Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blackwater Hearings

No I haven't been following this very closely, so I need to probe some of the better blogs and the Milblogs to see some better perspective. (Right, when I'm not working or asleep, which means it may not happen.)

From what I've seen in the MSM it does look like dems looking to make a scandal. Well, that is their job after all. Oh, wait, no it's not.
WASHINGTON -- Top State Department officials and the head of their beleaguered private security firm, Blackwater USA, put forth a unified defense Tuesday against an onslaught of congressional criticism over the company's violent encounters with Iraqis.

The State Department and security officials attempted to portray Blackwater's armed guards as highly trained professionals who open fire in the streets of Baghdad only when the lives of the diplomats they are hired to protect are threatened.

At a daylong Capitol Hill hearing, Erik Prince -- the company's chairman and a former Navy SEAL -- responded to accusations of misconduct by defending his employees' performance and maintaining that the State Department was a meticulous overseer that held the contractors to exacting standards.
First let's consider that many if not most of these guys are former special forces. That has to make the diplomats feel better. And their success rate is there to speak for itself.
Republicans repeatedly pointed out that no U.S. official under Blackwater's protection has been killed or seriously wounded in Iraq -- a testament, they argued, to the company's proficiency.

"That's a perfect record, and you don't get any credit for it, for some reason," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.).
Prince sought to portray the 195 shooting incidents the company has been involved in since 2005 as rare occurrences. He said that so far this year, Blackwater has guarded 1,873 convoys, out of which there were 56 shootings, or less than 3% of all assignments. Last year, the company had 6,254 missions and 38 incidents.

Prince also said committee calculations that Blackwater guards had fired first in more than 80% of the shootings were misleading. Many of those involved suspected car bombs that were moving toward diplomatic convoys, he said.
Hmm. Interesting that they seem to have this problem with the Blackwater guys firing first. Seems to make sense to me. They aren't there to be nice, they are there to protect a specific person. We only leave the honor of getting killed before allowing people to defend themselves to our military. (yeah that's sarcasm)

And I've heard this point before:
He said Blackwater had been unfairly accused of widespread misdeeds, arguing that because of the company's prominence, it gets blamed for incidents that involve rival security firms.

"There's 170-some security companies operating through Iraq. We get painted with a very broad brush on a lot of the stuff they do," he said, noting that the company routinely gets false reports of its guards being involved in attacks. "If a private security contractor did it, it often gets attributed to us."
The discussion about outsourcing the military has been flying around for a while. It also misses the point that this isn't something you want the military to be doing. Being a body guard requires you use different rules of engagement than fighting a war by "the rules." Blackwater is vilified for bad deeds of other security groups because they are a big and reputable name for the most part. In business competitors use FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) all the time to discredit competition. Why would one think this is any different, especially since this is the contractor with the biggest and best contract?

Other thoughts come to mind as why they use these contractors rather than the military. First, when you show up to do the diplomacy thing do you really want to show up with guys driving tanks and armored personnel carriers? Or do you want the guys to be in civilian clothes. And note, that the military guys can't walk around in any military context in civilian clothes as this would be a violation of the Geneva conventions.

Then there is the infrastructure and support requirements. Being former special forces the Blackwater guys probably have a fairly small foot print. Yes, having active duty SEALs doing that would have a small footprint as well, but don't you think that there are better things for them to be doing?

Sorry, the rational analysis is this is partisan crap as usual and since the surge appears to be working so far, the dems need something different to vilify the Administration on.

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