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Bad rap of Blackwater U.S.A.

Private contractors have been relied on by the armed forces since the end of the Vietnam war when the United States decided on an all-volunteer military. With an estimated 160,000 private contractors working in Iraq now, some 50,000 of them operatives, or fighters, it is impossible to question the necessity of their numbers if we are to sustain the “war on terror.” However, it appears as if Blackwater USA is doing more to inhibit success in Iraq than to aid it…or at least it was back in 2007.

While escorting a convoy of U.S. State Department vehicles to Baghdad, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation, according to U.S. military reports, killing 17 Iraqis.

Iraqi authorities, at the time, demanded that all contracts with Blackwater be severed by the U.S. government within six months, and that $8 million in compensation be paid to each of the 17 people killed in this apparent slaughter.

Iraqis were incensed by these killings, speaking of haughty, trigger-happy guards terrorizing ordinary citizens.
Of course, this little incident only further strained Iraqi sentiment toward American intervention in Iraq, and also set up a more dangerous work environment for our American soldiers.

Since 2004, private contractors in Iraq have been granted immunity under Iraqi law by U.S. authorities. Not until this incident did the Iraqi government speak up, hitting on the fact that Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq expired in June 2006, and that only through Iraqi courts should charges against these operatives be reviewed.

The year 2007 saw 56 shooting incidents, alone, involving Blackwater, and another report accounted for 27 deaths and 21 wounded Iraqi civilians. With that in mind, surely, American authorities went ahead and passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill last November, which places private contractors under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, exposing them to a court martial just like any other American solider.

Although these privately subcontracted military companies supply much of the man-power required to fight such a large-scale war, it only takes a small portion to shift progress and provide hugely damaging set-backs.

Okay, so this is all well and good, right? It’s so funny that just two years ago, when Blackwater was in just about every daily newspaper that the group’s gone completely out of the news as of late. What happened to Blackwater? Let me tell you.

It was announced in back in February of this year that the company would change its name to “Xe.” (Kind of interesting, or funny, depending on your perspective, that this new name shares the same characters with a popular foreign exchange site.) The company’s president, Gary Jackson, wrote in a memo to employees that the new name “reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security.” Translation: We’re changing the name to shed some of that bad rap from the incident that brought so much controversy two years ago.

Currently, Blackwater, ahem, Xe, no longer has a license to operate in Iraq, seeing as how the new Iraqi government made several attempts to get them out of their country, and denied its application for an operating license back in January of this year. BUT, the company is still under contract with the State Department and some of the company personnel will likely remain in Iraq at least until September.

I say that these private contractors, essentially, serve a purpose in war time, such as it is. Just as long as they keep things quiet.