Last night watching as the last of the U.S. Combat Troops pulled out of Iraq and crossed into Kuwait brought about mixed feelings. While it was good news that this phase of the war was ending, it gave way to another: those who will remain in Iraq, as well as those who will join them there. Private Contractors.
In order to protect civilians in Iraq, the State Department plans to more than double the amount of private contractors or security guards to as many as 7,000. That may come as a surprise to some, given all we’ve read and heard about the actions of Blackwater, or Xe Services as it’s been renamed, on our behalf over the course of the war.
We owe a lot about what we know about Blackwater to Jeremy Scahill, the award-winning journalist and correspondent for The Nation and Democracy Now! and the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may want to be. It’s an eye opener to put it mildly. I began following his work on Blackwater after seeing him on shows like Rachel Maddow and Real Time With Bill Maher over the last few years and had I not seen them I probably wouldn’t have known anywhere near as much about this issue as I do now. But it’s one we all should be aware of.
I also was lucky enough to get the chance to attend a panel at Netroots Nation which featured not only Scahill, but Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-ILL) who has worked with Scahill on the issue of private contractors in Iraq, and serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Schakowsky opposed the Iraq war resolution and was a founding member of the Out-of-Iraq Caucus.
As I said, if you’re not familiar with the extent of the involvement of private security contractors, both presently in Iraq as well as other countries, and what their future involvement may entail, you can watch the panel presentation from Netroots Nation: Pay More, Get Less: The Perils Of Privatization. (Along with panelists Scahill and Schakowsky were Jen Nessel, and Kerry Korpi.) You might be surprised to know how we’re represented by these companies, and how much of our money goes towards the privatization of wars on our behalf.
It’s a true eye opener in every sense of the word.