Monday, November 12, 2007

DynCorp throws stones in its glass house

The circular firing squad mentality among some private security companies (PSCs) is far from productive. The other day, DynCorp CEO Herb Lanese slammed Blackwater in a conference call with investors, only to find that one of its own guards shot dead an Iraqi taxi driver.

DynCorp guards are very well regarded and, like Blackwater, are among the very few elite enough to serve as State Department diplomatic security providers in Iraq. The facts of the case aren't in, and there's no good reason to prejudge. All we can point out here is the irony: Lanese rips Blackwater on issues concerning rules of force, only to find his company involved in killing an Iraqi civilian just days later.

"Unfortunately, it's very visible work that tends to attract a disproportionate amount of attention that I believe unfairly distorts the image of DynCorp. I don't need to tell you what kind of work we do or how long we've been at it, because I realize all of you understand and know that. But I do want you to know that in this narrow space in which we compete with Blackwater, we believe we are a very different company. . . .

"And we've developed our own rules for the use of force that are more detailed than those issued by the U.S. government. In fact, our rules for the use of force are based on the most conservative elements of the three sets of rules in effect in Iraq. . . .

"When you look for the rules for the use of force or rules of engagement in Iraq, there really are three sets of rules. And I think in recent Blackwater testimony, when asked, the person who was testifying said, 'Well, we follow the rules of force - rules for the use of force in Iraq.' Well, there's three of them. Which one do you follow? All three are not the same.

"There's the Coalition Provisional Authority Rules for the Use of Force, the Department of Defense Rules for the Use of Force, and the State Department Rules for the Use of Force. We've gone through and looked at the most conservative nature, or requirements, of each of those and developed rules for the use of force that apply to all three at all times, and that's what we do and operate under.

"Look, we're not taking any pleasure in Blackwater's troubles, because I think it's harmful for not only other companies that do this work, like ourselves, but it's harmful for our country as well and our relations with Iraqi people. But I think our investors deserve to know how very seriously we take the work we perform and how responsibly we carry it out."

Three days after the DynCorp chief's words were reported in the Charlotte, North Carolina News & Observer, a DynCorp guard killed the Iraqi taxi driver.

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