Thursday, May 24, 2007  

Blacklisting Blackwater

As some of you may know, Blackwater, aka Mercenaries Are Us, is trying to set up a training camp in Southern California outside the town of Potrero, not too far from the SD-Tijuana Border.

Now why would that be, I wonder?

In another post, I will take a deeper look at who and what is Blackwater. Suffice to say, Blackwater is not a nice little security company whose dearest wish is to make the world a comfy place for you and me. Blackwater provides some of the best security money can buy- comandoes? Yep. Psych-ops specialists? Got that. Urban counter-insurgency? Sure. "Pursuasive Techniques training?" Glad you asked.

They recruit former SEALS, special ops, etc, as they come off their tours-- hence the interest in the geographic proximity both to Camp Pendlton and the SEALS on Coronado Island.

Blackwater also displays a decidedly international approach to its hiring and training. Folks like Chilean paramilitary members get recruited and sent to Iraq, and other places. And then there are the boys from the SADF- the South African Defense Force- the defenders of Apartheid, a number of whom are working in Iraq and were also in New Orleans doing post-Katrina security duty. That's right, in a city with a large African-American population, in the midst of an extraordinarily horrific crisis- Blackwater was paid to bring in South Africans with an Apartheid background.

I am particularly disturbed by Blackwater's proximity to the border as well as San Diego and Los Angeles, both sites of massive anti-HR447 (Tancredo's draconian Immigration reform bill) last year. I am very suspicious of the placement, in part because I feel that the Bush- military contractor complex is using the border region as a lab for both international and domestic insurgency practice, and because it seems that with both satellite offices of Dyncorp and Blackwater, should a state of emergency be declared, the border and the region around it will be sealed as tight as a drum, with civil rights off the table.

So, for your reading pleasure, may I recommend reading the rest of the following:

CIA-Pentagon-Blackwater "revolving door"

"A number of senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration's top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks (and who famously said in 2002, 'There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off.')," Ken Silverstein, wrote September 12, 2006, in Harper's Magazine.

In fall 2005, Robert Richer "resigned from the post of Associate Deputy Director of Operations; he immediately took a job as Blackwater's Vice President of Intelligence. Richer is a former head of the CIA's Near East Division and long served in Amman, where, for a period beginning in 1999, he held the post of station chief. For years he was the agency's point man with Jordan's King Abdullah, with whom he developed an extraordinarily close relationship," Silverstein wrote.

Also, Silverstein wrote in September 2006, "there's talk at the agency that Blackwater is also aggressively recruiting José Rodriguez, the CIA's current top spy as director of the National Clandestine Service. Rodriguez has a number of former agency friends at Blackwater, most notably Rick Prado, with whom he served in Latin America and who is now Blackwater's Vice President of Special Programs."

Recent Cofer Black start-up and merger, Total Intelligence Solutions, LLC, is a merger of three companies, The Black Group, The Terrorism Research Center, Inc. and Technical Defense. TIS very well may fall outside the legal corporate domain of Blackwater, however two of the top executives at TIS, Cofer Black and Enrique Prado still hold positions at Blackwater, and Robert Richer recently left his position at Blackwater to take on responsibilities at TIS. As well, it should be noted that one of the three companies merged to create TIS, The Terrorism Research Center, is owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince. [19]

UN Peacekeepers?

Blackwater's advertisement in the IPOA journal, March/April 2007
Blackwater's advertisement in the IPOA journal, March/April 2007
Blackwater is an active member of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade association which promotes the use of commercial force, logistics, demining and other conflict/post conflict services. Blackwater runs an advertisement on the second page of their journals, which can be downloaded free at their website, which acts well as an example of the image the PMC industry is seeking to re-define themselves within.

Blackwater said that "it can help keep peace in Darfur, Mark Langfitt reported May 26, 2006, for NPR. "Doug Brooks runs an association of private military firms, which includes Blackwater. He says his members can help where governments have failed."

"The United Nations, which hopes to deploy in Darfur this fall, opposes the outsourcing of force," Langfitt wrote. "The peacekeeping pitch sounds great, but has all kinds of problems, [said] Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and author of Corporate Warriors. "For one thing, [Singer said], there's little accountability. If contractors misbehave—as they did at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison—they rarely face charges. Singer says private military firms are focusing on peacekeeping, in part, to improve their image."

Blackwater "is pushing to be part of UN peacekeeping missions in places like Darfur," The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti commented June 11, 2006, on her CBC (Canada) radio show. "But so far the United Nations is not buying. It says peacekeeping is something that requires great sensitivity."

Soliders of Fortune

"Coalition of the Billing"

"There are no reliable figures on the number of guards from Colombia or other countries," Sonni Efron wrote July 30, 2005, in the Los Angeles Times. "Fijians, Ukrainians, South Africans, Nepalese and Serbs reportedly are on the job in Iraq."

Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, "author of a book on the private military industry, said veterans of Latin American conflicts, including Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, also had turned up. 'What we've done in Iraq is assemble a true 'coalition of the billing',' Singer said, playing off President Bush's description of the U.S.-led alliance of nations with a troop presence in Iraq as a 'coalition of the willing'," Efron wrote.

Blackwater and other U.S.-based private military contractors do not only recruit Americans; according to Jonathan Franklin, former commandos from Chile are an increasing presence among private military troops in Iraq. Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater, told the British newspaper The Guardian that former Chilean commandos, "many of who had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet," will be sent to Iraq for a year and a half, to guard oil wells from saboteurs. "We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals - the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," said Jackson. And the private military melting pot doesn't stop there: "Squads of Bosnians, Filipinos and Americans with special forces experience have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority." [20]

And here is a communique from Congressman Bob Filner, in whose district Blackwater is trying to set up:

Dear Friends:

I am grateful to the Courage Campaign for getting the word out about

Blackwater's egregious attempt to set up a mercenary training camp

outside Potrero, a small peaceful rural town in my district. I'd

also like to thank you all for signing their petition calling on

Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein to keep

Blackwater out of California.

Since the petition was launched, more than 2,600 people have joined

us in opposing Blackwater West and with your help, I think we can

drive that number even higher. Can you deliver just one more

signature? Click the link below to send the petition to your family

and friends and let's show California's leaders how loud our voice


Double the impact of your signature by getting someone else to sign

the petition today.

Thank you for all you are doing to keep private mercenaries out of

Potrero. Again, if you could spread the word to your family and

friends and deliver JUST ONE more signature to the petition, you can

increase the impact we'll have by showing our statewide leaders just

how widespread the opposition to this plan is.

Thank you,

Congressman Bob Filner----

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007  

Still waiting...

It's Tuesday...

And Alberto Gonzales STILL hasn't resigned.

We're waiting....

Monday, May 21, 2007  

You might want to know...

The Immigration debate is heating up again. Here in SoCal, where there really is a border (unlike Washington, DC), and there are real crops to bring in, which, by the way, the Minutemen are doing jack to help with, the immigration debate is significant. Add to that the fact that many of the greencard soldiers and the youth from the barrios who are recruited (and yes, they are youth- at 17, 18, 19) for that catastrophy known as the War in Iraq, have parents and other relatives who are currently illegal, this is about real prople and real border issues.

All this discussion about border security and terrorism is a bunch of hooey. Ask the BP and not one, count 'em folks, not one Middle Eastern OTM (other than Mexican) has been apprehended staggering across the desert, withering under a cactus or abandoned by a coyote on the side of some god-foresaken road.

The proposed fence is a travesty and a disaster both environmentally and culturally. The close association of its construction to the fence along the green line (well, sort of along the green line) in the occupied territories of Palestine is highly disturbing in that it speaks to a seige mentality which has a distinctly racist base. IN addition, the sheer construction needed to sustain such a fence is detrimental to the ecosystem of the region. Also, the inducements and veiled hints of retribution against border first nations such as the Tohono O'odham are causing these nations to become cut off from important ancestral tribal lands and pathways over and across the border as well as unwitting pawns in a national policy which has none of our best interests at its core. It seems that the only good Indian is an HS Indian.

What needs to happen is a humane and intelligent immigration policy based on reality, true economic figures and sector needs. None of this voodoo economics and bogeyman stuff that's being pulled by Tancredo and his pals.

This ran in this morning's Roll Call and was created by my friends Victor Payan, Sandra Sarmiento Pena, Perry Vazquez and others in order to call attention to the need for a bi-partisan, intelligent discussion on immigration. Chek out Keep On Crossing for more information about the proposed legislation and other issues surroung the immigration debate.

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The stories within

Maybe Ira Glass of This American Life and David Sadaris have a point: telling stories about yourself holds meaning. And , according to a new book, the meaning comes from how the story is told.

During a standard life-story interview, people describe phases of their lives as if they were outlining chapters, from the sandlot years through adolescence and middle age. They also describe several crucial scenes in detail, including high points (the graduation speech, complete with verbal drum roll); low points (the college nervous breakdown, complete with the list of witnesses); and turning points. The entire two-hour session is recorded and transcribed.

In analyzing the texts, the researchers found strong correlations between the content of people’s current lives and the stories they tell. Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. The pride of college graduation is spoiled when a friend makes a cutting remark. The wedding party was wonderful until the best man collapsed from drink. A note of disappointment seems to close each narrative phrase.

By contrast, so-called generative adults — those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved — tend to see many of the events in their life in the reverse order, as linked by themes of redemption. They flunked sixth grade but met a wonderful counselor and made honor roll in seventh. They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner. Often, too, they say they felt singled out from very early in life — protected, even as others nearby suffered.

Very interesting! Read the rest.

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