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In defense of Blackwater and the modern day 'merc'

By David M. Huntwork
web posted October 8, 2007

The mere mention of private military companies is enough to panic the Oh my God! squad of American society and leaves them loudly shrieking fascism and totalitarianism, murder and thuggery.

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince
Blackwater CEO Erik Prince testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 2

There have been scores of private military companies and security firms employed by the Department of Defense and the State Department in Iraq since the war began. The most famous of all the "professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firms" is the North Carolina based Blackwater USA.

In addition to Blackwater, other significant private security/military companies include DynCorp, Erinys, Aegis Defense Services, Kroll Inc., ArmorGroup, Hart, Steele Foundation, Global Risk Strategies, and CACI. According to the Pentagon, private military companies are subject to both U.S. military law and to more recent statutes governing the conduct of contractors who deploy with U.S. troops.

So far this year Blackwater has guarded 1,873 convoys, out of which there were 56 shootings, or less than 3% of all assignments. Last year, the company had 6,254 missions and 38 incidents. Since the beginning of the Iraq war 27 Blackwater contractors have been killed while guarding U.S. officials and no U.S. diplomat had lost their life on missions protected by Blackwater. Overall, some 428 security contractors have been killed in Iraq and an unknown number wounded. There are no definitive public figures for the amount of mission's that have been completed by armed private contractors in Iraq or how many shooting 'incidents' they may have been engaged in.

The usual suspects have smeared such companies as whores of war, fascists, SA, Freikorps, soldiers of fortune, and even as some sort of Praetorian Guard. And while such grasping analogies are fun for the attention grabbers, partisan hacks, professional pundits, and uninformed rabble rousers they are poor historical comparisons at best. Hysteria and histrionics attracts attention to your cause and makes great headlines but in the real world they make a poor contribution to the debate on public policy.

Private military companies are in fact a new and unique twist on an old idea; private citizens engaging in warfare as partners with their government against a common enemy. They are the ultimate outsourcing in the global War on Terror and an integral part of the United States ability to wage counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations throughout the world.

It seems to me that the latest media frenzy about private military companies and Blackwater in particular, is just another attempt to politically damage President Bush and to undermine the overall mission in Iraq. The sudden 'outrage' now being expressed on Capitol Hill and in the press about Blackwater, and private security contractors in general, seems to be little more than the latest manufactured outrage of the week. (Remember the "outrage" over Haliburton?)

If the critics of the current administration and the guardians of perpetual outrage would show this much anger and outrage at the enemy the U.S. would be a lot closer to winning the Iraq war and the larger War on Terror.  The pacifists and appeasers on the Left have decided that they cannot win by attacking the military and smearing General Petraus so now they have moved on to attacking the underpinning organizations that are supporting the mission in the field. They have suffered severe blowback in the past for questioning and attacking the troops and for threatening to pull the financial rug out from under them. The 'modern day merc' is a relatively unknown and mysterious entity that makes a far easier target than the uniformed military and it does not have the reflexive patriotic defenders that the military enjoys.

Much has been made about the Iraq government's complaints about Blackwater.  I think we can kindly, and with little consequence, tell the Iraqi leader to mind his P's and Q's and we'll remove any and all armed combatants when we are good and ready, and not a minute before that. When he gets his political situation and own military up to snuff then he can complain about a handful of incidents among the tens of thousands of armed security contractors in Iraq.

The security contractors play an important role supplementing troop strength by guarding infrastructure, politicians and diplomats, and vital convoys. By doing so they free up the uniformed members of the military for combat, patrols, raids and the other necessary roles that they play in a combat zone. There is no argument that the U.S. military is limited in size and that there have been difficulties in maintaining the elevated troop levels needed to provide the military stability required to suppress the various terrorist and militia insurgents and to prevent sectarian violence.

If private military companies are not allowed to operate in the Iraqi theater of operations, the estimated 50,000 armed contractors would be extremely difficult to replace. There has already been an outcry at the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. boots on the ground. To suddenly announce that we need tens of thousands of additional troops to babysit journalists, drive trucks, protect convoys and guard diplomats would be absurd and a no-starter both politically and militarily.

"There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts." – current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker

The private security contractors in Iraq are almost entirely ex-military and most are from elite fighting units. They are familiar and comfortable working with the military establishment and have been trained by the very governments they are working for. The modern day 'merc' is not the bloodthirsty soldier of fortune slaughtering, raping and pillaging across the landscape in the service of a warlord as many of the loudest voices of criticism would seem to have you believe.

In stark contrast, the average armed contractor is highly trained, highly motivated and willing to risk life and limb in an often very dangerous environment. They have been accused of being gung ho, cocky, swashbuckling and foul-mouthed on occasion but I wouldn't expect any less from such types in a volatile war zone facing off against the most ruthless of enemies. Though mistakes and poor decisions have undoubtedly been made, private security contractors have not been shown to have participated in a greater amount of questionable 'incidents' than the regular U.S. military or its allies in the country.

They are far more reliable, trustworthy and disciplined than many of their counterparts in the Iraqi military, police and security forces. Until the day comes that the Iraqis themselves are able to provide the security and services that the private security companies provide, or stabilize the situation so such companies are not needed, they should and will remain a valuable piece of the security establishment not just in Iraq, but wherever the battle against Islamofascism and rogue regimes takes them.

The concept of the privatized army will gain momentum in the future as a nervous public increasingly doesn't like troops in harms way and politicians panic everytime the public expresses a bit of displeasure. But the level of public interest, outrage or concern  about the deaths and injuries occuring among the private military companies is minimal and, amazingly, many on the Left have actually cheered these casualties.But that makes them invaluable as well. They (normally) exist beneath the radar. Despite the various qualms and public aversion, there is a global need, nonetheless, for well-trained, well-armed forces loyal to the capitalist, democratic West.

If the Blackwater types are becoming the American equivalent of the French Foreign Legion fighting 'unpopular wars' for national interest, then they have my blessing. The wars that the U.S. will be fighting around the globe need to be fought utilizing special forces, overwhelming air power, proxy armies, native militias, warlords, tribal clans, good intelligence, massive power, and, if need be, private U.S. and allied 'armies' of ex-military types willing to risk it all for a good paycheck. I support doing what it takes to avoid bogging the military down as we have succeeded in doing in Iraq, reducing U.S. military casualties, and ensuring victory against Islamofascists and the enemies of Western Civilization throughout the world.

David Huntwork is a conservative activist and freelance columnist in Norther Colorado where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. You may view his bio, blog  and past columns at http://DavidHuntwork.tripod.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions at DaveHuntwork@juno.com.

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