September 18, 2007

It's a Trap!

I've avoided commenting on the Blackwater story until this point because there simply wasn't enough detail on this specific incident.

It just got more interesting:

The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square. The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, the ministry said.

Blackwater's employees were protecting a U.S. official when they were hit by "a large explosive device, then repeated small-arms fire -- and to the point where it disabled one of the vehicles, and the vehicle had to be towed out of the firefight," said Marty Strong, vice president of Blackwater USA.

A senior industry source said Blackwater guards had escorted a State Department group to a meeting with U.S. Agency for International Development officials in Mansour before the shootings.

A car bomb went off about 80 feet (25 meters) from the meeting site and the contractors started evacuating the State Department officials, he said. A State Department report on the attack said the convoy came under fire from an estimated eight to 10 people, some in Iraqi police uniforms.

The guards called for backup, at one point finding their escape route blocked by an Iraqi quick-reaction force that pointed heavy machine guns at one vehicle in the convoy. A U.S. Army force, backed by air cover, arrived about half an hour later to escort the convoy back to the Green Zone, the report states.

A team from another security company passed through the area shortly after the street battle.

"Our people saw a couple of cars destroyed," Carter Andress, CEO of American-Iraqi Solutions Groups, told CNN on Monday. "Dead bodies, wounded people being evacuated. The U.S. military had moved in and secured the area. It was not a good scene."

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, said, "We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq. The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice."

According to the new details in this CNN story, the Blackwater contractors were evacuating State Department personnel after a car bomb explosion when they came under small arms fire from 8-10, including personnel in Iraqi police uniforms.

It is far, far too early to think that Blackwater's security detail in this incident are anything close to being cleared, but as at least some of the wounded are admittedly not civilians as mentioned in various accounts, and multiple witnesses describe an explosive device or devices starting the ambush, followed by small arms fire, which is a typical ambush tactic. It appears that this may not be an open-and-shut case of "contractors gone wild" as some have hastily opined.

It is worth noting that the Iraqi government response could be in retaliation for the "Jones Commission" report released just weeks ago, that panned the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior for corruption and advocated disbanding the national police. I confirmed with an Iraq War analyst last night that it was possible that the backlash over Sunday's shooting (not the shooting itself) was planned in advance in retaliation for the report.

He was not stating that the attack itself was orchestrated to get Blackwater compromised, just that MOI and al-Maliki's government may have had a contingency plan set up to take advantage of such a situation when it arose to wrangle concessions from the State Department, while possibly create some political breathing room for al-Maliki's embattled government coalition.

This very well may have been a political ambush designed to take advantage of the already foundering reputations of contractors in Iraq, and Blackwater may have been pre-targeted to take advantage of the fact that they are essential to State's security.

Update: Via email this morning from Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal:

  1. State uses Blackwater extensively, so this incident gives the Government of Iraq some leverage. I expect State to negotiate to get Blackwater back online, and it will happen.
  2. Maliki needs political cover, much like he did attacking the US for raids in Sadr City last year. In the end the raids didn't stop. And in the end I think BW will be in operation in Iraq after some wrangling.
Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 18, 2007 06:01 AM

You do have to ask, what are we still doing in Iraq? I supported the original effort, but the situation has developed into one that can not be won or will eventually have the same result whether we say or go. If we had the suppor of both US political parties, you could say that an effort could be made. But with the Dems desiring to play games with this complicated situation, the enemy senses division and will continue to exploit it with American lives. I don't really feel that these people are worth American lives and tax dollars. As to stopping terrorist, maybe we should try to secure our nations borders first before we go around the globe stirring up problems.

Posted by: David Caskey at September 18, 2007 07:58 AM

Mr. Caskey, you are either an idiot or a lefty... but I repeat myself.

The situation in Iraq has developed into one where the President can safely land and have a conference in a province that just one year ago was written off as lost.

The situation in Iraq has developed into one where the tribes that previously offered Al Qaeda safe haven are now fighting against AQ.

The situation in Iraq has developed into one where the commanding general can make plans for withdrawing "surge" troops ahead of schedule.

Your ignorance, inadvertent or willing, of these facts has led you to several false conclusions. If you are intellectually honest, you will re-examine your conclusions in light of the facts.

However, I expect you to react like any good little lefty, and spin, obfuscate, or just run away to DKos or DU.

Posted by: C-C-G at September 18, 2007 09:08 AM

By the way, Mr. Caskey, another commenter here (thanks, Neo!) pointed out this very recent Reuters story which provides more good evidence that you have no idea what you are talking about:

The relative calm at the Yarmouk hospital lends weight to U.S. and Iraqi government assertions that a security campaign launched around Baghdad in February has achieved results.

Next time, try to get your news from somewhere other than the Huffington Post.

Posted by: C-C-G at September 18, 2007 09:18 AM


The problems in Iraq have always been political ones.

I really have to wonder if we didn't force the creation of a civil government far too soon. It might have been less useful politically but more prudent to have continued the use of a proxy government.

For one thing I think the Sunni and Shia'a would've had much fewer reservations about dealing with a US controlled government since sectarian issues would've been clamped down tight.

Plus this nonsense with the Ministry of the Interior would've been hammered out post haste.

