State Department Blocks Oversight of Its Private Mercenary Army in Iraq


So much for transparency.

This is from Spencer Ackerman over at Wired. This is just an excerpt but go read the whole article here.

Excerpt:

By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.

[snip]

This isn’t an idle concern or a typical bureaucratic tussle. The State Department has hired private security for its diplomats in war zones for the better part of a decade. Poor control of them caused one of the biggest debacles of the Iraq war: the September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square, where Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Now roughly double those guards from the forces on duty now, and you’ll understand the scope of what State is planning once the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq at the end of this year.

“They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”

So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.

I find it so ironic that Hillary Clinton talks about soft power while overseeing the biggest transition to militarism in the State Department’s history. In addition, the total lack of transparency is disturbing and on this one, the buck stops at the Secretary of State.

While we are arguing over every dime of the budget, the State Dept. is dolling out billions of taxpayer dollars and has the audacity to claim its none of our fucking business? What is the State Department hiding? Who is being enriched by this? Why isn’t the State Dept./DoD training a new generation of diplomatic security to serve in war zones rather than spending billions paying a bunch of mercenaries with a horrible track record in Iraq? These companies operate with minimal oversight and it looks like the State Dept. doesn’t want to correct that.

Wired is not the Mainstream Media and it’s interesting to note that CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo don’t seem to be covering this. Has anyone ever asked Secretary Clinton about this during an interview? If not, why not? Are they too afraid if they ask tough questions they’ll be denied access to her in the future? Yes, they are.

It’s interesting how the MSM focuses on certain things with respect to the economy, deficit, spending, isn’t it? Can you imagine how public perception might change if Americans knew just how much money our government has wasted in Iraq, Afghanistan etc? And I’m not just talking about the war itself, but the pay-offs to the Taliban to get supplies through, the blood-money paid to families of civilians we killed, the huge sums of money that end up in Karzai family bank accounts, the money we throw at private contractors for “security” while we pay our men and women in the military barely a liveable wage. It’s a disgrace.

I am not voting for Barack Obama in 2012. I’ve been a life long democrat but I simply refuse to rubber stamp this nonsense. Maybe a third party will jump in or maybe I’ll just have to write in someone’s name because I don’t believe in just not showing up to vote. Yes, the GOP is far worse but I’ll be damned if I let the Democrats guilt me into voting for someone that is a shameless pro-corporate, pro-war, screw-the-middle-class, anti-accountability Democrat In Name Only (DINO). The reason the Democrats always end up selling out progressive principles once they get in office is because they rely, successfully, on the “oh, but at least we’re better than THEM!” argument.

Former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the Obama administration’s views about the liberal base very clear- when asked during a presser about whether the admin. was worried progressives would not vote for Obama in 2012 Gibbs responded something to the effect of “no, we’re not worried about that, who are they going to vote for if not us?” In other words, progressives are expendable. The amount of open hostility that the Obama admin. has towards the liberal base trumps his hostility towards the GOP. In fact, he seems to respect the GOP more than many of the people who helped elected.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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One Comment on “State Department Blocks Oversight of Its Private Mercenary Army in Iraq”

  1. Pilgrim Says:

    I admire your principled intention to not vote for Obama, even though you intend to hold to your also-principled intention to attend the voting procedure. I too would hate to not vote but also would be unwilling to vote for one for whom I could feel no support.

    Reply

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