Looks like I’m not the only one to recognize the similarities between today’s soldiers for hire (represented by Blackwater) and yesterday’s crusaders. See this article for more details on privately contracted armies. Paul Nyden over at the Charleston Gazette has an interesting editorial.
Blackwater executives, and many government officials who work with them, are evangelical ideologues, both authors point out.
Edgar Prince, founder of Blackwater, grew up in a politically conservative, evangelical Catholic family near Detroit.
Blackwater, based in the Great Dismal Swamp near the North Carolina coast, has become the nation’s largest mercenary company.
L. Paul Bremer, who oversaw Iraq for one year after the U.S. invasion, is also a conservative Catholic, who was always protected by Blackwater guards during his time in Iraq.
John Negroponte, who succeeded Bremer, previously helped create “death squads” in Vietnam in the 1970s and coordinated Washington’s “covert support for the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and for the Honduran junta” in the 1980s, Scahill writes.
Jim Steele, who worked for both Bremer and Negroponte, also helped organize counterinsurgency groups and death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Joseph Schmitz, forced to resign as the Pentagon’s Inspector General amid growing controversy, took a job with Blackwater in 2005. His government resume lists membership in the “Sovereign Military Order of Malta,” a Christian militia founded in the 11th century before the Crusades.
“It all comes down to this,” Schmitz said in a speech while at the Pentagon. “We pride ourselves on our strict adherence to the rule of law under God.”
The irony, Scahill points out, is that while Iraq goes up in flames, Blackwater’s future seems bright.
Both authors warn of increasing dangers to world peace and American democracy.
Many of our own intelligence and military officials fear a continued backlash from the brutal actions of many mercenaries.
In addition, Scahill notes, many active-duty American soldiers harbor resentments toward mercenaries paid so much better and accountable to no one.
What the future holds is unclear.
Companies like Blackwater also recruit and hire hardened soldiers from repressive regimes such as South Africa during the apartheid era and Chile under Augusto Pinochet, who overthrew Salvador Allende in a Sept. 11, 1973, coup and remained in power until 1990.
Private contractors also lead to increased violence against local people in Iraq.
Pelton and Scahill both describe how mercenaries rained gunfire on “moving targets” in Iraq and Afghanistan, without knowing whether the targets were insurgents or peaceful citizens, adults or small children.
For example, they routinely shot at ambulances bringing wounded Iraqis to hospitals in Fallujah, Scahill writes, hospitals that were already “a death row for innocents” because the U.S. embargoed medical supplies.
Wow, a bunch of money hungry, evangelical thugs. I wonder if any of these characters were near Corporal Pat Tillman when he was shot. After all, what better target for a crusader than an unbeliever.