Sunday, October 21, 2007

Frank Rich and Bill Moyers on Blackwater

If you want more specifics on Frank Rich's piece, check out Bill Moyer's Journal. It seems clear that Rich saw it or got his sources from the same. Moyers also mentions Hillary Clinton's PR connection to Erik Prince. This week's program featured Blackwater expert Jeremy Scahill who wrote the book on Blackwater - Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He picks apart the spin of Jeff Prince's media onslaught. Scahill adds that Prince deliberately chose Burson-Marsteller because of its closeness to the Democratic party. Other lowlights include
  • It's Jeremy Scahill's view that Democratic Congresspeople did not do their homework.
  • Blackwater guards (as well as Isreali commandos) were in New Orleans! Got there faster than the federal government. Prince just sent them in and a week later had a contract. The Blackwater guards were paid $350 a day and billed the US taxpayer $950 a day - for a profit of $600 a day each, per day! This is the cost of the small government Republicans so value and the privatizing of governmental functions.
  • Blackwater is NOT all American as Prince claims: "They are all Americans, working for Americans, protecting Americans," as he noted several times in his blitz last week. Prince finds the word mercenary pejorative and says it doesn't apply to what they do. A mercenary is a professional soldier that works in the pay of a foreign armyYet his company hires TCN - Third Country Nationals - to fight America's battles. They ARE mercenaries. This helps to hide the cost of the war - both in lives and money.
  • Prince's lawyers argue their status both ways - they are a private company and therefore are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But they - at the same time - argue that the deserve the same sovereignty (that is soveriegn immunity) and are therefore not subject to civilian criminal law - either in Iraq's or in the US. It's straining relations with the Iraqis. One of Blackwater guards, drunk, shot and killed a body guard of the Iraqi VP. Blackwater simply shipped him out of Iraq. This story was recounted again today on the front page of the Washington Post in a general survey of the difficulties of oversight.
  • 60 Minutes did not provide important context during its interview with Prince. 60 Minutes! Remember when 60 Minutes was the gold standard? (They botched Clarence Thomas' interview too, as Frank Rich notes.) The lovely Lara Logan questioned Prince. The same Lara Logan who Howard Kurtz quotes in his book, Reality Show, as saying "I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story," referring to a request from her CBS bosses to do a piece on whether female soldiers were keeping cyber-pets online. In the 60 Minutes interview, she and Prince walked by the memorial for at Blackwater's NC headquarters for the 4 Blackwater employees who were strung up in Fallujah - the ones that caused the US military to crush that city. She did not mention that the four families of those men are SUING Blackwater for wrongful death and doing so mostly because they couldn't get answers as to what happened to their loved ones. A Blackwater executive told a mother, if you want to see that document you'll have to sue us. The Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply to private companies acting on the US gov't behalf (and being paid by US taxpayers) either.
  • Fred Fielding - now White House counsel - was one of the original lawyers for Blackwater who diligently defended Blackwater against the families law suit.
And again - I encourage you to read the investigative piece in this month Vanity Fair. I wrote about the piece here. Rich writes, "So far some $6 billion worth of contracts are being investigated for fraud, however slowly, by the Pentagon and the Justice Department." David Rose in The People vs. the Profiteers (link at previous post) well demonstrates that the investigations are NOT being done "slowly;" they are not being done at all but instead are being deliberately stalled or obstructed.

Both Bill Moyers and David Rose elaborate the troubling aspects Rich only highlights - the fraud, cheating, and immorality that have been causing shame and suicides.

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