Outsourcing the War

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Don’t let the crying Reagan distract you too much: The debut redesign issue of Time also has an old-fashioned magazine investigation on the way the U.S. military has used private security forces to, effectively, outsource the war. At least one Liberal bloggers liberal blogger famously derided these contractors as mercenaries who deserved to die, but their stories should resonate with anyone who doubts the wisdom of the day-to-day prosecution of this war and its overarching goals.

Private contractors operate as part of the “military force,” but they don’t have the same level of protection, they don’t have the same level of survivor benefits, and — perhaps most tragically — their families don’t have the right to find out the details of their deaths. And a lot of them have died.

[Katy] Helvenston, along with the families of the three men killed with her son–Wes Batalona, Mike Teague and Zovko–are suing Blackwater for wrongful death in a case that, after more than two years and a stop before the Supreme Court, has landed in front of a North Carolina state judge, who will move it along April 9. The families want to know what happened that day in Fallujah. But they also want to press their claims that Blackwater, in its zeal to exploit this unexpected market for private security men, showed a callous disregard for the safety of its employees. In the process, the case of the Fallujah Four, as some now refer to them, has stirred a nest of questions about accountability, oversight and regulations governing for-profit gunslingers in war zones.

You probably remember how Scott Helvenston and his three colleagues died. Video of their killings made newscasts around the world on March 31, 2004, when a Blackwater security convoy was ambushed by gunmen in Fallujah, Iraq. The four men were dragged from their cars, mutilated by a mob and set on fire. The torsos of Helvenston and fellow Blackwater employee Jerry Zovko were hung from the green steel girders of a bridge on the edge of town. In Fallujah, it’s still known as Blackwater Bridge.

Those four men, btw? They’re the very same people Markos Moulitsas wrote off with a righteous “Screw ’em.” I wonder how he feels to be on the same side of this issue as Blackwater.

Brian Bennett, the author of the piece, is on his way to Baghdad today. If you can spare a thought about safe travels, send them his way.

UPDATE: GOOD POINT from Attaturk

QUOTE: Liberal bloggers famously derided these contractors as mercenaries who deserved to die

We ALL did? Actually, more than one of us even ARGUABLY did?


Nice reporting of non-facts there.

I fell for a stereotype there, one that sprung from Markos’s statement and his subsequent reiteration of it. I don’t have at hand any evidence that other bloggers said similar things, though I do suspect that Markos is rarely alone in his opinions on such matters.