Most of these civilians work for mega-firms like Halliburton and Wackenhut. They cook meals, do laundry, deliver supplies and work on construction projects and make infrastructure repairs.
A smaller number work for private security companies like Blackwater USA, which touts itself as "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations company in the world" with a mission "To support security, peace, freedom, and democracy everywhere."
Translation: Many of Blackwater's employees are mercenaries, including former Army Special Forces troopers and Navy SEALS who get paid $150,000 a year to guard prisoners, protect convoys, stand sentry and do security overflights in
With rare exceptions such as the shoot down of a Blackwater helicopter in
This is because the more attention is paid to civilians and the huge salaries that they pull down, the more questions are raised about the tens of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts awarded to profiteers like Halliburton who have incestuous ties to the Bush administration. Dick Cheney, of course, ran Halliburton before becoming vice president, and it is no coincidence that the company’s stock has tripled since the outset of the war.
There is a second reason as well: By and large Americans are uncomfortable with the notion of hired guns doing their military’s dirty work.
This brings us to the sad story of the widows of the four men -- independent contractors working for Blackwater -- who were separated from the convoy they were escorting and infamously killed by a mob in Fallujah and their bodies hung from the trestles of a bridge.
Their husbands' estates are suing Blackwater for wrongful death and fraud. They claim that Blackwater failed to provide the armored vehicles, equipment, personnel, weapons, maps and necessary lead time in which the four men could have familiarized themselves with the area.
For its part, Blackwater asserts that state law (in this case North Carolina, where it is headquartered) is trumped by federal law and that no court of any kind has jurisdiction to review the claims. The case has bumped all the way up to the Supreme Court, which apparently will rule on the jurisdictional question.
It is easy to feel sorry for the widows, but hard to rationalize blaming Blackwater for the deaths.
Where did the men think they were going? Disney World?Not to sound like a hard heart, but it also is difficult to feel a whole lot of sympathy for civilians who have come back from Iraq with big bucks in their pockets but with cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other maladies that their health-insurance plans won't cover.
War is indeed hell. Members of the armed forces deserve the best care (even if, as we know, they sometimes don't get it) and their kin compensation and other support if they are killed.
But no one is forcing civilians to go to
, nor should they have special privileges just because they happen to work for Halliburton or Blackwater, let alone special compensation if they return home screwed up physically or mentally. Iraq
Years ago, I became familiar with the case of Herbert G. Kirk, a master sergeant and radar specialist who was quietly mustered out of the Air Force during the Vietnam War
Kirk traded in his Air Force blues for civilian mufti as an employee of Lockheed. He had made the switch so that he could supervise a secret radar station on a mountainside in
that helped guide B-52 bombers to targets in Laos and Vietnam . The station was overrun by guerrillas and Kirk was killed. Cambodia
A mere annoyance for the Pentagon, as opposed to the embarrassment they would have faced had it been revealed that an Air Force NCO was running a secret combat installation in a country with which the U.S. was not at war.
Kirk’s family, which was merely told that he had died in
In addition, Kirk’s name was appropriately if belatedly added to the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
, Washington D.C.
Hat tip to Ilona at ePluribus Media