[Marxism] Obama's Blackwater

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 2 07:52:36 MDT 2009


Obama's Blackwater? Chicago Mercenary Firm Gets Millions for Private 
"Security" in Israel and Iraq
By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
Posted on April 2, 2009, Printed on April 2, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/134594/

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama's advisers said he "can't rule out 
[and] won't rule out" using mercenary forces, like Blackwater. Now, it 
appears that the Obama administration has decided on its hired guns of 
choice: Triple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may 
not have Blackwater's thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own 
bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries 
with atrocious human rights records. What's more, Obama is not just 
using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private 
security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem.

Beginning May 7th, Triple Canopy will officially take over 
Xe/Blackwater's mega-contract with the U.S. State Department for 
guarding occupation officials in Iraq. It's sure to be a lucrative deal: 
Obama's Iraq plan will inevitably rely on an increased use of private 
contractors, including an army of mercenaries to protect his surge of 
diplomats operating out of the monstrous U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

The Iraq contract may come as no surprise. But according to federal 
contract records obtained by AlterNet, the Obama administration has also 
paid Triple Canopy millions of dollars to provide "security services" in 
Israel. In February and March, the Obama administration awarded a 
"delivery order" to Triple Canopy worth $5.5 million under State 
Department contract SAQMPD05F5528, which is labeled "PROTECTIVE 
SERVICES--ISRAEL." According to one government document, the contract is 
scheduled to run until September 2012. (Another document says September 
2009.) The contract is classified as "SECURITY GUARDS AND PATROL 
SERVICES" in Israel. The total value of the contract was listed at 
$41,556,969.72. According to a January 2009 State Department document 
obtained by AlterNet labeled "Sensitive But Unclassified," the Triple 
Canopy contract is based out of Jerusalem.

According to federal records, the original arrangement with Triple 
Canopy in Israel appears to date back to at least September 2005 and has 
been renewed every year since. The company is operating under the State 
Department's Worldwide Personal Protection Program (WPPS), which 
provides for private security/military companies to operate on the U.S. 
government payroll in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and 
Israel. Triple Canopy, according to an internal State Department report, 
also worked under the program in Haiti, though that task order is now 
listed as "closed." In State Department documents the WPPS program is 
described as a government initiative to protect U.S. officials as well 
as "certain foreign government high level officials whenever the need 
arises." The State Department spent some $2 billion on the WPPS program 
from 2005-2008.

Triple Canopy's Growing Footprint in Iraq

Triple Canopy is hardly new to the Iraq occupation. Founded in Chicago 
in 2003 by "U.S. Army Special Forces veterans," the company won its 
first Iraq contract in 2004. In 2005, with its business expanding, 
Triple Canopy relocated its corporate headquarters from Obama's home 
state to Herndon, Virginia, placing it much closer to the center of U.S. 
war contracting. (On several U.S. government contracts, however, 
including the Israel security contracts, its Lincolnshire, Illinois 
address is still used.)

Along with Blackwater and DynCorp, Triple Canopy has had armed 
operatives deployed in Iraq on a major U.S. government contract since 
the early stages of the occupation. At one point during this 
arrangement, Blackwater was responsible for Baghdad (the largest share 
of the work), DynCorp covered northern Iraq and Triple Canopy southern 
Iraq. Triple Canopy also worked for KBR and other corporations. As of 
2007, Triple Canopy had about 2,000 operatives in Iraq, but only 257 on 
the State Department contract. However, its new contract, which takes 
effect May 7, will greatly expand Triple Canopy's government presence in 
Iraq. (Meanwhile, Blackwater is scheduled to continue to work in Iraq 
under Obama through its aviation division and in Afghanistan, where it 
has security and counter-narcotics contracts. It also holds millions of 
dollars in other U.S. government contracts around the world and in the 
U.S. In February alone, the Obama administration paid Blackwater nearly 
$70 million in security contracts.) The Obama administration may have 
traded Blackwater for Triple Canopy in Iraq, but it is likely that some 
of Blackwater's operatives, too, will simply jump over to Triple Canopy 
to keep working as armed security guards for occupation officials.

