Blackwater USA, the private security firm that has been publicly castigated without the benefit of a completed investigation regarding the Sept. 16 shooting incident in Iraq is responsible for safely moving diplomats, visiting government officials, members of Congress, and others through the dangerous streets of Baghdad and beyond. Ironically, Blackwater has protected some of its greatest critics from harm.
Not surprisingly, the tone for this recent public flogging was set when immediately following the incident the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MoI) accused Blackwater of firing first. The MoI is the same organization the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq only two weeks ago called a “ministry in name only” because it is ineffectual, inefficient, and sectarian. It is common knowledge that the MoI, infested with corruption and extortion, now is fully infiltrated by Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. But somehow, this dysfunctional collection of Iraqi thugs is now the most credible body in the Iraqi government, at least with regard to the Sept. 16 attack on Blackwater’s convoy. What is clear is that the Ministry of Interior has exploited this incident for political gain in an attempt to recover even a shred of credibility.
Blackwater’s professionals have conducted over 16,000 diplomatic movements since 2005 but only discharged their weapons 195 times; about 1.2% of the time. Given that Blackwater protects the highest profile people in Iraq and given that the MoI is notorious for passing on to militias any information it learns about these movements, 1.2% is staggeringly low. Perhaps it is a testament to Blackwater’s experience and discipline.
Claims of “high-profile” behavior and twice the amount of engagements than other security companies (Blackwater defines a mission as a round-trip movement while other security companies use a one-way metric) are sexy, but other companies aren’t protecting the US ambassador or members of Congress who attract more attention from insurgents. Other companies may have the luxury of going “low profile”, but Blackwater doesn’t. Blackwater reports to the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Baghdad and ultimately to the Ambassador. Its daily movements are dictated by the embassy and their rules for the use of force (which includes the escalation of force) are dictated to them by the Department of State.
Before we hang Blackwater in the public square and use them as political fodder for more Administration bashing in an election year we should consider that each day at the government’s request they go into harm’s way. Thirty Blackwater men have died while serving our government in Iraq and Afghanistan, but all of their protectees have gone home without even serious injury.