Blackwater CEO defends use of mercenaries in Iraq
A Security Contractor Defends His Team, Which, He Says, Is Not a Private Army
By TIM WEINER/NY Times
In his new best-selling book, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” (Nation), the writer Jeremy Scahill describes the company as the private and secretive Praetorian Guard of the Bush administration. He has called Blackwater, “one of the greatest beneficiaries of the ‘war on terror,’ ” profiting from lucrative contracts with the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency , and deploying battalions of secret soldiers in nine countries, notably Iraq and Afghanistan.
Read the complete interview on on R. J. Hillhouse's Blog, "The Spy Who Billed Me."
Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA since October 2001, keeps a decidedly low profile, but he recently granted an interview to the author R. J. Hillhouse, who runs an unusual blog on security and intelligence called The Spy Who Billed Me. She is both skeptical and sympathetic toward private military contractors, which are dominated by companies like Blackwater, and often run by special-operations veterans like Mr. Jackson and retired C.I.A. officers. Here are excerpts from Mr. Jackson’s comments.
On whether Blackwater is a private army:
We have no private army. What we do have is a team of military and law enforcement veterans and other motivated, capable Americans who protect diplomats, provide training and offer logistic services, and we do those things in support of friendly-nation peace operations around the world, including support of some of our Muslim allies.
On the loyalties of Blackwater employees:
Legally we can’t require anyone to swear the oath [to the Constitution], but nearly everyone volunteers to do so. As far as the third-country nationals that we are required by United States government contract to use, we can’t ask them to swear the same oath, but all of Blackwater’s deploying professionals, both U.S. and third-country nationals, undergo extensive training in core values, leadership and human rights before they deploy. Each of them is issued a copy of the U.N. ’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their native language to carry with them and remind them of their commitment to legal, moral and ethical standards.
On whether Blackwater employees can be held accountable for crimes:
Actually, there are quite a few federal laws that regulate contractors. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act creates jurisdiction for federal court trials, and the wrongdoing itself is covered under statutes like the War Crimes Act, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the Anti-Torture Statute, the Defense Base Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a whole raft of other domestic regulations, not to mention international prohibitions. The issue has never been about regulation; rather, it has always been about a lack of enforcement. I can’t put it any more simply: we don’t need a new law; we need to enforce the ones we have.
On whether Blackwater can be hired against American interests:
Our first commitment is to supporting the national security and foreign policies of the United States. We won’t entertain any client that would conflict with that. Blackwater has turned down many opportunities for work. Put simply, no U.S. company or citizen can supply military- or police-type goods or services to foreign persons without a license from the U.S. Department of State or Department of Commerce and they certainly aren’t going to grant a license involving an unfriendly nation.