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Blackwater US: soldiers in very black waters

October 8, 2007

by A.Fotiadis

There is an interesting detail in Blackwater’s US Sep 16 incident in Iraq. In fact there are many details leading to an interesting conclusion. Blackwater is just a small part of an enormous shadow army deployed in Iraq. Modest calculation brings the number well above 100.00 thousand and with a good 10.000 positioned on front line projects. The very ‘professional’ handling of the Sep 16 incident is just a thread of the very sorry story about the methods that private contractors and some times regular IDs have chosen in order to practice crowd control and counter insurgency. That Iraqis have been considered and treated like human beings of inferior value is for this piece a philosophical proposition. Could become a solid argument but this is not the purpose of this though.

The real issue that the Blackwater-gate case brings on the surface is the character of the war going on in Iraq. That this is a war between the US superpower and a handful of sects in a ex-Muslim country with substantial intervention of other forces sounds like a fair attempt to describe it. But perhaps it is only a pretext.

Remember Weber’s definition of the state ‘is the institution that maintains a legitimate monopoly on force(violence)’. If it so then Iraq seems to me should be looked as the first postmodern war. The presence of this huge mercenary army in Iraq is the first time that a state has submitted its unique right over force to another actor. Something that has been happening in small scale everywhere after the appearance of the, black glasses-macho looking-practically doing nothing- security wannabes. (You all have met them somewhere.) To put it another way, this is the first large scale privatisation of violence in modern history times. Thus the US government contracts military companies who run blur packs of people who like war to do some of the dirtiest job. In the age of corporatism the burden falls on the market to arrange supply and demand, and no doubt it has been managing just right. But the important thing here is that violence is a commodity, therefor exposed to weaknesses of profiteering, becoming overpriced and over-consumed.

Furthermore given that Blackwater’s mercenaries have operated beyond the reach of any civil law, whether Iraqi or US, has positioned them therefore beyond the reach of any legal authority. Thus it is the first time that some armed guys, excited to use their guns regularly, as it seems, end up in the middle of nowhere and not obeying any law of the land. Which means that not only the administration has secured the expansion of the the market in new frontiers but also has taken care that no state interventionism will cause any hick ups upon the healthy free-function of the market.

But where does this takes us? Does it mean we are moving to a medieval like modernity that mercenary armies will sell their services to depserate nation-states? Does it mean one day we will all have to hire some private cops to take care of the neighborhood? Does it mean that the state as we know it, an omniscient and omnipotent guardian is fading away, letting as defenseless in front of anarchy and chaos? Oh how my heart skirts listening to these words… why not to ask Mr Ramsfeld (where is this guy today really?) who first conceived and pioneered a more streamlined and greatly privatised military based on an “entrepreneurial approach”….

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5 comments

  1. Very interesting…I’m sorry I can’t think about the questions raised by the article in more detail right now…One thing seems to disturb me the most here – it is brought up nicely in the final paragraph. We are accustomed to reading about ‘new wars’ or ‘post-modern wars’. However, I completely agree that the maintenance of a mercenary-based army is a characteristic Medieval phenomenon. Is our post-modernism really a return to the Medieval world with its private armies and warring factions, clans and sects… The question seems to be fairly big… One thing that comes to mind is the Messianic rhetoric and behaviour of the Bush administration and its key figures. Not unlike the Popes that waged the Crusades for the Holy Land. Only that this time the plunder is to be consumed in the long run by chosen elites and the battles are much more global now than they were in the 11th and 12th centuries…


  2. so, are we saying that we are getting rid of this (after all) episode in human history called the nation state (because, maybe, the concept and the structure does not serve any more the purposes of those “chosen elites”)?
    i might be among the first to cheer for that, but then again, it depends what kind of new structures we are switching to-it is unlikely the new patterns of organization humanity will create will be more benign than the previous, there is scarce evidence in history to give hope for such an evolution
    i doubt, though, that we are turning back to medieval-like structures, history is probably at most spiralling, not really circling-it is only our limited imagination that could make us think we are turning back-
    the fading away of the state has been under discussion for a long time, but this does not imply anarchy and chaos, order comes from hierarchies, whatever those are (not simply from states) and hierarchies will always be around, we are used to them, we need them,
    one point to be discussed is which new forces we will use in order to alter the current hierarchies-what tools are being used to create and control the new hierarchies- because it is surely not only the deployment of forces- it is also a monopoly of knowledge and values that is being enforced (this too, has been done before, as vassil suggests when referring to the self-righteous crusader Popes)-i need to think about the element of novelty in all this, one might be the illusion of freedom which may be stronger than before-an all pervasive sense we control our fates and there is no one we need to fight against-that should keep the dominators safe and sound for a while
    well, i have no clue where we are going really, so feel free to tell me, brutally, where i am obviously wrong, i will put more and more thought into this


  3. “Despite strong opposition from the White House, the House of Representatives last Thursday approved — by a vote of 389 to 30 — a bill that would bring all U.S. contractors in Iraq under the jurisdiction of U.S. criminal law.

    While the House bill would have no retroactive authority over past conduct by Blackwater of other contractors, it closes a loophole that has existed since the U.S. dissolved the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2004.”

    This is an article published yesterday, read it all at
    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39600


  4. Yes, ‘a return to the Middle Ages’ view is too simplistic… I would say return to feudalism in terms of organisation of space, securitisation of space (both physical and virtual), differentiation b/n rich metropolis, adjacent supporting area and poor, underdeveloped barren lands. the difference, of course, we do not have the actual tangible division of space as in the Middle Ages – the organisation of economic space follows investment and security priorities. The trenchants of the Middle Ages are replaced with secured corporate compounds and online financial transactions
    and it is just a matter of money (a lot of money) whether you can buy your security even in the most troubled areas. And the coexistence between the extremes of security and insecurity are the perfect business opportunity for private security companies.


  5. “The Iraqi government intends to make foreign private security firms answerable under Iraqi law, even if it drives them out of the country, the human rights minister said yesterday. The decision follows a spate of incidents in which Iraqi civilians have been killed by private contractors working as security guards.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2191868,00.html

    cause times they are a-changing…



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