Sunday, October 7, 2007

Why does Blackwater 'shoot first' so much?

Blackwater has been taking a lot of criticism for supposedly being too quick to "shoot first" while protecting American diplomats, congressmen, senators and others in Iraq. Critics say that Blackwater's "escalation of force incidents" in Iraq since 2005 are a concern, especially when compared to other companies doing the same work.

Why does Blackwater shoot more, both objectively and percentagewise, than the other two companies that perform diplomatic security services in Iraq?

A June 21, 2007 Congressional Research Service report on private security contractors in Iraq shows why. In the area of the manning of Department of State protective services contracts in Iraq, Blackwater holds 70.8 percent of the protective security positions and is responsible for the hugely volatile Sunni Triangle.

Blackwater has conducted over 16,000 protective missions in Baghdad alone since June 2005, with 195 documented "escalation of force" events. That means that Blackwater has used force about 1 percent of the time in one of the most violent areas of Iraq in order to protect American diplomats and other high-value targets. In other words, on nearly 99 percent of its missions, Blackwater does not use force.

Additionally, Blackwater is the only private security company in Iraq that is required by contract to have armed helicopters and tactical response teams for route reconnaissance and post-attack rescue response. This State Department requirement increases the probability that a Blackwater-contracted professional will be engaged or become involved in an ongoing engagement.

Let's look at the other two companies, Triple Canopy and DynCorp. By comparison, Triple Canopy has 18.4 percent of the protective security billets - all outside the Sunni Triangle. DynCorp has 10.8 percent of the contract positions - also outside the Sunni Triangle. Neither company has response/rescue requirements.

So those who try to compare Blackwater's role with Triple Canopy and DynCorp don't really know what they're talking about. To summarize:
  1. Blackwater has 70.8 percent of the protective diplomatic security billets in Iraq; Triple Canopy has 18.4 percent and DynCorp has 10.8 percent.
  2. Blackwater operates in the super-violent Sunni Triangle. Triple Canopy and DynCorp operate outside that area.
  3. Blackwater is required by contract to have armed helicopters and tactical response teams for route recon and post-attack rescue response. Triple Canopy and DynCorp do not.
  4. Even with the above extra risk and responsibility, Blackwater has not used force in nearly 99 percent of its 16,000 missions.

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