Posted by: memomachine at September 18, 2007 09:49 AM

i think that regardless of where one stands on the war, we could all agree that a large mercenary contingent (ours or someone else's) operates in an area like iraq only to the detriment of US troops, right? i mean, if not for the reason that their contracts siphon off funds earmarked for the effort, than for the reasons that they are hard to keep accountable, are not under US military command, have ever-increasingly co-opted jobs traditionally done by american GIs, and their interactions with iraqis frequently raise the risk-levels for US forces and their allies.

with that said, what possible interest(s) should keep the american public in support of corporate armies like blackwater in iraq? does it not erode troop morale to see blackwater agents getting paid many times more than our troops for doing the same work, and taking the same risks? i can't imagine why CY would not agree with the iraqi gov't's position on at least this one thing, regardless of its motives, and i have yet to speak to a single vet that supports these guys. maybe there are some out there, no doubt, but what general worth his brass has *ever* supported farming out a war to the likes of newbie companies like blackwater? i just don't understand why CY wouldn't be *commending* the broken clock (ie, the iraqi gov't) for being right at least twice a day, esp. on this.

Posted by: j at September 18, 2007 10:35 AM

wrk -

I think your "Hessians" metaphor is off base.

Blackwater seems to provide bodyguard services, transportation, etc. They are not there to don body armor and go out on night raids or engage the enemy on the field of battle.

Hessians, on the other hand, made up real fighting regiments of the British army.

So, to answer your first question, I believe that after Iraq, Blackwater personal are likely to continue providing beefy security detail contracting in dangerous places around the world, for business people as well as government entities.

Posted by: Marc at September 18, 2007 09:42 PM


The Armed Forces of the USA are increasingly hamstrung by political correctness. A private company under the control of USA commanders is the best way around this.

Private security companies are also ideal for soldiers trained by the USA military but released due to the relentless "up or out" policy.

Just as the National Guard frequently has more experienced and better soldiers who did not wish to be promoted to their level of incompetence in the Regular forces.

Posted by: Looking Glass at September 19, 2007 02:25 AM

David Caskey,

Iraq is the ideal of strategic offense combined with tactical defense. It's a meatgrinder for terrorists to shove themselves into.

By attacking deployed regular army troops in open country subject to air support the terrorists are fighting in their worst possible tactical environment.

By attacking the terrorists solve the most difficult anti-terrorist problems: identification, processing, tactical handling, justification, final processing with minimal legal intervention.

The USA news media has convinced the terrorists to keep fighting under these conditions.

The surge exploited further weaknesses in terrorist organization. The obvious answer would be to break contact and wait patiently for US forces to withdraw. Media propaganda has helped prevent this.

Posted by: Looking Glass at September 19, 2007 02:29 AM


The only way for the Iraqis to learn to govern themselves is to force the pace. There's just too much to do too fast. Think of it like a military boot camp. The worst part is at the beginning so that it just keeps getting easier.

Getting the Arab street and followers of Islam both to work with the Great Satan is as much an accomplishment as walking on water. So, of course, it has been criticized both as premature and for taking too long.

The lack of a military draft underlines to the Iraqis that the USA not only will not but can not carry them for much longer.

The result of the 2006 Congressional elections underscores the impending end of President Bush's final term in office. The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

President Bush's reference to the Viet Nam war was perfectly timed. It reminded the Iraqis' that the USA Congress is perfectly willing to abandon allies to genocide of millions.

The Democratic Party has been masterfully played yet again by President Bush.

It's also no accident that the Palestinian state was created at the same time. Israel's gambit has paid off handsomely. It's been a disaster for the Palestinians, to the point that "We pray that Israel will come back and rule us again."

That's a stern example to the Iraqis. They must get on their feet or die on their knees.

Posted by: Looking Glass at September 19, 2007 02:50 AM

Several have reacted negative to my original post and used the time honored response of personal attacks. I can only say that it is indicative of the nature of schools today that they don't seem to be able to produce people who can read, understand what they have read, have any knowledge of history, and are lacking in logic.

If I am being critical of the Dem response to the war and the lack of that party in providing the necessary moral support for continuation of a conflict, then how can I possibly be a lefty (what ever that is as if you claim to be a Republican now then you really are to the left of center). Now if you had said I was a Libertarian then that would be closer to the mark as the current Libertarian ideation is closer to the old Goldwater party. I would suggest that some of you print your responses to my post, look at them in 10 years. Then write a note of apology.

Now as to putting the terrorist in the meat grinder. I seem to remember a film of Muslim terrorist at a funeral and they incorporated a large number of high placed individuals. The military (US) did not bomb the event as it was in a cemetary. That my friends is classic Vietnam 101. Maybe I could understand the military effort if they were allowed to do night patrols which are the bread and butter of eliminating the threats that soldiers face daily. Or if the military did not have to clear a shot with higher authority. I could go on but you should get the idea that it has devolved into a political war that has always proven impossible to win.

Posted by: David Caskey at September 19, 2007 09:55 AM

"The Armed Forces of the USA are increasingly hamstrung by political correctness. A private company under the control of USA commanders is the best way around this."

two thoughts:

1) weak.

2) wow. never thought i'd see a call for the complete dismemberment and privatization of the US armed forces on CY.

Posted by: j at September 19, 2007 05:14 PM

Mr. Caskey, I see you yourself resort to the time honored tactic of ignoring those points you cannot refute.

As for lefty vs. libertarian, they are very similar in many areas... both vehemently anti-war, for instance, though possibly for different reasons (I cannot discount the possible existence of an isolationist strain on the left nor a yellow-bellied strain in libertarians).

In point of fact, your assessment of progress in Iraq was, and is, 180 degrees out of phase with reality. Please feel free to address that in your next post.

Posted by: C-C-G at September 19, 2007 07:12 PM