Thursday, October 2, 2008

Army Returned Blackwater's Missing M-4; ABC's Brian Ross Sensationalizes It

The US Army returned a missing M-4 Bushmaster military carbine to Blackwater after discovering the weapon during a raid on Iraqi insurgents, ABC News reports. The Army apparently doesn't consider the issue a big deal. Soldiers said the weapon was found in "surprisingly good condition," which indicates that the insurgents didn't use it much if at all.

ABC's Brian Ross (pictured in his typically defensive, arms-across-the-chest pose) reports, "Criminal investigators for the US Army turned the weapon over to Blackwater. A spokesman for the Army CID [Criminal Investigative Division] said no further investigation was conducted as to whether the weapon had been stolen or sold on the black market by someone with access to the Blackwater facility."

Ross withholds that piece of news until the 14th paragraph of the 15-paragraph story, stuffing parts of the middle with re-hashed allegations that reflect negatively on the company.

The incident reportedly occurred in 2006.
As is the case in almost any war, the enemy in Iraq often uses captured or stolen American weaponry. The insurgents have stolen, pilfered or captured US arms and weapons the US provided to the Iraqi military and law enforcement. Blackwater turned over two employees to federal authorities after suspecting them of stealing and illegally shipping weapons in the company's custody to factions in Iraq.

The company says that it has reported every known case of weapons theft to the authorities, but did not know about this particular incident. ABC cites documents that reinforce Blackwater's claim that it didn't know the weapon was missing from its inventory.

The ABC report reeks of sensationalism. Ross breathlessly says the incident was "kept secret" until now, and ominously that it "raises more questions" about the company's operations in Iraq, which by all accounts have had a 100 percent success rate in protecting American diplomats, aid workers, officials, visiting congressmen, and even journalists.

Ross repeatedly refers to the M-4 as a "machine gun." While definitions and interpretations differ, with some (mainly civilians) referring to any firearm capable of fully automatic fire as a "machine gun," most military definitions consider machine guns as full-auto firearms that require external support, like a swivel or bipod, and thus the M-4 is not in that category. Generally the media refers to selective-fire military-style carbines like the M-4 as "assault rifles." ABC apparently chose the term "machine gun" to sensationalize the story and "raise further questions" about the company.

After recycling old and negative reports about the company, Ross finally tells readers in the second-to-last paragraph that news the Army doesn't really think that the missing weapon was a very big deal, because criminal investigators returned the M-4 to Blackwater.
In the last paragraph, Ross properly describes the weapon, showing that all the reporter and editors had to do was Google "Bushmaster" to get an official description: "The Bushmaster, according to the company's website, is one of the 'world's most popular military and law enforcement carbine models.' It is outfitted with a flash suppressor and, in military models, can fire three round bursts or fully automatic." The term "machine gun" appears nowhere on the Bushmaster M-4 page or in any official manufacturer description of the firearm. But it sure sounds more exciting.


Anonymous said...


I don't read all your stuff, but I did see this piece and note a significant error.

You state: "Blackwater turned over two employees to federal authorities after suspecting them of stealing and illegally shipping weapons in the company's custody to factions in Iraq." The two individuals in question were stealing and illegally selling firearms, but their activity was entirely domestic. Blackwater has never sold firearms (or any other material) to enemies of the United States.

Standish said...

Thanks for the observation. I was referring to the Cashwell and Grumiaux case, in which Blackwater fired its two employees after suspecting them of theft, and a government investigation suspected them of shipping or conspiring to ship the weapons illegally abroad. As a company, Blackwater provides services or goods without prior licensing approval from the relevant US government agencies. In observing the company, it's clear that Blackwater has a profound philosophy of only acting in the interests of the United States. Last July 15 we reported that Blackwater repeatedly rebuffed the Chinese who were interested in police training for the Olympics. The company didn't turn down the Chinese because of any government regulations, but because of a matter of principle - Blackwater won't do anything to help a regime like that in Communist China, even if others in the US government want to appease Beijing.