Thursday, December 10, 2009
Latest Blackwater revelation tries the nation's soul
Just in case anyone had any doubt about the seriousness of the Bush administration decision to use private contractors instead of soldiers to conduct the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the latest revelations might very well convince them. According to the New York Times, employees of Blackwater Worldwide -- the Reston, Vir., private security company hired by the Pentagon to protect diplomats in Iraq -- took part in covert CIA raids and assassinations, and might have had a role in the agency's controversial and morally suspect rendition program. Officials at Blackwater, which renamed itself Xe Services following the fatal shooting of 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, have consistently denied involvement in covert CIA activities. But those denials are under attack in the U.S. Congress and in a U.S. court, where investigations are revealing a disturbing pattern of involvement far beyond what the military or the company have admitted to. Citing interviews with unnamed current and former Blackwater employees and military officials, the Times said security contractors appear to have participated in CIA-authorized raids in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006 and might have played roles in flying detainees to secret prisons operated by the CIA in other countries. The fact that information is still so scarce should give pause. While some clandestine operations can be expected, particularly in times of war, it is generally understood that these affairs are being carried out by highly trained military operatives, not outside contractors whose training and abilities are unknown and, as such, highly suspect. Do residents of the United States want military operations conducted by companies largely made up of foreign nationals with no allegiance to their country nor commitment to its values? Do the residents of the United States want military operations conducted outside the protection of U.S. law and the control of U.S. officials? Residents may have to make that decision soon, because the House Intelligence Committee is presently investigating Blackwater's role in the C.I.A. assassination program revealed this year and promptly eliminated by new agency director Leon Panetta, and a grand jury in North Carolina is investigating allegations of illegal conduct by Blackwater in Iraq, the Times said. Among the facts still to be discovered is whether CIA, military or White House officials approved the participation of outside contractors in these covert activities.