Shoot first, ask questions later

Posted: 27 September 2007 in Uncategorized
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This appears to be the policy of Blackwater USA, a security contracting firm providing services in Iraq to the State Department. The New York Times reported yesterday that the firm is under investigation in both Iraq and in Washington for a shooting on September 16th in which at least 11 Iraqis were killed. State department officials report that the incidence of violence by Blackwater personnel was at least double the rate of the other two security firms. The State department did go on to say that of the 1800+ missions that Blackwater personnel have been on, a very small percentage resulted in violence. While not quoting numbers, the department rep said there “dozens” of incidences. DynCorp, another security firm, reported 32 cases out of 3200 convoy missions, a rate of 1%. Blackwater’s rate is at least double that, so there were a minimum of 36 episodes.

So looking at the real numbers, you might think: “big deal.” The problem is that this could be representative of a culture at Blackwater that encourages a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality. Now, I am actually sympathetic of these guys. I can’t imagine the incredible stress you must be under as a security professional in Iraq. Every corner, every roadside bump, every window could be hiding the bomb or person that kills you. If I were there, I probably would have shot someone by accident a hundred times just from stress. Hell, when I play multiplayer war games I’m constantly shooting my teammates when they run around a corner or jump up in front of me. The situation has to be insane.

The reason I’m even talking about this is that I think this is a good example for what war does to people. The Blackwater people may be like me and get jumpy and shoot first rather than restraining themselves and waiting for cooler heads to prevail. Or they could be giving in to the power that a nearly lawless warzone enables. In either case, not only are more people dying, but these security personnel are suffering emotional damage. Losing your humanity to bloodlust or becoming more and more neurotic due to constant fear — either way it’s a losing prospect for these people. Also, if they are killing twice as many people and there is no significant increase in the danger factor for their missions, they could very well be killing innocent people. The regulation of contractors is attracting attention from the top brass, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is sending a team to Iraq to discuss the situation with General Petraeus. (It just struck me what an imperial-sounding name that is.)

So, bring these guys home and the soldiers who are suffering just as much or more. Vote for Dennis Kucinich.


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