Iraq’s government says it won’t give Blackwater a license to operate in the country. So does that mean the firm’s cadre of tattooed gunslingers will be gone from Iraq, forever? Not exactly.
Sure, Blackwater as a corporate entity probably won’t be roaming the streets of Baghdad or Mosul for much longer. But the individual mercenaries who’ve been working for years in Iraq, serving as a Praetorian Guard for the State Department’s diplomats — those guys likely will be able to stay.
The State Department has a contract for “worldwide personal protective services” with three firms: Blackwater, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy. If Blackwater is no longer allowed to operate in Iraq, a lawyer steeped in the field tells Danger Room, there’s no legal reason why the other two firms can’t scoop up Blackwater’s employees. “State simply issues a new task order to DynCorp or Triple Canopy, who turn around and hire some or all of Blackwater’s employees,” he says.
Which could prove to be more than a little problematic. More than any other private military firm in Iraq, Blackwater had a reputation for recklessness and violence. Think about the drunken Blackwater contractor, who killed a bodyguard of Iraq’s vice president on Christmas Eve, 2007. Or the car full of people a Blackwater detail ran off the road, in September 2006. Or the Nisour Square shooting that left 17 dead, in September 2007. “If you think Blackwater culture is to blame, this [loophole] kind of confounds that,” the lawyer observes.
But why would the State Department want to do such a thing? Well, Blackwater likes to boast that it hasn’t had a single person under its protection killed in Iraq. And it’s not like there are tons of people with the experience, security clearance and willingness to work in a war zone that are needed to serve on the diplomat-protective detail. “Blackwater is the State Department’s Frankenstein of diplomatic security,” Licensed to Kill author Robert Young Pelton tells Danger Room. And you know how hard it is to get rid of that monster.