the nation repeatedly, by condoning the employment of mercenaries, by condoning torture, by outing a covert CIA operative, and on and on.  

      I want THEM to go on trial.  

      Also, any US military officer that advanced the notion that employing Mercenaries was appropriate ought to be held accountable for that.  

      Note: I was also afraid of dying in Vietnam, and wanted to avoid it, but due to personal circumstances ended up enlisting.  Being afraid is not nearly as bad as being unprincipled, in my opinion.  


      1. Do you feel that the lack of real prepararation and ideology of privatization made the use of Blackwater necessary in the first place?

        The statement on the indictment had a line I thought was interesting. To paraphrase: “We’re disappointed that one employee accepted a plea bargain.” Translation: prepare to see this man get burned in the press.

        1. .

          I disagree with the assertion that it was necessary to use Blackwater.  

          We had enough soldiers on active duty and in the reserve components back in 2003 to put the full number of soldiers on the battlefield that Eric Shinseki said were needed to get the job done.  

          What we didn’t have enough soldiers for was to take over Iraq and occupy it for an indefinite period.  

          When whoever was in charge realized that we didn’t have enough uniformed military to conduct the long occupation,

          it was their job to either ask for a return to conscription, or to set a course that could be implemented by the number of troops available.  Perpetual occupation just wasn’t an option.  But then, considering how imposing a brutal military occupation on a foreign country goes against what America stands for, it never should have been an option.  

          CENTCOM CINC Franks’ duty was to tell Cheney that his ambition was out of reach.  Somebody dropped the ball.

          My impression is that Blackwater got their start in Iraq as Personal Security Detachment (Bodyguard) providers.  That’s not a combat role and may be appropriate to be contracted out, but for Pete’s sake, what’s it say if the temporary King of Iraq, Jerry Bremer, won’t entrust his personal safety to uniformed military ?  

          Bremer, like almost the entire Bush crew, avoided military service.  He had no clue about Geneva Conventions, even after 26 years in the Foreign Service.  

          I personally believe he was the one who pushed for hiring Mercenaries to pull guard duty on US military installations, and for convoy security.  Both are potentially combat assignments.  So, he was both wrong and stupid to take this radical turn away from keeping the application of combat power under the control of the military, but I have to ask:  wasn’t there even ONE competent General or senior military officer on his staff to tell him it was the wrong move ?  

          So, to answer your question, NEITHER.  

          It wasn’t a lack of preparation, because I don’t think the military folks planning the war ever would have dreamed that we would lose our way on this issue.  

          And a bent toward privatization alone doesn’t explain this misstep.

          It was a total absence of good advice from senior military advisors.  

          Apparently all those folks who proudly put their service in top advisory posts in CPA on their resumes never thought to apply what they learned in training to the actual prosecution of the war.  

          The shame of the US Army hiring Mercenaries is a leadership failure.  

          If I was a Colonel or General when this policy was creeping in, I would have resigned very publicly before letting my Army be thus dishonored.  

          But I guess we have a gelded Army today, just as Bush and Cheney wanted.  Real men stand up against outrageous conduct, and we haven’t seen much of that from out General officers.  

          Yes-men get Presidential Medals of Freedom.


          1. I won’t get into my own beliefs on the planning and prosecution of the war; your analysis is pretty close.

            I agree completely on Bremer, and about the flag officers. Everyone wants to cover their ass in case it goes bad. Look at Bremer’s book, he was just trying to deflect blame. He never should have replaced Jay Garner.

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