So among the many innovations of the War on Terror and the 21st century is a return to the fun of the 19th century when our mariners had to fight pirates.
You know the Marine Hymn, the line “…to the shores of Tripoli”? That referred to some of the earliest fights the Marines got into, against pirates in the Mediterranean, protecting a young America’s commerce abroad.
The endless chaos of failed states that has accompanied the War on Terror has sent pirates back out on to the open seas, particularly near the Horn of Africa, off the Somali coast. We all remember the movie Captain Phillips, right? Somali pirates in small boats rush cargo ships and oil tankers, hoping to scramble aboard and take hostages, ransoming the ship back to its owner while plundering the cargo.
Commercial shipping companies have thus taken to hiring mercenaries, er, security contractors, typically ex-military from the U.S., UK, South Africa and the like, to protect their vessels. Have a look at a typical workday for them in the video. Note the image of the side of the ship around 0:34; there are rolls of barbed wire attached to the hull to prevent boarders from seizing the doubloons. Of course, that would have made Captain Phillips about a three minute movie.
Here’s something else interesting.
Apparently due to some countries’ laws, ships cannot bring weapons into port. So, given that the shipping business is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and rifles are worth a few hundred, the mercs often toss their weapons overboard. It is not clear how they acquire new ones for the trip home, but it seems to be a system that works for them. Of course the weapons could be stashed in some remote part of these huge ships and the tossing scene might be just for show…
Avast mateys, here there be pirates! Arghhhhhhhhhh!
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Last month, apparently without attracting any public attention (until now), they quietly bought another security firm, International Development Solutions, and took over its piece of the State Department’s $10 billion World Protective Services contract, which then-Blackwater got kicked out of years ago.
A good way to keep up with all things Blackwater, er, Xe, Academi, whatever is the web site AcademiWatch.
Also, some awesome video of the Blackwater bullies in action in Iraq, winning hearts and minds for ‘Merica.
Blackwater is back, baby!
Blackwater and State have a, well, history. Records released after a four year FOIA fight between the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the web site Gawker show that mercenaries, primarily from Blackwater, shot and sometimes killed a lot of Iraqis in the name of protecting America’s diplomats while under contract with the State Department. The mercs, er, the private security companies, were supposed to be operating under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s command and control but instead shot up Iraq like outcasts from the Road Warrior.
The 4500 FOIA’ed pages released are filled with contact/incident reports. Every time a Blackwater shooter cranked off a few rounds at some Iraqi, he was supposed to file a report. State’s Diplomatic Security would validate the shoot as having taken place under its own rules and that would be that. No attempts were made to seriously investigate anything, no attempts were made to find out what happened to any of the Iraqis popped by American hired guns and certainly no attempts to rein in Blackwater are documented.
And now, Blackwater and State are back, together again, baby! Get some!
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Cartman: Those bastards! Those damn Iraqis are now trying to control which armed thugs the World’s Largest Embassy (c) and other foreigners are allowed to bring in to Iraq!
Kyle: No way dude!
Cartman: Way. See, like any other sovereign nation, Iraq is gonna start demanding that dudes who want to come live, work and carry weapons to potentially shoot Iraqis down dead have permission to enter Iraq– that’s called a visa, dumbass.
Kyle:Your mother’s a dumbass Cartman.
Cartman: Perhaps, perhaps, but she’s doesn’t wipe Iraqi refugee ass like your Mom, Kyle.
Kyle: That’s her volunteer work, goddammit.
Kenny: Mmm, mmm.
Kyle: No Kenny, you can’t help her.
Cartman: Anyway, as I was saying, before this the US could bring any thug they wanted in to Iraq, like in the Dirty Dozen movie.
Kyle: That was awesome! Lee Marvin kicked Nazi ass dude!
Cartman: My friends at the State Department– I’m an important person there– just announced everyone now needs a visa to enter Iraq. No more free passes, even if you fly in on the State Department’s own private airplanes. They don’t roll commercial, you see. Like Snoop sez, it’s not a luxury when you really want it.
Kyle: No way, they have their own planes? Like helicopters and shit?
Cartman: Yes, Kyle, they do. They have armed helicopters. My Mom told me because the day it was announced inside State it appeared hours later in Al Kamen’s column in the Washington Post.
