I survived Blackwater

When the Iraqi government last month demanded the expulsion of Blackwater USA, the private security firm, I had one reaction: It’s about time.

As a U.S. official in Baghdad for nearly two years, I was frequently the “beneficiary” of Blackwater’s over-the-top zeal. “Just pretend it’s a roller coaster,” I used to tell myself during trips through downtown Baghdad.

We would careen around corners, jump road dividers, reach speeds in excess of 100 mph and often cross over to the wrong side of the street, oncoming traffic be damned.

But much more appalling than the ride was the deleterious effect each movement through town had on the already beleaguered people of Iraq. I began to wonder whether my meetings, intended to further U.S. policy goals and improve the lives of Iraqis, were doing more harm than good. With our drivers honking at, cutting off, pelting with water bottles (a favorite tactic) and menacing with weapons anyone in their way, how many enemies were we creating?

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