As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Blackwater: Military Hates Them, Hillary's Pollster Loves Them

The biggest argument you can make against Blackwater USA is that they harm the military effort in Iraq through their recklessness, which ends up boomeranging back on our troops. Now the military is agreeing with that assessment publicly:

U.S. military reports from the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting incident involving the security firm Blackwater USA indicate that its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians, according to a senior U.S. military official.

The reports came to light as an Interior Ministry official and five eyewitnesses described a second deadly shooting minutes after the incident in Nisoor Square. The same Blackwater security guards, after driving about 150 yards away from the square, fired into a crush of cars, killing one person and injuring two, the Iraqi official said.

The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government's contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.

"It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong," said the U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains the subject of several investigations. "The civilians that were fired upon, they didn't have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP or any of the local security forces fired back at them," he added, using a military abbreviation for the Iraqi police. The Blackwater guards appeared to have fired grenade launchers in addition to machine guns, the official said.

Only the State Department's initial report has failed to corroborate this explanation of the attack, and that one was written by a Blackwater contractor.

Despite the initial report, the State Department is coming around to the reality that changes are needed to the private contractor security situation in Iraq. They are recommending major changes aimed at increasing oversight on security personnel, essentially guarding the guards. Boy, that's good value for our taxpayer money.

Of course, Blackwater isn't taking this news lying down. They're fighting back, particularly on the PR front, by hiring the powerful and connected firm Burson-Marsteller to do their crisis management. Burson-Marsteller, by the way, is run by Mark Penn, who is pretty much in charge of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public relations giant Burson-Marsteller has vast experience steering companies through tough times. But there's a limit to how much it can help Blackwater USA, a new client that's been battered by negative publicity.

The State Department, which pays Blackwater hundreds of millions of dollars to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has stringent rules barring the private security contractor from discussing with the media the details of its work, according to those familiar with the arrangement.

Under those limitations, it's difficult to repair a corporate image, said one official close to Blackwater [...]

Burson-Marsteller was brought aboard by the Washington law firms representing Blackwater — McDermott Will & Emery and Crowell & Moring.

One of the executives on the Blackwater account is Robert Tappan, a former State Department official. Tappan is a managing director of BKSH & Associates Worldwide, a Burson-Marsteller subsidiary.

The company claims that the relationship was temporary and has now ended. But if the braindead media wanted to push a story on Hillary, I don't think her laugh would be the one. How about the fact that her strategist is running a company that does business with the thuggish mercenary army that is destroying our reputation in Iraq single-handedly?

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