Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," appeared on CNN and blasted BushCo. for fostering this private militia mentality because he wasn't able to build an international coalition to invade Iraq.
Scahill: ...instead the administration is building a coalition of corporations. Right now in Iraq, private personnel on the US government payroll outnumber official US troops. There are about 186,000 so-called private contractors operating alongside 165,000 troops. The US military is the junior partner in this coalition.----This is a shadow war. We're in the midst right now of a discussion about a surge, and about troop withdrawals, and we hear conflicting messages. But there's been a surge on for four years of the private sector, in Iraq, this mercenary army that the Bush administration has built up all over that country.
The arrogance of the West, toward Iraq is incredible. This is a civilization that's been around for thousands and thousands of years. We think that we're going to somehow bring the solution to Iraq? No, these are people that can very much dictate their own destiny and they should be allowed to do so, and mercenaries need to get out of Iraq immediately.
And you want accountability? You mean the Cheney type accountability? This is a great clip because in a short time he gives us so much information. Our own Mark Groubert is reviewing the book at this time and we'll be posting it soon. Nate has more video on this...(full transcript below the fold)
UPDATE: My Man Waxman: "Oversight Committee to Hold Hearings on Blackwater"
HOLMES: Let's get some more perspective now on the Blackwater controversy and turn to a critic of that security firm, Jeremy Scahill authored the book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." He joins us live from New York.
And thanks for doing so. A lot of private security firms are fairly low profile and do their jobs less overtly like companies like Blackwater, which -- let's say, is an understatement that they are highly visible. What's your main concern?
JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, "BLACKWATER": Well, the in fact of the matter is the Bush administration failed to build the coalition of willing nations to occupy Iraq. And so, instead, the administration has built a coalition of billing corporations.
Right now in Iraq, the private personnel on the U.S. government payroll outnumber official U.S. troops. There are 180,000 so-called private contractors operating alongside of 165,000, 170,000 U.S. troops. So really now the U.S. military is the junior partner in this coalition. The mercenary component of the private sector involvement has been totally unaccountable. They operate with impunity. They kill Iraqi civilians and no charges are ever brought against them, in Iraqi law, U.S. law, military law.
HOLMES: Why is that, do you think? Do you think that's just an oversight? A slip through the cracks, the fact that there was a word missing from the military code of justice that allowed these guys to not get charged with anything? Or do you think there was something more intentional about that? As you say, they can't be charged in Iraq. They can't be charged in the U.S. They can't be charged at all.
SCAHILL: Right, it's hardly an oversight. Either we have tens of thousands of Boy Scouts running around Iraq calling themselves private security, or something is fundamentally rotten with the system. I mean, how can you have ten of thousands of mercenaries operating in Iraq and not a single prosecution? No, this is political expediency on the part of the Bush administration.
The deaths of these mercenaries don't get counted in the official U.S. death toll. Their crimes against Iraqis go undocumented and unreported. This is a shadow war. We're in the midst right now of a discussion about a surge, and about troop withdrawals, and we hear conflicting messages. But there's been a surge on for four years of the private sector, in Iraq, this mercenary army that the Bush administration has built up all over that country.
HOLMES: But the overtly aggressive contractors -- and, you know, we've seen them, they've pointed guns at our convoys -- but the overtly aggressive ones, what's in it for them to be overtly aggressive? How does that help the U.S. mission in Iraq to have guys going around shooting up Iraqi taxis because they happen to get too close?
SCAHILL: Well, I mean, it's shock tactics. The fact of the matter is that Blackwater guards, the senior U.S. occupation officials in Iraq, and their job is to so-called keep the noun alive, and they'll do that at any price. We've seen numerous reports over the years of Blackwater contractors opening fire on Iraqi vehicles and in some cases killing Iraqi civilians.
There was an incident last Christmas Eve, where an off-duty Blackwater contractor allegedly shot and kills a body guard to the Shiite vice president of the country. Part of it I think is shock tactics. And the fact is it is good for Blackwater's business when they keep Paul Bremer alive, they keep Zalmay Khalilzad alive, they keep John Negroponte alive. I mean, war is business and it's very profitable and Blackwater is doing an incredible job of making itself a lot of money.
HOLMES: If you're critical of what companies like companies like Blackwater are doing and how they are behaving, what's the alternative?
SCAHILL: I think the United States needs to withdraw from Iraq. And I believe the U.S. government needs to pay reparations to the Iraqi people. We hear all of this talk of militias and sectarian violence. What about the militias that the U.S. has deployed in Iraq that are running around the country unaccountable? No, I believe -- and I've spent a lot of time in Iraq -- I believe the United States needs to withdraw and pay reparations to the Iraqi people. The arrogance of the West, toward Iraq is incredible. This is a civilization that's been around for thousands and thousands of years. We think that we're going to somehow bring the solution to Iraq? No, these are people that can very much dictate their own destiny and they should be allowed to do so, and mercenaries need to get out of Iraq immediately.
HOLMES: Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", joining us from New York. Thanks for your perspective.
SCAHILL: My pleasure.