Saturday, October 6, 2007

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Jeremy Scahill. Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. New York: Nation Books, 2007

Reviewed by T. Hatch

What happens when you mix the Christo fascist ideology of the Council for National Policy with the zeal of Donald Rumsfeld’s drive to privatize as much of the Defense Department as possible? The short answer is “private military companies” like Blackwater whose mercenary services are essential to both preserving the occupation of Iraq and corporate profits.

Erik Prince, ex-Navy Seal and founder of Blackwater, sees his company as a necessary and highly profitable adjunct to the US military. Author Jeremy Scahill is not quite as generous in his assessment: “What Blackwater seemingly advocates and envisions is a private army of God-fearing patriots, well paid and devoted to the agenda of U.S. hegemony – supported by far lower paid cannon fodder, foot soldiers from Third World countries, many of which have legacies of brutal U.S.-sponsored regimes or death squads.”

As recent arguments in the US House and Senate demonstrate, there is much squeamishness when the full implications of an operation like Blackwater’s are more closely examined. In addition to the issue of criminal liability, when trigger happy mercenaries are allowed to run amok, there is also the question of immunity from tort liability. Blackwater’s legal team has argued that Blackwater should be immune from civil causes of action in Iraq and elsewhere. By implication the government would foot the bill for contractors killed in war zones and thus privatize profits while making the risk a public liability. It appears as if it pays to be patriotic.

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