“Blackwater has the people to execute any requirement.”
But they’re not “mercenaries”:
The security firm’s website notes that “Blackwater has the people to execute any requirement.” Blackwater recruits from the ranks of active-duty special-forces unitsâ€”particularly Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Delta Force troopsâ€”many of which are based in nearby Ft. Bragg, N.C. The best and brightest among private security consultants earn salaries that run as high as $15,000 a month. And as various commitments have strained the military’s capacity to provide day-to-day security for relief workers and diplomats, Blackwater has prospered by filling the void. Since 2002, Blackwater has won more than $35 million in government contracts.
The current business boom is in Iraq. Blackwater charges its clients $1,500 to $2,000 a day for each hired gun. Most security contractors, like Blackwater’s teams, live a comfortable if exhausting existence in Baghdad, staying at the Sheraton or Palestine hotels, which are not plush but at least have running water. Locals often mistake the guards for special forces or CIA personnel, which makes active-duty military troops a bit edgy. “Those Blackwater guys,” says an intelligence officer in Iraq, “they drive around wearing Oakley sunglasses and pointing their guns out of car windows. They have pointed their guns at me, and it pissed me off. Imagine what a guy in Fallujah thinks.” Adds an Army officer who just returned from Baghdad, “They are a subculture.”
It’s still unclear whether the four Blackwater employees found themselves in Fallujah inadvertently or were on a mission gone awry. Even by Pentagon standards, military officials were fuzzy about the exact nature of the Blackwater mission; several officers privately disputed the idea that the team was escorting a food convoy. Another officer would say only the detail was escorting a shipment of “goods.” Several sources familiar with Blackwater operations told TIME that the company has in some cases abbreviated training even for crucial missions in war zones. A former private military operator with knowledge of Blackwater’s operational tactics says the firm did not give all its contract warriors in Afghanistan proper training in offensive-driving tactics, although missions were to include vehicular and dignitary-escort duty. “Evasive driving and ambush tactics were notâ€”repeat, were notâ€”covered in training,” this source said. Asked to respond to the charges, Blackwater spokesman Bertelli said, “Blackwater never comments on training methods and operational procedures.”
Again, I don’t want to diminish the deaths of these men, so much as point out the media’s use of the term “contractors” which makes it sound like these guys were out doing land surveys to build playgrounds. Now it looks like the initial stories about delivering food are starting to cast off a Jessica Lynch vibe. It seems like the CPA press office has been doing their jobs, with an added bonus of knocking the Clarke story off of the air for a few days.