A Look at President Bush's Private Army
The Bush administration has its
own private army operating inside Iraq that is not accountable to
Congress or the American people..
By Pat Shannan
One of the most frightening
developments in the occupation of Iraq and the so-called “War on
Terror” is actually something most of the American people have never heard of. In
addition to the 150,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, the Bush administration has
deployed a shadow army of some 100,000 contractors. Of these tens of thousands
of heavily armed mercenaries that roam Iraq
with impunity, among the most powerful of the companies involved is Blackwater USA, a secretive company headquartered in the
wilderness woods of North Carolina.
It is headed by a bankroller of
President Bush and his allies, Erik Prince. Blackwater considers itself the
“Fed Ex” of the national security apparatus, but the reality is that Blackwater
has become a prime player in the War on Terror and is nothing short of the Bush
administration’s Praetorian Guard.
Prince, 39, became an instant
billionaire when his father, Edgar, passed away in 1995. He had developed
Prince Manufacturing, a leader in automotive innovation over the years, and
became best known for his invention and development of the lighted vanity
mirror now found behind nearly every sun visor in every American car.
Blackwater USA largely operated in the shadows of the U.S. war machine, until the morning of March 31,
2004, when four Blackwater contractors were ambushed and killed in the city of Fallujah, Iraq.
Their bodies were burned and dragged through the streets. Two of the
mercenaries were hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.
For most people, it was the first
that they ever heard of private military contractors operating in Iraq. That was
the day the war turned. Unlike Somalia,
when the Clinton
administration pulled out, the Bush Administration initiated a massive revenge
attack. The American army laid siege to the city of Fallujah, killed hundreds of people,
displaced tens of thousands of others and in the process enflamed the Iraqi
resistance that haunts the American occupation forces to this day.
Unofficial estimates now claim
over one million Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. occupation in 2003.
The Bush administration came to
power with a radical privatization agenda. “We see it in our schools, prisons,
healthcare systems and law enforcement in the United States,” says investigative
reporter Jeremy Scahill, who has taken on exposing the Blackwater secrets with
a vendetta. “The occupation of Iraq
and the War on Terror have brought the greatest privatization of warfare in
Blackwater USA has become
one of the most powerful private actors in the so-called war on terror, and it
provides the Bush administration with an extraordinary amount of political
cover. The deaths of Blackwater contractors and other mercenaries are not
included in the total death count, even though estimates place it at around
1,000 killed In Iraq. Their injuries do not get calculated either, and their
crimes do not get punished.
“What we have here is a revolving
door” reports Scahill. “Blackwater and other companies benefit the Bush administration,
and in turn the Bush administration and its allies in congress protect the
shielded military contractors from any effective oversight, any effective
accountability, and effective legal system. The operations are shrouded in
secrecy, and people in Congress find it almost impossible to get any
information about Blackwater and other companies in operation.”
Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky
(D-Ill.) expressed her frustration:
“We know virtually nothing about
this. We think that about 40 cents of every dollar goes to private military
contractors. We think about 800 of them have been killed in Iraq, but we
don’t know that, they’re not even counted. We think that about 25,000 to 40,000
have been engaged in military activities and combat related activities, but we
don’t know, and we can’t find out.”
Blackwater USA has 2,300
men actively deployed in nine countries around the world. They have another
20,000 “contractors” at the ready. Scahill says that while Blackwater is operated
in Iraq and Afghanistan, it increasingly has its sights set
on deployments inside the United
States. It is setting up a new facility in Illinois and another one in California.