Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blackwater, Again

Jeremy Scahill has an interesting op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times on the significance of Blackwater USA for the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. He makes a number of points that were discussed here last fall (see October 30, November 5, and November 7), but he also notes that the idea for a Civilian Reserve Corps, which President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, was presented (in privatized form) two years ago by Blackwater USA owner Erik Prince.

Scahill writes:

Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

Scahill's new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the Most Powerful Mercenary Firm in the World, is due out at the end of March.