As you may know, North Carolina is not only a military-friendly state, we are a mercenary-friendly state, too. Indeed, the world's largest mercenary army of war-profiteers his headquartered right here in Mayberry-land: Blackwater, USA.
And if you don't think Blackwater is a tail that's wagging the US dog, think again. Not only is Blackwater pulling in billions of taxpayer dollars to prop up America's occupation in Iraq, the mercenaries also have all the political pull in the world. Which is why I wasn't surprised to find the company had managed to squash a civil lawsuit that would have catapulted them into the public spotlight.
A potentially landmark lawsuit with a very public beginning — when television cameras captured images of U.S. security contractors burned, mutilated and strung from a bridge in Iraq — appears destined for a private conclusion. After years of appeals and legal maneuvering, Blackwater USA, a security contractor, has successfully steered a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the families of the four slain employees into private arbitration.
The move will keep Blackwater, a secretive North Carolina company, away from the light of a courtroom, where many expected to learn details about it and what critics call the private army it fields in Iraq and elsewhere.
This so-called "private conclusion" is otherwise know as a pay-off, which is exactly how Blackwater does things. In other words, a BIG chunk of the money we taxpayers are pouring to Blackwater's bottom line just went to secure the favor a friendly judge, and quite possibly, the silence of some of the folks who originally bought the suit. Who wants to be a millionaire? To my knowledge.
Blackwater, whose attorneys have included former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and current White House Counsel Fred Fielding, argued from the start that the company should not face scrutiny in civilian courts because the contracting industry is an extension of the military.
But the company didn’t find a friendly legal venue until recently, when U.S. District Judge James Fox, citing a clause in the employees’ contracts, ruled that the case should leave the public courtroom for the private world of arbitration.
There's a small bit of hope that We the People may eventually get a glimpse behind the black curtain of corruption and greed that shields our home-grown mercenary army, but it's only small. According to the News and Observer, Congressman David Price has inserted language into the Intelligence Authorization Bill that will require a full account of the activities of contractors by April 2008. Which will give Blackwater a full year to cook the books, move money off-shore, buy more judges and politicians, and otherwise cover their tracks.
I have a better idea. Why not begin Congressional hearing NOW. Why not look into the mysterious "settlement" in this case to find out just how Blackwater operates and who's paying whom to get away with murder. I'm no lawyer, but I can think of a dozen easy questions that would warrant such hearings.
The wholesale outsourcing of Bush's War and Occupation to enrich a worldwide army of war profiteers has its roots right here in North Carolina. The Democratic Congressmen from our state should get to the bottom of it . . . and soon.
NOTE: The N&O has done some decent work on this issue over the years, but they let the story die. I hope some of the investigative reporters there - or perhaps at McClatchy - will find the time and resources for a full-scale expose of Blackwater. Because the truth is, every time a US soldier dies because of insufficient body armor or broken down equipment, the reason is Blackwater. They are literally a blood-sucking company that is diverting resources from troops into private profits. And every time a soldier says "fuck this" to the Army and gets out to sign up as a Blackwater mercenary earning five times as much money, the strength and integrity of our armed forces gets chipped away.