Upon news their company is being booted out of Baghdad by Iraqi officials who have denied the private security company an operating license there, Blackwater Worldwide executives said the North Carolina-based contractor is well on its way to making $1 billion in annual revenues over the next year or two anyway. And while their guards — and aircraft — are prepared to be out of that country within 72 hours if forced to, no one has formally asked them to leave, including the U.S State Department, which is dependent on the approximately 1,000 private security men there to keep its diplomats safe.
By refusing to court this operation any longer, Iraqi officials are demonstrating that they have some standards. And pride. And an interest in showing the people they are not going to allow those accused of gunning down and blowing up its innocent citizens in the public square, in broad daylight, to remain there to profit from the foreign invasion-turned-occupation-turned-the-ginormous diplomatic encampment that is now the US Embassy in the center of Baghdad any longer.
Five Blackwater security guards have pled not guilty in federal court here in the US on charges they killed 17 unarmed Iraqis in Nisoor Square in Baghdad in 2007. The guards say they have proof in radio recordings that they were being fired upon.
No matter the outcome of the trial, Blackwater guards have been accused of numerous other violent acts against Iraqis over the course of the war, including murder. Their reputation speaks as much to the ugliness of for-profit war as it does about the militarization of our own country, which has greatly fostered the likes of Blackwater and similar contractors throughout the years.
As the AP reported just this evening:
The private security firm, which trained some 25,000 civilians, law enforcement and military personnel last year, continues to expand even as its future in Iraq becomes less promising. Blackwater has a fleet of 76 aircraft, and almost all of them are deployed in hot spots in places like Afghanistan and West Africa.
On Thursday, three international teams were at the company’s compound in North Carolina going through classes: Authorities from Yemen flipped through four-inch binders as they learned how to identify the components of an explosive by looking at X-rays. A group from the country of Georgia was practicing SWAT techniques in a makeshift building, taking instructions through a translator from a Blackwater official.
A Canadian team was also on site, along with a number of other law enforcement, Coast Guard and civilians who kicked up burning rubber on a driving track and rattled off rounds on shooting ranges. Members of the Army and Navy were practicing their driving skills in Blackwater’s mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
“When you first hear Blackwater, you automatically, instantly think about the overseas stuff,” said Jim Sierawski, Blackwater’s vice president for training. “That overshadows the training center. Here, we’ve been on a steady incline every year.”
Be assured that even in the deepest, bleakest times of recession, the militarization of this country will go on unimpeded. Iraq can now do what it likes — we’re clearly glad to have ‘em.