'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans

So I'm sure most readers have heard about the contractors who were killed and mutilated in Fallujah today. If not here's this:

In one of the bloodiest and most horrifying days since the end of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, five U.S. troops and four American civilian contractors were killed in separate attacks in the Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad. After an ambush on two vehicles carrying the civilian contractors in Fallujah, jubilant Iraqis burned and mutilated the dead, then dragged two corpses through the streets and hung them from a bridge spanning the Euphrates River.

The brutal treatment of the bodies occurred after the contractors — four American employees of a North Carolina security company — were killed in a rebel attack on their two SUVs in the city about 35 miles west of Baghdad, scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

[ ... ]

U.S. officials, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said that all four contractors were Americans who worked for Blackwater USA of Moyock, N.C. The company later issued a statement confirming that, but said their identities had not yet been established.

[ ... ]

Chanting “Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans,” residents cheered after the grisly assault on two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles, which left both in flames. Others chanted, “We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam.”

Associated Press Television News pictures showed one man beating a charred corpse with a metal pole. Others tied a yellow rope to a body, hooked it to a car and dragged it down the main street of town. Two blackened and mangled corpses were hung from a green iron bridge across the Euphrates.

What the mainstream media hasn't really been covering, however, is the occupation of the so-called "contractors". They were mercenaries. Here's Bill Berkowitz, of Z's Conservative Watch fame, discussing Blackwater USA:

With the casualty toll ticking ever upward and troops stretched thin on the ground, the Bush administration is looking to mercenaries to help control Iraq. These soldiers-for-hire are veterans of some of the most repressive military forces in the world, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa's apartheid regime.

In February, Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based Pentagon contractor, began hiring former combat personnel in Chile, offering them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells in Iraq. The company flew the first batch of 60 former commandos to a training camp in North Carolina. These recruits will eventually wind up in Iraq where they will spend six months to a year.

"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals – the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA, told the Guardian.

While Blackwater USA is not nearly as well known as Halliburton or Bechtel – two mega-corporations making a killing off the reconstruction of Iraq – it nevertheless is doing quite well financially thanks to the White House's war on terror. The company specializes in firearm, tactics and security training and in October 2003, according to Mother Jones magazine, the company won a $35.7 million contract to train more than 10,000 sailors from Virginia, Texas, and California each year in 'force protection.'

Business has been booming for Blackwater, which now owns, as its press release boasts, "the largest privately-owned firearms training facility in the nation." Jackson told the Guardian, "We have grown 300 percent over each of the past three years and we are small compared to the big ones. We have a very small niche market, we work towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."

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