Choosing Sides

Steven Stills wrote half a lifetime ago:   “there’s battle lines being drawn.”

Tuesday, in a hearing room convened by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Georgia Republican Representative Lynn Westmoreland — apparently no relation to the General of Vientam era fame — distilled American anti-war sentiment to a critique by people who “[don’t] like companies to make a profit.”

The congressman’s comment was directed specifically at Democratic members of the legislature who’d deigned to lend credence to the “oversight” portion of the committee’s title by hauling before it Erik Prince, CEO of the military contracting company Blackwater USA, whose mercenary soldiers are quickly wearing thin their welcome in Iraq.

The perspective informing the comment, however, was a clear indication of Mr. Westmoreland’s belief — shared by many of his Republican colleagues and a host of paranoid psychopaths in our country, who would limit the methods for engaging “our mission” in Iraq to those entailing the use of blunt, unaccountable force — that the American way does not, under any circumstance, brook criticism or restriction of the motive for profit.

Profit is the light to which freedom is drawn, and all policy, all judgment must succumb to the primacy of its allure.

Profit is the ultimate faith-based initiative.

Blackwater USA, meanwhile, is a “private security contractor” in receipt of over $1 billion (just for the heck of it, count the zeroes: $1,000,000,000) in federal contracts since the Bush administration came to power in 2001.

The company charges the government $1,222 per day for the services of each of its mercenary soldiers, a figure more than six times what the Department of Defense spends to deploy one of its own uniformed men and women.

Blackwater USA’s profit profile ( see p.3 here) has literally exploded under the Bush administration’s generous, off-the-boooks war spending, with largely no-bid federal contracts worth less than half a million dollars in 2001, to those worth over $3 million in 2002, to over $300 million in 2005, to nearly $600 million in 2006.

And it’s not as if Blackwater just happened to be in the right place at the right time, either.

Mr. Prince, a co-founder in addition to being CEO, worked on the White House staff of President George H. W. Bush after training as a Navy SEAL; he has contributed over $200,000 to the Republican Party since 1998.

Joseph Schmitz is the company’s chief operating officer and general counsel. In 2002, President Bush nominated Mr. Schmitz to oversee and police the Pentagon’s military contracts as the Defense Department’s inspector general. He presided over the largest increase of military-contracting spending in history: As of 2005, 77 companies were awarded 149 “prime contracts” worth $42.1 billion, with hundreds of millions going to Blackwater.

J. Cofer Black, the company’s current vice chairman, and national security advisor for Mitt Romney, was the Bush administration’s top counter terrorism official when 9/11 occurred. He has been prominently associated with development of the Bush administration’s interrogation and extra-ordinary rendition policies. In 2002, he famously stated: “There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves come off.”

Theys guys are the Brownshirts of the Republican Party, the tough-guy proxies of Representatives like Michael Turner, Republican of Ohio, who defended Mr. Prince and Blackwater yesterday, saying, “”Blackwater is our team. They are working in the trenches, and in a war zone.”

But what kind of a “team” have we got playing the war card for us in the Middle East?

One with players like the drunken Blackwater employee who shot and killed a guard for an Iraqi vice president and was quickly whisked out of the country on a Blackwater supply plane. Asked by the committee to comment on whether the man might have been guilty of murder, Mr. Prince said: “It was a guy who put himself in a bad situation.”

As voters in several states prepare to hold the first primaries of the 2008 election season in the coming months, personal pronouns aside, much the same could be said about any of the candidates vying for the chance to succeed George W. Bush as the nation’s next president.


  1. Meredith Charpantier - October 12, 2007 @ 10:27 am

    the pay isn’t so good. but this kind of stench in our governing bodies makes me want to go “mercenary” right back on them.

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