Monday, April 21, 2008
Congressional candidate Darcy Burner has a post up at Open Left today talking about Blackwater:
It's high time we picked a fight over this.
Blackwater's contract was just renewed by the State Department. The supplemental appropriation that's about to be brought up before the House includes ongoing funding for Blackwater's activities in Iraq. If we're going to fight this, we need to fight it now.
It is not just that too many of Blackwater's employees in Iraq conduct themselves in ways that are counterproductive and deeply immoral. It is not just that there is no accountability for the company or its employees either in Iraq or here. And it is not just that the Iraqis have clearly and unambiguously called for Blackwater to leave.
Blackwater is a threat to the core underpinnings of our democracy. Who is this private army loyal to? Because they aren't ours. They don't wear our flags on their clothing -- they wear the symbol of Blackwater.
Burner provides a list of House and Senate sponsors for a bill which would defund the security contractors and requests that we begin calling our reps and asking them to join. (And guys, if the Blackwater style contractors are defunded, so is the war. They can't run it without them.)
For those of you who have been as appalled by the latest revelations about the Bush torture regime, I remind you that contractors are intimately involved with it. Blackwater and subsidiaries handled many of the rendition planes. Contractors were intimately involved in torture and abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq:
Civilians working for private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are alleged to have committed serious incidents of abuse including assault, torture and sexual abuse, some of which occurred at Abu Ghraib prison. While reports of alleged incidents of abuse by civilians have been forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Virginia, there have been no convictions and only one indictment, though at least 20 cases were forwarded by the Department of Defense and the CIA to the Department of Justice since the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Incidents of torture involving civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib were documented in the US Army’s Fay and Taguba reports investigating Abu Ghraib. These reports implicated employees of two companies, CACI International (based in Arlington, VA) and Titan Corp (based in San Diego and recently acquired by L3 Communications). Steve Stefanowicz of CACI reportedly directed the use of dogs at Abu Ghraib, ordered that a prisoner not receive his prescription pain killers, made a male prisoner wear women’s underwear, failed to report abuse, and lied to investigators. Daniel Johnson, also employed by CACI, allegedly directed and participated in prisoner abuse and interrogated a prisoner in an “unauthorized stress position,” according to descriptions in the Fay report and alleged in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Johnson is the contractor alleged to have directed military personnel Sgts. Ivan Frederick and Charles Graner to torture a detainee during an interrogation. Three Titan employees were accused of abuses in the Fay and Taguba reports including allegedly raping a male juvenile detainee, making false statements about interrogations and failing to report detainee abuse.
General Michael Hayden admitted under oath In February that security and intelligence contractors are still directly involved in the torture --a legal quagmire which was undoubtedly designed to protect them from prosecution.
FEINSTEIN: I'd like to ask this question: Who carries out these [enhanced interrogation] techniques? Are they government employees or contractors?
HAYDEN: At our facilities during this, we have a mix of both government employees and contractors. Everything is done under, as we've talked before, ma'am, under my authority and the authority of the agency. But the people at the locations are frequently a mix of both -- we call them blue badgers and green badgers.
FEINSTEIN: And where do you use only contractors?
HAYDEN: I'm not aware of any facility in which there were only contractors. And this came up...
FEINSTEIN: Any facility anywhere in the world?
HAYDEN: Oh, I mean, I'm talking about our detention facilities. I want to make something very clear, because I don't think it was quite crystal clear in the discussion you had with Attorney General Mukasey.
The article goes on to question whether or not the so-called "black sites" have now been completely outsourced, something we don't have the answer to.
Look, it's going to take some very serious congressional and hopefully, Department of Justice, investigation into what went on with this torture regime. But the first step is to defund the Blackwater security contractors, right now. End it. Full stop. This is a fight we need to have.
* I would also add that we should have known that Blackwater and its ilk were a bad idea from the earlier experience we had in Bosnia with DynCorp, which was involved in white slavery. Fool me once, won't get fooled again ...