Like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has had its share of bloody incidents, 
among them  allegations that operatives have gone on missions where they 
shot at civilian vehicles, including one after a briefing where a team 
leader cocked his M-4 and said to his men, "I want to kill somebody 
today. ... Because I'm going on vacation tomorrow." (The man in question 
denied any wrongdoing). While Triple Canopy fired some employees for not 
reporting shooting incidents in Iraq, none have been criminally 
prosecuted in Iraq or the U.S. (For a full report on this and other 
incidents involving Triple Canopy, check out the great work of 
Washington Post foreign correspondent Steve Fainaru, author of Big Boy 
Rules.)

Also like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has hired mercenaries from countries 
with atrocious human rights records and histories of violent 
counter-insurgencies. Among them: Peru, Chile, Colombia and El Salvador. 
In fact, in Iraq, Triple Canopy hired far more "Third Country Nationals" 
than Blackwater and DynCorp and has used more TCNs than US citizens or 
Iraqis. As I reported in my book, Triple Canopy used the same Chilean 
recruiter (who served in Augusto Pinochet's military) Blackwater used 
when it hired Chilean forces, including some "seasoned veterans" of the 
Pinochet era. In El Salvador, the company reportedly used "a 
U.S.-trained former paratrooper and officer of the Salvadoran special 
forces during the country's civil war" where the U.S. backed a brutal 
right wing dictatorship in a war that took the lives of some 75,000 
Salvadorans. A Triple Canopy spokesperson reportedly said of the 
Salvadorans, "They've got the right background for the type of work we 
are doing." A Triple Canopy subsidiary in Latin America has also 
reportedly used a former CIA base in Lepaterique, Honduras as a training 
center. In the 1980s, the facility was used by the CIA and Argentinian 
military intelligence in training Contra death squads to attack 
Nicaragua. The base also served as the headquarters for the notorious 
Battalion 316, a CIA-trained Honduran military unit responsible for 
torture and disappearances.

There is also cause for concern about Triple Canopy's attitude towards 
accountability for its forces in Iraq, particularly in light of new 
rules which, on paper, give Iraqi courts jurisdiction over contractor 
crimes. Blackwater has, at times, conspired with the U.S. State 
Department to whisk its forces out of Iraq when they are facing 
potential prosecution for alleged crimes committed in the country, as in 
the case of a drunken Blackwater operative who was alleged to have shot 
and killed a bodyguard to Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel-Mahdi on 
Christmas Eve 2006.

According to one Triple Canopy operative, "We were always told, from the 
very beginning, if for some reason something happened and the Iraqis 
were trying to prosecute us, they would put you in the back of a car and 
sneak you out of the country in the middle of the night." Another Triple 
Canopy operative said U.S. contractors had their own motto: "What 
happens here today, stays here today."
The use of mercenaries by Hillary Clinton's State Department stands in 
stark contrast to her co-sponsorship as a Senator of a bill last year 
that sought to ban the use of such companies in U.S. war zones, 
specifically Iraq. Last February Clinton said, "The time to show these 
contractors the door is long past due." Now, Clinton will be relying on 
these hired guns for protecting her and her staff in various countries.

It's hardly a surprise that Obama is continuing the use of mercenaries 
in Iraq and beyond (Triple Canopy itself maintains offices in Abu Dhabi, 
Nigeria, Peru, Jordan and Uganda); nevertheless, members of Congress -- 
whose actions when Bush deployed these private armies were too little, 
too late -- have a responsibility to investigate his use of companies 
whose profits are intimately linked to a continuation of war. Moreover, 
Obama's choice of this particular company should be investigated, both 
by the House and Senate, before May 7th when Obama's mercenaries become 
the official paramilitary force in Iraq. As for Triple Canopy's role in 
Israel, Obama's administration should explain exactly what these forces 
are doing on the U.S. government payroll.

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the 
national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time 
reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing 
Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The 
Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.




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