Gates: Security contractors conflict with U.S. mission in Iraq

The Defense secretary says guards who protect clients at any cost are working ‘at cross-purposes’ with soldiers trying to gain Iraqis’ trust.

By Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 19, 2007

WASHINGTON — The behavior of private security contractors in Iraq is in direct conflict with the goals of the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday in an unusually frank critique, adding that the guards’ mistreatment of Iraqis is hindering Pentagon efforts at winning hearts and minds.

Gates said at a Pentagon news conference that he planned to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in coming days to iron out new regulations governing the conduct of the estimated 8,500 armed guards working for the Pentagon and State Department in Iraq.

Last month, the Defense secretary sent a five-man team to Iraq to investigate contractor oversight after the high-profile killing of 17 Iraqis in a Baghdad shooting involving Blackwater USA, the private security contractor hired to protect U.S. diplomats.

Although Blackwater works for the State Department, the Pentagon employs the vast majority of such hired guns in Iraq — about 7,300 — and Gates within days ordered commanders in the country to be more aggressive in using military law to discipline contractors in their areas of responsibility.

Read more

Advertisements

War pimp allert: Bush Says Iran Nuclear Project Raises War Risk

Dalai Lama Is Honored at the White House

 I quess the Dalai Lama did not get through to Bush

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — President Bush warned today that Iran would be raising the risk of a “World War III” if it came to possess nuclear weapons.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“We have little to show for all the time that has gone by,” President Bush said of the current Congress.

And he said he believed that Russia still wanted to stop Iran from developing such weapons.

Those comments, made during a far-ranging 45-minute news conference, came as reporters sought the president’s reaction to a warning on Tuesday by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia against any military strikes on Iran to halt the nuclear work that it has continued in defiance of much of the world. Iran contends that its nuclear program is purely peaceful.

“If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace,” Mr. Bush said. “So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

Read more

Putin told of ‘assassination bid’

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been warned of a plot to assassinate him during a visit to Iran this week, Kremlin officials have said. The Interfax news agency cited sources in the Russian special services saying a gang of suicide bombers would attempt to kill Mr Putin in Tehran.

Mr Putin will fly to Tehran on Monday after meetings in Germany.

Read more.

Blackwater Is Soaked

By Rod Nordland and Mark Hosenball

Newsweek

Oct. 15, 2007 issue – The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.

Read more

Pain Compliance. Coming Soon to an Antiwar Demo Near You?

Last September, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne indicated the military would use “nonlethal weapons” against “fellow citizens” before they use them in “a wartime situation.” In other words, the American people are considered little more than guinea pigs, especially dissenting Americans in need of “crowd control.”

Before zapping antiwar demonstrators with an ADS beam—that’s short for “Active Denial System”—the military or police may request they remove glasses, contact lenses, and take coins and keys out of their pockets. “Precautions used to test U.S. military’s microwave weapon ADS for crowd control have raised questions about its safety, says a report,” explains United Press International. “These precautions raise concerns about the ADS in real crowd-control situations, the New Scientist reported… The ADS fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which is supposed to heat skin and to cause pain but no physical damage, the report said. Until now little information about its effects had been released.”

Read more

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs.

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

“I heard someone say, ‘Oh my god, look at those,’ ” the college senior from New York recalled. “I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?’ They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.”

Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously. Gallery
DragonSpies
Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously.

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my life,” the Washington lawyer said. “They were large for dragonflies. I thought, ‘Is that mechanical, or is that alive?’ ”

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Read more

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?

Read more