Depending on whether the Blackwater security firm stays in Iraq will inform us whether Prime Minister Maliki has any power or is just a U.S. puppet. My money is on the puppet. Over the weekend Blackwater contractors escorting a State Department/US Embassy Baghdad convoy got into a shoot out. Spencer Ackerman at TPM reports that:
Yesterday’s incident involved an insurgent attack on a State Department convoy in the Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in western Baghdad. Blackwater personnel guarding the motorcade returned fire — “to defend themselves,” according to a State Department official quoted by The Washington Post. A Post reporter on the scene in Mansour witnessed Blackwater’s Little Bird helicopters “firing into the streets.” Almost immediately, an Interior Ministry spokesman said the company’s license to operate in Iraq would be revoked.
First problem. Blackwater does not have a license to operate in Iraq and does not need one. They have a U.S. State Department contract through Diplomatic Security. Instead of using Diplomatic Security officers or hiring new Security officers or relying on U.S. military personnel, the Bush Administration has contracted with firms like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and others for people capable of conducting personnel security details. State Department is not about to curtail the contract with Blackwater, who is tightly wired into Washington. Plus, State Department simply does not have the bodies available to carry out the security mission.
Second problem. The Iraqi government has zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater. For starters, Blackwater has a bigger air force and more armored vehicles then the Iraqi Army and police put together. As Spencer Ackerman reported, Blackwater’s little bird helicopter (an aircraft normally used by U.S. special operations forces) that was firing mini guns at Iraqi targets on the ground this past weekend.
I can only imagine how Americans would react if there were Russian, Chinese, Mexican, or French security firms running around the United States and getting into firefights in tough neighborhoods, such as South Central Los Angeles. We would just shrug our shoulders and say nothing. Right?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. This incident will enrage Iraqis and their subsequent realization that they are impotent to do anything about it will do little to support the fantasy that the surge is working. There are some Iraqis who genuinely want to run their own country. But we are not about to give them the keys to the car. Blackwater is staying.