Stan: So wait a minute guys–
Cartman: Shut up Stan, I’m talking about super cool armed helicopters–
Stan: No Cartman, you ass, you wait. So if the Iraqis insist on visas, then… the Iraqis can control who enters their country. That means if they don’t want 5,500 armed mercs driving around Baghdad as “diplomats,” they can just say no? Like Japan, or Brazil or Kenya, or everywhere else on earth where the US doesn’t have its own private Embassy army operating outside of any law?
(A loud crash is heard, the boys are engulfed in flames)
Kyle: Oh no, a State Department airplane just crashed!
Next: Beavis and Butthead visit Baghdad…
— On January 11 or 12, four American security contractors, working for the US Embassy, were caught and detained in a Baghdad neighborhood. The four were armed, wearing body armor, and were traveling in a plain car without diplomatic plates or markings. The group included two men and two women. See their photo on al-Jazeera. Note the goatee, which just screams “merc.”
— On January 11, the World’s Largest Embassy (c) in Baghdad issued a public notice on its website saying “that the Government of Iraq is strictly enforcing immigration and customs procedures, to include visas and stamps for entry and exit, vehicle registration, and authorizations for weapons, convoys, logistics, and other matters. Rules and procedures may be subject to frequent revisions, and previous permissions may be deemed invalid… The U.S. Embassy is aware of cases where discrepancies in permits or paperwork have resulted in legal action, including detention, by Iraqi police and other entities. Detentions often last 24-96 hours or more. The Embassy’s ability to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens are arrested or otherwise detained throughout Iraq is limited, including in and around Baghdad.”
— Back in late December, three US Triple Canopy “security contractors” were arrested by the Iraqi Army, held for 18 days without charges and then released after reported efforts by the World’s Largest Embassy (c). The men were detained in a rural area south of Baghdad because the Iraqi military “did not like the ‘mission request authorization’ paperwork that had been issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.”
So, let’s connect the dots:
It sounds like they are having a few bumps in the old road sorting out exactly how diplomacy is going to be practiced with a private army of some 5,500 mercenary security contractors in the mix. It seems those bad boys (and girls!) are not confining themselves to guarding diplomats on social calls to Iraqi ministries either, and are instead covering some ground and attempting some not-so-covert observation work. And getting caught.
Of course everyone is hoping for no Raymond Davis-like incidents that can happen when armed Americans motor around societies where they are not altogether welcome.
The New York Times, America’s steno pool of record these days, is there to soothe worried patriots. Turns out this is all just Iraqi growing pains, NYT sez. Since being allowed to take over its own immigration and internal security from Daddy America, Iraq is still learnin’ how to do it right. The Times quoted a senior American military official said that the current disconnect between the Iraqis and the contractors was “primarily an adjustment of our standard operating procedures as we adapt our people and they adapt their security forces to the new situation.”
Others have described it as a power play, with PM Maliki’s son, in some form of private capacity, leading the charge by throwing foreign contractor squatters out of the primo real estate inside the Green Zone.
One possible solution comes from Senator Ben Nelson (R-Absolute Knucklehead), who wants the Iraqis to pay all security costs for the World’s Largest Embassy (c) in Iraq, thus making all the mercs Iraqi government employees.
In our universe, however, the big money question is… what do these incidents have to say about the future of the World’s Largest Embassy (c) and the 5,500 mercs/security contractors they employ in Iraq? Is the Embassy going to spend its time putting out fires caused by the unusual non-so-diplomatic arrangements in Iraq, or is this just a beginners blip?
Muqtada Al Sadr, leader of the Sadrist militias and all around bad guy, said that he considers all US Embassy employees in Baghdad as “occupiers”, and stressed that resisting them after 2011 is an “obligation.”
In response to a query of one of his followers about the increase of embassy employees from 5000 to 15000 after the US military withdraws at the end of 2011, Sadr said “they are all occupiers and resisting them after the end of the agreement is an obligation.”
Almost all of the new employees of the World’s Largest Embassy (c) will be contract mercenaries hired to defend the building and protect the diplomats inside.
The State Department still plans to hire some 5500 mercs to guard the Baghdad Embassy and other State nightspots in Iraq starting in 2012 when the cheaper services of the US Army may not be available.
