Book Club? with Blackwater

Hello readers, how are your sinuses?

Last year I bought myself Blackwater as a belated birthday present and have only recently gotten around to it. I love learning, but it takes me 100 years to read non-fiction. One reason is because I feel like I should record or memorize everything. That may be futile, but at least with a blog, I’ve a searchable way to revisit what I thought was important whether it be one post I got around to or something more regular.

The backdrop of Blackwater is the Nisour Square massacre— on September 16, 2007, the private military company opened machine gun fire on Iraqi civilians, killing 17 and wounding 20, including women and children. It was founded by Erik Prince, brother of current US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

As with DeVos’s privatization, private companies don’t have to be held to the same standards which encourage shady, unethical, if not straight up bigoted practices. Nisour Square wasn’t a freak accident; Scahill asserts it was part of deadly four-year pattern that intensified in the year leading up to it with six lethal shootings. When Prince was summoned before Congress, Rep. Henry Waxman alleged that Blackwater was involved in 195 shootings from 2005 to that September 16th.

Conveniently, there is Order 17, issued by Ambassador Paul Bremer, which grants immunity to private contractors working for the US in Iraq. This prevents Iraq from charging them with anything unlike U.S. soldiers whom can be court-martialed.

book club pin

There is more in the whole 30/500 pages I’ve read including the cost of Blackwater to taxpayers (>$1k/day) and allegations of their weapons ending up with designated terrorists. However, what had me have to put the book down and walk away for a while is the issue of paying the families of victims. In a case where a Blackwater operative drunkenly killed an Iraqi vice president’s bodyguard, an initial amount of $250,000 was suggested, but the State Department said this was too much and lead to people trying to get killed.

It and Blackwater agreed on $15,000 although Prince claims $20,000. In other cases, the State Department requested Blackwater pay a family $5,000 and in others, no offer was made at all.

Can you imagine? Twenty-thousand dollars for the murder of your loved one? Everything they are to you: a parent, a teacher, a friend, a carer… All of it is worth a minimum wage salary for one year. Five thousand? That is slightly more than my used car from Craigslist. It’s no wonder many families refuse the offer.

Haythem quote
source: Salon

Hopefully bloggers who’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month recognize the effects of war on women and that it’s not a feminist stance. One of the other reasons why it takes me so long to read non-fiction is because it can be so depressing. But with Prince and DeVos recently in the news, I had to share the knowledge. Is that really a “club”? Ah well, I’m planning to also sharing bills to help combat such people, and if you want to start a blogger club around that area let! me! know!

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