Bye, Bye, Blackwater?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Earlier this week, the Iraqi government announced that it intends to expel Blackwater USA, a private security firm, based in eastern North Carolina, from Iraq. On Sunday, some employees of Blackwater USA were involved in a shooting that left several Iraqi civilians dead. The company has government contracts to protect senior American personnel in Iraq. As a North Carolinian, I learned about Blackwater USA early. In 2004, my friend and former teacher, Barry Yeoman, profiled the company for Mother Jones magazine. Months later, Jay Price and Joseph Neff, staff writers for The News & Observer, wrote a series of articles about Blackwater USA. Now that the United States has a smaller military, private security companies have a lot of work. Is that a good thing? Since the war in Iraq began, nothing has happened to any of Blackwater USA's high-profile targets. Are they doing work that the American military simply cannot do?

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Are the employees of blackwater and other firms considered non uniformed combatants?

Sent by Neil | 2:14 PM | 9-19-2007

I am a US Army soldier who recently returned from a 15 month deployment to Iraq this July. Let it be known that this is NOT the first, second, or third time private security members have used unnessesary force against targets in Iraq. Private security teams have countlessly interfered with coalition force missions on a daily basis, completely ignoring coalition forces EOF measures. They are desert cowboys. Who endanger US soldiers with their John Wayne style of doing business.

Sent by JP Miner | 2:21 PM | 9-19-2007

I thought that the convoy escort vechiles had cameras and mics on them to help resolve these type of "who shot first" questions.

Jack in Cleveland

Sent by Jack in Cleveland | 2:23 PM | 9-19-2007

Who owns Blackwater? Why do I get the feeling that it's a subsidiary of Halliburton?

Sent by Deb in Boston | 2:28 PM | 9-19-2007

How does our use of security firms affect retention rates for the volunteer services? Isn't there a huge incentive for capable soldiers to get out of the marines and join up with Blackwater and others for higher pay?

Sent by Pete | 2:29 PM | 9-19-2007

One of things no one is addressing is the negative impact Private Security Contractors have on the US military and Special Forces in particular. The Bush administration has created a market that didn't exist. PSC's pay 5 times or more what a sergeant can make in the military. The Army is offering $100K bonuses to soldiers to stay in the SF and they have no takers. So we have our hbest trained soldier's bailing out to make more money. I don't blame them. It is good for the soldier but bad for the military.

Sent by K- | 2:42 PM | 9-19-2007

Doesn't the use of private companies such as Blackwater simply represent how much we as a country are willing to spend to avoid the draft?

Sent by Payson | 2:51 PM | 9-19-2007

I've been hearing about Black Water and their obtrusive battle actions for a while now. If the tax payer wasn't footing the bill for these mercinaries, they wouldn't exist. Why hasn't the Senate or Congress questioned the necessity for these agressive freelancers and their huge price tag? An interested listener.

Sent by David Sherrod | 3:08 PM | 9-19-2007

I wholeheartly believe that in this day and age there is room for organizations such as Blackwater USA. There are some bleading-heart liberals who think that the best way to go to war is with a bunch of antiquated ideas. If this country wants to give up our firearms then we are heading in the right direction.It is past time that we took a stand (as is Blackwater USA) and defend our Constitutional Rights to bear arms and protect our society.
The question of whether or not Blackwater was involved to my knowledge has not been answered yet nor the question of whether or not they acted in self defense. So if there is an organization that will provide assistance in a war zone I say stand behind them and don't critisize untill you obtain the full story.

Sent by Don Mullendore | 3:31 PM | 9-19-2007

I think it is possible that the relative of an Iraqi wrongfully killed by Blackwater would have a civil claim in U.S. federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act. This 18th century U.S. law was designed to give people relief against crimes committed outside the U.S. (specifically on the high seas) by "privateers," which were kind of like private contractors operating under the color of a foreign government. Human rights lawyers have gotten some traction using this here in the U.S. to sue for actions done outside the U.S. against non U.S. citizens. Anyone with any information on this, please comment.

Sent by Stewart Yerton | 6:38 PM | 9-19-2007

I agree with JP Miner who has served in Iraq. BW's culture (and management) encourages them to shoot at civilians with impunity. It shows a lack of capability in politicized, high risk environments in urban areas and typical crassness that makes the mission all the more difficult for US Soldiers. Indeed, It is reported that BW pointed weapons on US troops in Kabul, as they considered they had 'right of way' at a road junction. They cannot operate in a low profile manner therefore draw attention and invite attack on themselves - which ironically is beneficial for the more professional PSC's who have a low profile MO. They, rather than PSC's, should be withdrawn.

Sent by John | 9:36 AM | 10-19-2007