Life (and death) above the law

My latest New Matilda column discusses the role of Blackwater in Iraq:

Writer Naomi Klein calls Baghdad’s Green Zone ”˜a heavily armed Carnival Cruise ship parked in a sea of despair,’ and the tag fits. The fantasy, pushed by neo-conservatives and war profiteers alike, was that Iraq would be a free-market laboratory to spread the utopia of the market across the Middle East. Blackwater is at the forefront of this assault. Erik Prince has made no secret of his desire to institute a theo-conservative holy war led in part by his own personal army.

Scahill and others have estimated that there are more than 160,000 private contractors in Iraq, a shadow force capable of protecting, cleaning and cooking for US forces. During the debate about possible withdrawal dates, the presence of these individuals is rarely acknowledged. Former Marine colonel Jack Holly has argued that because of public pressure to reduce the US footprint in Iraq, private military contractors will fill the gap. ”˜People want a shrinking military presence,’ he says, ”˜but the needs and mission don’t shrink.’

Consider these comments by Cofer Black, the company’s Vice Chairman and former counterterrorism chief at the CIA (and current senior advisor on national security to Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney). Addressing a convention of mercenaries in Jordan in 2006, Cofer floated the idea of establishing a Blackwater brigade, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world, for the right price . ”˜It’s an intriguing idea from a practical standpoint because we’re low-cost and fast,’ he said. ”˜The issue is: who’s going to let us play on their team?’

My New Matilida archive is here.

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