The question being asked is, of course, what could possibly go wrong? Though earlier gangs of mercs working for State gunned down Iraqis here and there, no doubt confusing the concept of “diplomacy” with “murderous funtimes,” and mercs guarding the Embassy in Kabul were photographed doing vodka shots off each others’ butts (pictured), State blithely assures everyone that this time it will be different.
But why take someone’s word for it when you can write it into the contract? Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, who use locals to guard their camps, have actually written details of expected behavior into the contract.
Here are some examples from the Army paper that State may wish to adopt:
“Do not kill or torture detained personnel.” (good one!)
“No booby-trapping, burning or mutilation of corpses.”
“Do not attack protected persons or protected places like mosques, hospitals, cemeteries and schools.”
“Fight only combatants. Destroy no more than the mission requires. Returned fire with aimed fire. Must limit/eliminate collateral damage to innocent civilians.”
Specifying such details in the contract will no doubt help clean up the mercs’ act. It will certainly have as much impact as the software license agreements where one clicks “Accept.” Silly lawyers!
For those that missed it live, here’s my interview with KPOJ in Portland in Podcast format. My bit begins about 1:20 in.
If you did not have a chance to read my article, Occupying Iraq, State Department-Style: A Frat House With Guns in Baghdad, yesterday at TomDispatch, or work at the Department of State where TomDispatch is still blocked because it once had some Wikileaks spunge on it, you can catch up at one of your fave sites, below:
So imagine you wake up from some crazed three-day weekend in the bathtub, unable to remember two of the three days (your last memory is of watching Hangover II). You find yourself suddenly in charge of logistics and management for the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Despite knowing about the October 1, 2011 transition of control of Iraq from military to State Department control for the past three years, your predecessors have left you the following “TO DO” list:
–Hire 5500 mercenaries to secure the Embassy, providing them housing, food, weapons and vehicles.
Figure out a way to supervise them so they do not massacre Iraqi civilians or create diplomatic incidents by doing vodka shots off each others’ butts, as in Kabul.
–Construct four provincial posts despite delays caused by your boss’ inability to decide on scope, size, and land use, plus without certain future funds.
–Procure a fleet of 46 aircraft, to include 20 medium lift S-61 helicopters (essentially Blackhawks, possibly armed), 18 light lift UH-1N helicopters (‘Nam era Hueys, possibly armed), three light observation MD-530 helicopters (Little Birds, armed, for quick response strike teams) and five Dash 8 fixed wing aircraft (50-passenger capacity to move personnel into theatre from Jordan). Construct flight and landing zones, maintenance hangars, operation buildings, and air traffic control towers, along with an independent aviation logistics operation for maintenance and refueling.
–Negotiate agreements with Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait authorizing Embassy flight plans. Also, negotiate land use agreements with Iraq to base aircraft in Basra and Erbil as hubs.
–Build a hospital on property, to replace the departed Army facilities. Iraqi medical care is considered too substandard, and Iraqi hospitals too dangerous, for use.
–Add generator capacity. Your present generators are running 24/7, at capacity, and are in need of overhauls.
–Find housing on property for thousands of additional employees. Your boss in NEA’s only suggestion is “hot bunking,” like on ships, where day and night shifts share a bed (politics makes strange bedfellows?)
This is fact is only a partial list of the actual things the State Department is expected to do prior to the October 1 hand-off with the military. Most, if not all, of the list stems from the fact that by the end of the year most, if not all, of the US military will be leaving Iraq.
Want to read it all yourself? Have a look at the State Department’s declassified Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq (Report Number MERO-I-11-08, May 2011).
Oh yes, the price. State has requested $6.3 billion in FY 2012. Congress has yet to decide what to do about the requests.
I saw Pat Kennedy at the Seven Corners Home Depot on Sunday, buying garden stuff. He looked worried so I didn’t say hello. I thought maybe he had some nasty leaf mold problems, but now I know it was more serious. Sorry Pat, I hope the flowers work out, because…
CNN reports The State Department came under sharp criticism Monday over how it hires and monitors thousands of private contractors.
A watchdog panel, the Commission on Wartime Contracting, has questioned whether the State Department is prepared to continue its work in Iraq once the US military withdraws. “Our concerns remain very much alive,” the commission’s co-chairman, Christopher Shays, said in his opening statement.
Shays also focused on what he said was State Department refusal to document its rationale for not taking action against contractors officially recommended for suspension or disbarment. “That response approaches the borderline of government negligence,” Shays said.
