Thursday, December 18, 2008

NYT: Iraq May Ban Blackwater

Despite the uproar my Oct. 07 Blackwater op-ed in the Los Angeles Times produced, I am not an anti-Blackwater ideologue. I simply questioned operations like Blackwater whose practices undermine the whole reason for our being in Iraq in the first place. Especially when there were other security firms who were doing the same job but with less of an adverse impact on the daily lives of Iraqis.

There's really no need to ban Blackwater from Iraq, just a definite need to amend its tactics so as not to undercut the "winning the peace" effort. And it seems this is already happening...see the part in bold in today's NYT article below. I'm heartened to learn this, and hope that all current and future security companies will act similarly.

December 18, 2008
Report Says Iraq May Ban Blackwater

WASHINGTON — The State Department’s inspector general has warned in a new report that Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor, may not be licensed by the Iraqi government to continue to protect American diplomats in Baghdad next year, forcing the Obama administration to make new security arrangements.

The report says that if State Department contractors lose their immunity from criminal prosecution under Iraqi law, as many officials expect, employees of Blackwater and other contractors may choose to leave Iraq or demand higher pay. Five Blackwater guards were indicted this month in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed at least 17 Iraqis.

Unlike some American contractors in Iraq, Blackwater does not have a license, but it has applied for one. Iraqi authorities have allowed it to operate while officials consider the application.

The inspector general’s findings were first reported Wednesday by The Associated Press, and The New York Times obtained a copy of the report.

The report says the State Department “faces a real possibility” that no license will be granted and that the Iraqi government will ban Blackwater. The American Embassy in Baghdad would then face a major challenge; officials said Blackwater’s services would not be easily replaced.

State Department officials have said they will decide whether to renew Blackwater’s contract in April only after the F.B.I. completes its inquiry into the contractor’s role in the shooting.

The report by Harold W. Geisel, the acting inspector general, finds that changes since the 2007 shooting “have resulted in a more professional security operation and the curtailment of overly aggressive actions” by contractors toward Iraqi civilians.

In response to its findings, Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who will take over the Foreign Relations Committee next month, again urged the State Department to drop Blackwater as an Iraq contractor.

A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne E. Tyrrell, declined to comment because the report had not been officially released.

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