Hotwater USA

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:28 pm

Saw the CEO of Blackwater defending his company on 60 Minutes tonight. He put on a good show; plenty of armored dogs and ponies for everyone, and CBS’s favorite newscrumpet (no, not the old one with the colon problems, this one) was allowed to pose just about the dumbest, most inane question I have ever heard from a journalist in my life, to the effect of, “Do you really regret the loss of Iraqi lives in the shootout? Do you truly wish it hadn’t happened?” She did everything but add, “Honest and for true?” Bleah.

The question of the guilt or innocence of Blackwater’s teams in this or any other incident are of only peripheral interest to me at this point. I think the investigations are necessary, and the US government needs to decide–and codify–which laws are applicable in the case of a private military force, owned and operated by a US company and in the employ of the United States government, operating in a foreign country. And enforce those laws accordingly.

However, I have other concerns regarding this whole incident that have little to do with the day-to-day operations, well-managed or otherwise, of this company or others of the type. Namely:

1) If the Iraqi parliament says that Blackwater must leave the country, and the United States government says they can stay, who should get final say in the matter? If we simply bypass a directive from the elected government of Iraq–a government we have been touting as the only legitimate governing body in the country–aren’t we basically just telling the world that the pretense of an autonomous, freely elected Iraqi government is a total sham? That we have, as many suspect, simply propped up another Pthalate Republic that will in all likelihood ultimately fall into chaos and revolution? Our decision in this matter might help to make or break a fledgling democracy, and I hope the powers that be are devoting more consideration to it than they appear to be giving, say, the hunt for Osama bin Laden. (Remember him?)

2) The total spent to date on private security contractors in Iraq, while a classified number, has been quite conservatively estimated at about 6 billion dollars. According to the numbers garnered by the House Oversight Committee, the cost paid by the US government for the average Blackwater security contractor operating in Iraq to guard US civilian personnel is $1,222, or $445,000 per year. That’s approximately six times the yearly wage of the average US Army solider. Like just about every other American, I don’t want the military to operate on an olive-drab shoestring. I want our armed forces to have everything they need, including the most up-to-date equipment, including financial security for their families at home. So here’s my suggestion: take the $6 billion and dump it directly into hazard pay bonuses for US Troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s about $31,500 per person. I imagine that would go a long way towards ensuring the retention of seasoned, battle-ready combat troops (versus, say, losing them to private security contractors), and showing these people that they have more than just our respect and our gratitude. It would also be super-duper if the government would find a way to spend more of that $198 million per day not slated for private security firms on updated equipment and supplies for the people on the ground over there.

I am by no means well-versed in the art of war or the practical implementation of public policy in the field of combat. I just happen to think that for-profit enterprises should hold as small a stake as possible in an arena as sensitive as our military operations (or education, or health care, or Social Security, or….or…..) as possible. Ideally, war should not be a financial windfall for anyone. There are words for people like that, and “contractor” is not foremost among them.

And for the record, while I may lack the necessary educational background or intellectual rigor to properly consider all of the many and varied ramifications of de-privatizing the war in Iraq, on the other hand, I didn’t manage to lose $8.8 billion in cash over there either. I think that should count for something.

2 Responses to “Hotwater USA”

  1. Tony Lenzer Says:

    Well said, Andrew. As another non-expert on these matters, I can only say amen to the notion of greater support for our troops and families, and reversal of the trend towards privatizing public services…one of the Administration’s favorite activities. As you know, the Rs oppose “Big Government.” The most successful way to reduce BG (other than cutting public services, regulatory restrictions, etc.) is to turn it over to the private, for-profit (not the non-profit, except, of course, the religious institutions) sector. See, Smaller Government, just like we Promised!

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    I’ve always felt that if Repus were true to their stated goals they would all be Libertarians; that at least would make sense. In this country only the Dems seem to have the balls to admit out loud that there are things—lots of things—that can only be done effectively by a community/state/nation acting in its collective best interest.

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