Friday, October 05, 2007
Representative Chris Shays: a venomous blot
Representative Chris Shays from Connecticut had this to say, today, about the passage of a bill that would mildly curb the corrupt and odious mercenaries Americans have unloosed in Iraq:
“Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., accused Democrats of rushing the bill through Congress in a partisan bid to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the war.
"It is amazing to me the number of men in Blackwater that have lost their lives and we never hear it on the other side of the aisle," Shays said. "Blackwater is evil. That's the way it appears in all the dialogue."
Of course, he is defending the company that did, among other things, this:
“On that day, the Blackwater convoy was responding to a bombing near a State Department convoy about a mile away. As the Blackwater armored vehicles entered the square, a heavily guarded area near Baghdad's affluent Mansour neighborhood, Iraqi police officers moved to stop traffic.
Kadhum, the doctor, and her son Haitham, who were in the flow of cars the officers were trying to stop, didn't react quickly enough. A Blackwater guard fired, striking Haitham as he sat in the driver's seat, three witnesses said.
"The bullet went through the windshield and split his head open," recalled traffic police officer Sarhan Thiab. "His mother was holding him, screaming for help."
Remember, too, that the Blackwater then wrote up a memo of the incident, on Embassy stationary, and even leaked it to the press, in which no mention was made of any casualties.
All of this reminds LI of Sejanus’ speech in Ben Jonson’s play:
“The coarsest act
Done to my service, I can so requite,
As all the world shall style it honourable:
Your idle, virtuous definitions,
Keep honour poor, and are as scorn'd as vain:
Those deeds breathe honour that do suck in gain.”
And, of course, what would a controversy be without the mob of liberal kiss-asses, bribed touts, and violence fetishists pleading for villains. This is from TNR’s The Plank:
"Via TPM, I recommend this MotherJones article on Doug Brooks and the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), which he heads up. The IPOA is the trade group for private military contractors, including Blackwater. But, although the MoJo article is provocatively headlined "Blackwater's Man in Washington," it provides a nuanced--and actually somewhat sympathetic--portrait of Brooks:
Brooks, who insists that his goal is "to help end wars," brims with excitement about the private sector's potential to save lives in conflict zones around the world. But the conduct in the Iraq War of companies like Blackwater, an IPOA founding member accused of multiple indiscriminant shootings in Iraq, has proven to be a distraction, as have accusations against other companies (not all of them IPOA members) of human trafficking, overbilling, corruption, and shoddy work. Though at times Brooks can make hired guns sound like U.N. peacekeepers, few people doubt his good intentions. "I've known Doug for a while, and I take him very seriously when talks about his focus on private peacekeeping. It's not just marketing," says Singer. The reality, he adds, is that ever since the Iraq invasion the IPOA "has been forced to steer in a completely different direction. You can see that in the press inquiries that Doug is having to answer all the time. He's doing a lot more talking right now about Blackwater and Baghdad than about using contractors in Congo or Darfur." It's a conflict that is perhaps unavoidable as Brooks struggles to ensure that recent contractor scandals "don't hamstring the humanitarian potential" of the IPOA's member companies. But according to Avant, the Iraq War has made it harder, not easier, for Brooks to promote standards in the private military industry. She points out that, especially early in the war, companies that bent the rules typically did better for themselves than companies that followed them. The premium placed on good behavior was weakened as a result. Still, she says, IPOA standards are a good first step. "The industry does have an incentive to say, 'Look, we're not just a group of cowboy mercenaries. This is the law we operate on; these are the standards.'"
For what it's worth, I interviewed Brooks last year for this story on some recent college grads' efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. And I came away from the interview with Brooks thinking that his heart was definitely in the right place. Alas, the same can't necessarily be said for some of the people he represents.”
'Heart being in the right place' means that he participates in the action movie fantasy of giving opulent white American males a proxy instrument to rain death down upon who they chose. The presupposition here, so flattering to the moral wankers who make up the circles of seriousness in D.C., is that the deciders have such tender sensibilities that we can trust them implicitly to do the right thing – which is why they need to preserve an on call mercenary force. It worked so well under the first Clinton, so let's preserve it for the second, is the subtext, here.