Yesterday I found myself in a conversation that pretty much blew my mind. I had to stop and ask myself how two people could see one subject so incredibly differently. I had just learned about Blackwater being banned in Iraq. To me this information was incredibly shocking and huge news. But the person I was talking to replied with a mere, "Why does the common man care?" I was stunned. Why does the common man care? I asked him if he even knew who Blackwater is and what they are doing in Iraq. His response was essentially, "I'm a sales guy from Utah, why do I care about a company in Iraq? What does it have to do with me?"
Now, I must answer these questions. I just have to. It's just who I am.
The first thing that went through my mind was asking myself if this is just one of those "DC" things, where vantage point changes everything. I sold guns to Blackwater types. I've been to the Blackwater training facility. My father has hired Blackwater operatives for security purposes. I've known more than a few Blackwater contractors. So yes, I'm probably slightly more aware of Blackwater and their operations than the "common man."
Blackwater getting banned from operations in Iraq is a big deal. It should be the biggest news on the front page of all the majors right now. This is huge. Sadly, so few people truly understand the intricacies of the situation that it isn't making the news enough.
Let's start with what it is Blackwater does in Iraq. They protect diplomats- American, Saudi, and many others. They also protect VIPs that enter Iraq (think powerful employees of large energy companies). These are all people that are NOT guests of the Iraqi government or the US military. The US military is not protecting these people from the insurgents and Iraqis. Someone needs to protect them, since just renting a car from Avis at the Baghdad airport isn't an option. If a US diplomat needs to go into Iraq, for let's say, diplomatic discussions with the Iraqi government, they are going to need an envoy and a few bodyguards. So they hire/contract with Blackwater for protection.
The firefight that went down earlier this week will probably remain short on details for a long time. But we do know this- it lasted 20 mins and there was a US State Dept diplomat being protected at the time. For those of you who don't understand combat and firefights, I'll explain this a little more. A 20 min gunfight that involved 2 helicopters and several armored vehicles (and that was just Blackwater's side) is unreal. That is a really freaking long time. These sort of street skirmishes and gun fights generally only last a few minutes. But 20 mins? Unbelievable. The report I read (not in a national news source) stated that this was no street skirmish. This was a full scale and well-planned ambush by the Iraqis on Blackwater. (Sidenote- Blackwater has very distinctive vehicles and a strong visible presence. The attackers knew full well who they were striking.) A 20 minute attack with that sort of fire power and it only ended in 8 deaths? That's pretty freaking amazing. Most people would expect to see a considerably higher number.
What I haven't been able to read yet is who was the diplomat that was being protected. Was the attack against Blackwater? Or on the diplomat specifically?
So why is it so significant that Blackwater is being banned? It's the Iraqis playing the way only Iraqis play. It's a big end to diplomatic relations. It's a sign that the Iraqis have no desire to play fair or work things through. These are the same people who bomb their own neighborhoods with suicide bombers and kill clerics. And now they want us to send in our diplomats without experienced protection. This is a huge deal.
And that is why the common man should care.
More articles on the subject-
Washington Times- http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070919/FOREIGN/109190017/1001
And another from CNN-
Shame on Washington Post for hiding this important issue on page A16.
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