The sole witness appearing before the panel was Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. He described how the Department has increased its oversight of contractors. Among other things, State has hired 102 additional people in Washington to administer these contracts. Whew. 0
In Iraq, basically the already over-worked Regional Security Officer (RSO) will oversee any whacky hijinks of the merc army. In fact, they might even do bed checks: Kennedy stated “Collocation of contractor life-support areas on Embassy, Consulate, or Embassy Branch Office compounds will enhance after-hours oversight of contractor personnel,” so it’s lights out on time guys and no doing vodka shots off each others’ butts like in Afghanistan.
But what will cause an already busy RSO to really focus on stopping State Department-sponsored murder in Iraq? Kennedy explained “As initial steps, this summer we plan to create a Contracting Officer Representative (COR) Award to highlight contract administration achievements, and publish an article in State Magazine highlighting the importance of contract administration and the valuable role of the COR.” Magazine article, got it, feelin’ safer already.
But what about stuff like in 2007 when State’s Blackwater mercs gunned down unarmed Iraqis in Nisour Square? Kennedy again: “Improving the image of the security footprint through enhanced cultural sensitivity: Mandatory country-specific cultural awareness training for all security contractors prior to deployment to Iraq; Revised standards of conduct, including a ban on alcohol.”
Of course allowing the mercs to drink in Iraq (And Christ do they drink. I saw it myself. The wildest, most debauched parties, including public nudity, cross-dressing and group vomiting ever were on the security contractor compounds and I say that having gone to a football-heavy state school) from 2003 until today has worked out, so wonder why the change now Pat?
So what about that little problem about not prosecuting mercs for murder in Iraq? Kennedy acknowledges that there really isn’t any law to cover things just right now as previous State agreements exempt mercs from Iraqi law, but “The Department of State strongly supports the legislative goal of passing a robust and comprehensive Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) that provides clear and unambiguous jurisdiction to prosecute non-Department of Defense personnel for overseas misconduct. We look forward to working with Congress on CEJA legislation.” And in the meantime boys, its lock and load time with no bag limit on ‘dem hajiis!
“We fully understand that we still have challenges ahead as we carry out our diplomatic missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations where we rely on contingency contracting,” Kennedy said, probably wishing he worked at Home Depot.
A military forced into diplomacy in Iraq will be replaced by a militarized State Department equally unprepared for the task.
Read Kennedy’s full statement if you think I am making this stuff up.
Diplomats: Better think over who has your backs and give those bids lists one more look-over before hitting submit.
You just can’t put a price on security—until now. While the town I live in has had to close its library one day a week to save money, and shut down part of the police department, the State Department plans to spend $10 billion on guards for our Embassy and Consulates in Iraq. Some 74% of Embassy Baghdad’s operating costs go to security.
Danger Room reports that a company named SOC will guard the Embassy facilities, while long-time merc group Triple Canopy will provide protection when personnel need to scurry outside the Embassy fortress. The overall goal is for State to have its own Army of some 5500 contracted mercs, almost two full brigades worth of hired guns. Deflowered old war horse Blackwater, under yet another dummy corporation name, will also get a piece of the money pie. Yeah, Blackwater, that’s worked out well for the State Department in the past. Having seen these contractors in action in Iraq myself, they are what our military would look like without NCOs, a frat house with guns.
Congresswoman, better call those State contracting officials back up to the Hill.
Triple Canopy is the company that now guards the Embassy, using almost exclusively Ugandans and Peruvians hired out of their own countries and brought to Iraq. They get paid about $600 a month, while their US supervisors pull down $20,000 of your tax dollars every month. Many of the Ugandan and Peruvian guards got their jobs through nasty middlemen (i.e., “pimps,” “slavers”), who take back most of the salaries to repay recruitment costs, leaving many guards as essentially indentured servants. Or so we think, as most speak no English and have to suck up whatever gets dumped on them.
And dump we do—even State’s own Inspector General criticized the foreign guards’ living conditions, noting among other things 400% occupancy rates in the metal shipping containers the guards used as sleeping quarters. The report also details groovy fire hazards at the guards’ quarters, plus features blissfully unclassified photos of the Embassy gates from the inside which would not be helpful for bad guys, all conveniently on the Internet.
Luckily we won the freaking war, or who knows what security would cost?