As DeLong noted, Blackwater lost its license to operate in Iraq in 2007, after its security officers gunned down innocent civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Yet Blackwater didn’t actually leave Iraq until earlier this year, and even then it didn’t really leave. Many of its security guards were allowed to stay and work under a different name. And the State Department even extended the firm’s contract for Iraq.
But leave aside the State Department’s own questionable judgment for a moment. Now we have some inkling of why the Iraqis allowed the firm to stay:
Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company’s president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.
Watch this become a major accusation in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections. Jeremy Scahill, the company’s chief journalistic pursuer, comments:
While the Bush administration certainly protected Blackwater after Nisour Square, part of the reason for the alleged or attempted bribes may be this: As the US and Iraq negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement and the Iraqi government attempted to impose more authority over private military companies, the stakes got higher for Blackwater. An official license to operate in Iraq, which Blackwater did not have and long believed was an unnecessary formality, became crucial for Blackwater in order to continue on as the State Department’s prime contractor. To many Iraqis, Blackwater’s continued presence was a stark symbol of the country’s lack of sovereignty. It is an incredible fact that Blackwater has remained as long as it has in the country given the severity and extent of its alleged crimes and the rhetoric from Iraqi political figures about the company. It was not until March 2009 that the Iraqi government announced it would not extend Blackwater an operating license. In May 2009, Blackwater’s prime contract was awarded to competitor Triple Canopy. What is undeniable is that Blackwater has remained in Iraq much longer than most analysts predicted. The Times story may provide hints as to why this was the case.
I also love this section of the Times piece:
Reached by phone, Mr. Jackson, who resigned as president of Blackwater early this year, criticized The New York Times and said, “I don’t care what you write.”
Blackwater: so persecuted by the media! Don’t it turn your brown eyes blue?
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