Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why military can't do Blackwater's job

One of the most common questions concerning Blackwater is, Why can't the military protect our diplomats in Iraq?

The Washington Post provides us the answer. Essentially, the Pentagon lacks the personnel with the proper training, lost interest in protecting the diplomats when the State Department opened its huge new embassy in 2004, and the State Department's own Diplomatic Security cadre are too small and too overextended to do the job.

Post reporter Karen DeYoung's bias seeps through the first quarter of the October 21 article, but after she settles her scores she provides much new and balanced information.

Here's a summary of some of that reporting: After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) led by Paul Bremer reported directly to the Pentagon. The Pentagon contracted Blackwater to provide security for the CPA chief and other top US civilians in Iraq.

In 2004, with the US preparing to return sovereignty to Iraqis and to build a huge embassy in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "lost a bid to retain control over the full US effort, including billions of dollars in reconstruction funds," according to the report. "A new executive order, signed in January 2004, gave State all authority over all but military operations. Rumsfeld's revenge, at least in the view of many State officials, was to withdraw all but minimal assistance for diplomatic security."

"'It was the view of Donald Rumsfeld and [then-Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz that this wasn't their problem,' said a former senior State Department official. Meetings to negotiate an official memorandum of understanding between State and Defense during the spring of 2004 broke up in shouting matches over issues such as their respective levels of patriotism and whether the military would provide mortuary services for slain diplomats."

But many at State conceded DoD's point that soldiers lacked the training to serve as personal guards. Other diplomats were concerned that surrounding civilians with uniformed soldiers would undermine the American image in Iraq," according to the Post.

The mission was beyond the capabilities of the State Department's small Diplomatic Security (DS) service. As the opening of the new embassy approached in mid-2004, "we had to decide what we were going to do," said the former State Department official. "We had to get jobs done, and to do that we had to have some protection."

The State Department "chose the most expedient solution: Take over the Pentagon's personal security contract with Blackwater and extend it for a year," the Post continues.

No comments: