Blackwater getting paid to monitor blackwater exonerates Blackwater

LI has been thinking more about CNN’s Blackwater report. To refresh your memory, here’s the salient quote

Blackwater said its employees responded properly to an insurgent attack on a convoy, and the State Department "spot report" written by the Blackwater contractor underscores that and doesn't mention civilian casualties.

However, the contractor's account is at odds with Iraqis' version of the incident. A senior Iraqi National Police official participating in the Iraqi governmental probe of the shooting said the Blackwater gunfire was unprovoked and random, killing and wounding several civilians.

Blackwater contractor Darren Hanner drafted the two-page spot report on the letterhead of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for the embassy's Tactical Operations Center, said a source involved in diplomatic security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Hanner, listed on the report as the center's watch officer, was working for Blackwater at the time the report was written -- just after the shooting occurred, said a highly placed industry source. He was to rotate out of Iraq last week, the source said.”

Now, let’s move beyond the fact that Blackwater not only got paid for murdering Iraqis, but – in one of those sweet beyond belief deals that make our time so precious – even got paid for covering it up. This is double dipping with a vengeance.

No, LI has been thinking of the news stories that came out after the Nisoor Square shooting, notably in the NYT and the Washington Post. Both sources reported the shootings in a rather odd way. That is, they reported them wholly through the lens of the State Department – which, as we know now, was speaking in terms it had contracted Blackwater to make up. In other words, it reported on Blackwater’s murders using Blackwater’s spin. Of course, it isn’t as though the media, spiritually in hock to the Bush culture, couldn’t manufacture their own bs. As Fred Hiatt says, in his ‘I love mercenaries’ editorial in the Washington Post today (an editorial in which, of course, he doesn’t even utter the dreaded M word:

“The latest shooting incident -- one of at least five this year in which Blackwater guards have killed Iraqis -- is still under investigation by a U.S.-Iraqi commission. Teams from the State Department (which is getting FBI help) and the Pentagon are conducting separate reviews of private security contractors. Already, though, it seems clear that Blackwater's critics are right in one important respect: There are inadequate controls over security firms, especially those working for the State Department. A decree by the coalition occupation authority early in the war exempted U.S contractors from Iraqi laws, and it's not clear that Blackwater guards working for the State Department are covered in practice by U.S. statutes that govern behavior by American soldiers. This needs to be corrected. Even if a proposed Iraqi law governing private contractors does not go forward, Congress and the Bush administration should ensure that those who kill innocent Iraqis or engage in other criminal excesses can be held legally accountable. Moreover, U.S. diplomats and military commanders should exercise more control over the guards who work for them, with the aim of preventing them from needlessly alienating Iraqis.

At the same time it is foolish to propose the elimination of private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in the short term. As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pointed out at a recent congressional hearing, the downsizing of the U.S. military has left the Army without enough people to perform many specialized tasks -- of which VIP security is one. More than 130,000 contractors serve the U.S. mission in Iraq, including some 30,000 security guards, and without them it would be impossible for U.S. forces to function.”

(One should remember: the Post is dead set on the U.S. bombing Iran. That, at the same time, the Post doesn’t think the U.S. could operate without a mercenary force tells us that the Post would either like to see that mercenary force expanded or that the Post expresses its foreign policy views with the charming insouciance of a baby learning to use the word da-da. Take your pick.)

If we go back to this report on September 28 in the Post, helpfully headlined –

“Blackwater Faced Bedlam, Embassy Finds: 'First Blush' Report Raises New Questions on Shooting”,

we find an ‘embassy’ report that gives us a much different picture of what happened in Nisoor square than any of the other reports. The Post made this a front page article.

“The initial U.S. Embassy report on a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad involving Blackwater USA, a private security firm, depicts an afternoon of mayhem that included a car bomb, a shootout in a crowded traffic circle and an armed standoff between Blackwater guards and Iraqi security forces before the U.S. military intervened.
The two-page report, described by a State Department official as a "first blush" account from the scene, raises new questions about what transpired in the intersection. According to the report, the events that led to the shooting involved three Blackwater units. One of them was ambushed near the traffic circle and returned fire before fleeing the scene, the report said. Another unit that went to the intersection was then surrounded by Iraqis and had to be extricated by the U.S. military, it added.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that the Post’s 'two page memo' seems to correspond exactly to the Darren Hanner memo. In fact, they are identical, which means that the Post devoted its headline and a story to simply repeating a memo written by a Blackwater employee, without telling its readers that this memo was written by a Blackwater employee. That, basically, the Post was taking stenography from Blackwater. By attributing the memo to the ‘embassy’, the Post could then triangulate it with quotes from ‘Blackwater’. This is known as a virtuous circle, or circle jerk, in the spin-news world of American reporting.

So we get this paragraph:

“The report, by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, details the events as described by Blackwater guards -- details that are now at the center of an intense debate in Iraq and in Congress over the larger role of private security firms in Iraq. Tens of thousands of armed, private guards operate in Iraq, protecting everything from U.S. and Iraqi officials to supply convoys. The shooting incident is being scrutinized in at least three separate investigations.
Witnesses and the Iraqi government have insisted that the shooting by the private guards was unprovoked. Blackwater has claimed that its guards returned fire only after they were shot at. The document makes no reference to civilian casualties. Eleven Iraqi civilians were killed and 12 wounded in the incident. The report said Blackwater sustained no casualties.”

Now, if we substitute into the first sentence, “The report, by Blackwater, details the events as described by Blackwater guards’, we get a pretty good sense of how the news is usually reported from Iraq, and some sense of why we are still there. The media isn’t just brownnosing this administration; it has become, soul and body, part of the White House’s anal equipment.

It helps to remember this story when reading any stories reported from Iraq in the American press.


roger said…
North, I did my part for enlightenment by quoting that McClatchy story in the comments section of the Washington Post story. I do my best ... or that's a lie. I do a little bit, though.
northanger said…
one does what one can.

roger said…
North, nice.
Anonymous said…
Hi Roger, at the moment I'm studiously trying to exile myself from the blogosphere, so I won't get the chance to write the conclusion to the Goethe experiment; however, thanks again for your wonderful writing!
roger said…
LT, I assume, however, that as a good scientist, you are keeping a journal. In fact, I'm much more excited about you becoming Goethe than about you making porno - although of course the two aren't mutually exclusive.
I am envisioning, at the end of the project, a series of journals much like those in Dracula, telling the story of your transformation from the point of view of a number of onlookers.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, that sounds like sound advice. I've been thinking a lot about the Goethe model, in comparison with porn; if you want to talk about it send me an email!