Tuesday, October 2, 2007

October Fools' Day, Part II: Our Government Pays Blackwater Mercenaries More than Its Own Soldiers!

In this second, bonus installment of The Hired Pen's blog, here is an excerpt and commentary from today's Wall Street Journal:
"... In 2001, Blackwater received just under $1 million for its services from the U.S. government... The company's U.S. government contracts rose to about $350 million in 2005 and have been rising dramatically each year since. The total tally, according to a committee report, tops $1 billion.
"The report said the State Department is being charged $1,222 a day for each Blackwater security guard, or approximately $445,000 a year for each employee. The committee contrasted that figure with the pay of an Army sergeant's $140 to $190 a day in pay and benefits, worth $51,100 to $69,350 over a year."

According to Wikipedia, Blackwater USA is a private military company, security firm and mercenary company, founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies.

The company markets itself as "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world."

Blackwater is currently the biggest of the U.S. State Department's three private security contractors. At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts.

Blackwater operatives have also been accused of randomly shooting Iraqi civilians (with or without provocation) on the basis of carrying out their duties and responsibilities. These shootings have been a disaster for U.S. policy in Iraq (whether or not you agree with that policy) in too many ways to list here--not the least of which is how said policy is viewed by the rest of the world. These shootings have significantly worsened the already tenuous situation in Iraq.

Blackwater's operatives may be necessary in Iraq. But as a former U.S. Army officer who has been trained by and served alongside many NCOs (non-commissioned officers), I find it unbelievably insulting that Blackwater's "hired guns" get paid more than our own servicemen and servicewomen.

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