Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh Blackwater keeps on rolling

- $4 billion in taxpayer funds have been paid for private security forces in Iraq-

4 bill is a lot of wetland and levee.

The ominous rise of Blackwater Security Forces over the past 6 years has become very disconcerting to me. I have yet to read Jeremy Scahill's book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, but I'm anxious to do so.

The above statistic came from this article in the The Nation which is a must read.

Most of us New Olreanians know that Blackwater was hired to protect certain private assets of wealthier folk in the days immediately following the storm. But I bet most of us don't know that they still have a presence here in the city. Why they're still here is a mystery to me, but I know they are as I shared a drink with one them at an uptown bar recently. I asked him what they were still doing here and he mumbled something which I couldn't understand, then laughed and finished with "Whatever the hell we want." I laughed too...but not because I thought it was funny.

I was in the city about 3 days after the levees broke, shooting as much footage as I could of the scene. The months following the storm now seem like an extended acid trip, but there are certain things which stuck out in my mind...one of them involves Blackwater.

About 2 weeks after the water was finally pumped out of the city, I was down by the Superdome where ABC 26 was conducting their nightly newscasts out of a parking lot. One of my friends was being interviewed about something or other and I tagged along. While I was there I struck up a conversation with an LAPD officer who was in the city assisting our own police force. There were a lot of officers from around the country who traveled down here and helped out...LAPD, Illinois State Police, NYPD, New York State Troopers, etc....they came from all around the country.

The officer told me of an incident he encountered while patrolling the Riverwalk with another LAPD officer and a New York State Trooper. He said they were walking through the mall area and came up on two Blackwater guys who drew their weapons on the officers and told them to halt. The officers drew their weapons in turn and told the Blackwater soldiers to stand down and lower their weapons. He said the Blackwater guys started laughing and said, "Do you know who we are?" The LAPD officer responded, "Yeah I know who you are, lower your Goddamn weapons right now." They didn't at first. He said the moment became very tense but the Blackwater goons eventually stood down.

The LAPD officer was incredibly pissed about it....which of course he should have been. Blackwater was basically hired as security...I think they were gaurding a Cruise ship or something if I remember his story correctly. They have absolutely no law enforcement or legal jurisdicition, even under martial law...at least not towards American citizens especially on American soil. Raising a firearm on officers of the law is absolutely out of bounds.

Meanwhile, I'd like to find out why they are still in the city.

Update:

This is from Rick-n-Gentilly:

yup. lost their contract right after the dems won the elections. allways thought that was weird timing.

all in all they were here a hell of a long time doing basicly rent a cop work once the city reopened.

they were making 300.00 bucks a day to hang out at the d.r.c. for 12 hours and look tough.

i'm sure jeffery saw it all at work. i just got to see them at play.

thanks for clearing that up. rick-n-gentilly.


So it looks like they're gone. Good enough.

10 comments:

Marco said...

To back up Ray's conspiracy theory?

Slate said...

I wrote about them in October 2005. As you know we had come back and done relief efforts. I was sending out emails on a rigged up phone connection through a New Mexico number. Here's the Katrina Refrigerator post about our encounter with Blackwater and I can tell you we were really weirded out for a long time even though ours was pretty benign. I did start researching them though. Here's the link to the post: http://katrinafridge.blogspot.com/2006/10/food-football-musical-chairs-and.html

And what the hell ARE they still doing here?

Sophmom said...

The Nation article was jarring. That's some scary stuff. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Ask the right questions, or put the right word strings together if you feel like phishing. If you were drinking with someone who admitted he was with Blackwater, he's just working a security detail. Was he dressed "fine", big man with the alligator shoes, or too thin, weedy, in common ground type dreads and clothes, or smallish and slim, like one of those gray hairs who could be anybody until you turn them around and look in their eyes?

Dambala said...

I wasn't phishing, that's ridiculous.

The guy was young, about 32-34. Had a gap between his front teeth, black hair, about 6,2 with a baseball cap on....very bulky....he looked like military. I talked to him for about 30 minutes. He was a former marine, he said his whole family was military and that he and his Father both worked for Blackwater.

I'm not provoking conspiracy or phishing....I was just sharing the experience and wondering what they're still doing in N.O. and who is paying for them to be here.

mominem said...

I've met a few of those guys.

Some of them have real issues. I wonder how many have been separated from the service.

I know some real warriors too, you'd almost never know from talking to them.

I know when I was here a week after the storm the real police and military were very calm and helpful, all the private guys seemed to have attitudes.

Anonymous said...

zombie man somethings wrong with the way i'm reading the timeline. blackwater left town right after the first of the year. they were staying in the hotel i worked at. are they still here? thanks. rick-n-gentilly.

Dambala said...

Rick,

"Recently" was in late Jan. or early Feb.....i know it was before carnival, but can't remember exactly when. I should have qualified that statement better, but bar moments tend to transcend temporal boundaries especially in Post-K.

Are they all gone now?

Anonymous said...

yup. lost their contract right after the dems won the elections. allways thought that was weird timing.

all in all they were here a hell of a long time doing basicly rent a cop work once the city reopened.

they were making 300.00 bucks a day to hang out at the d.r.c. for 12 hours and look tough.

i'm sure jeffery saw it all at work. i just got to see them at play.

thanks for clearing that up. rick-n-gentilly.

Slate said...

I just read the Nation article, and it unfortunately states in black and white theories my husband and I have discussed since we first encountered them and started looking into them. It's like some super-futuristic sci-fi nightmare meets the Gestapo, with us paying for it.

I also have real issues with a term like "war contracting industry." That's appalling, and although I don't agree with Kucinich a lot, he's right about a profit motive being a catalyst for making more wars. Rumsfeld's comment about the military needing to be more like "venture capitalists" is telling in itself.

I feel the same way about privatization of prisons. I taught a class in a privatized prison in New Mexico. I remember thinking as I left that some oversight of the prison was now a bit murky as it was owned by a gigantic corporation, and that they had a real stake in people being imprisoned.

Prison industry. War contracting industry. Health care industry. What the hell are we doing? I swear sometimes I don't know what country or era I'm living in anymore.