Today’s Washington Post has more happy Blackwater news:
The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.
The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former spooks — high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence — that mirrors the slate of former military officials who run Blackwater. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency’s more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.
Its chief executive is Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations who was heavily involved in running the agency’s role in the Iraq war.
Which begs the question: what role does this agency play in domestic spying? What role does it play in shaping international policy? Richer once headed the CIA’s Near East division. The CIA spent a fortune helping train Jordan’s intel service. Jordan now hires Blackwater. Nifty, huh?
As for the new spy unit:
Total Intel, as the company is known, is bringing “the skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room,” Black said.
Which makes sense, as Bush dismantles the U.S. government, and replaces it with private corporations that are accountable to no one. Except, perhaps, to the most perverse interpretation of Christianity. As Jeremy Scahill wrote, in The Nation, in June 2006:
Blackwater founder Erik Prince shares Bush’s fundamentalist Christian views. He comes from a powerful Michigan Republican family and social circle, and his father, Edgar, helped Gary Bauer start the Family Research Council. According to a report prepared for The Nation by the Center for Responsive Politics, in all of Erik Prince’s political funding generosity since 1989, he has never given a penny to a Democrat running for national office. Company president Jackson has also given money to Republican candidates. For his part, Joseph Schmitz–the former Pentagon Inspector General turned general counsel to Blackwater’s parent, The Prince Group–lists on his résumé membership in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Christian militia formed before the First Crusade. Like Prince, he comes from a right-wing family; his father, former Congressman John Schmitz, was an ultraconservative John Birch Society director who later ran for President. Joseph Schmitz was once in charge of investigating private contractors like Blackwater, but he resigned amid allegations of stonewalling investigations conducted by his department. He now represents one of the most successful of those contractors.
When Bush responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he called it a “crusade.” As James Carroll wrote, in The Nation, in September 2004:
Crusade. I remember a momentary feeling of vertigo at the President’s use of that word, the outrageous ineptitude of it. The vertigo lifted, and what I felt then was fear, sensing not ineptitude but exactitude. My thoughts went to the elusive Osama bin Laden, how pleased he must have been, Bush already reading from his script. I am a Roman Catholic with a feeling for history, and strong regrets, therefore, over what went wrong in my own tradition once the Crusades were launched. Contrary to schoolboy romances, Hollywood fantasies and the nostalgia of royalty, the Crusades were a set of world-historic crimes. I hear the word with a third ear, alert to its dangers, and I see through its legends to its warnings. For example, in Iraq “insurgents” have lately shocked the world by decapitating hostages, turning the most taboo of acts into a military tactic. But a thousand years ago, Latin crusaders used the severed heads of Muslim fighters as missiles, catapulting them over the fortified walls of cities under siege. Taboos fall in total war, whether crusade or jihad.
For George W. Bush, crusade was an offhand reference. But all the more powerfully for that, it was an accidental probing of unintended but nevertheless real meaning. That the President used the word inadvertently suggests how it expressed his exact truth, an unmasking of his most deeply felt purpose. Crusade, he said. Later, his embarrassed aides suggested that he had meant to use the word only as a synonym for struggle, but Bush’s own syntax belied that. He defined crusade as war. Even offhandedly, he had said exactly what he meant.
Osama bin Laden was already understood to be trying to spark a “clash of civilizations” that would set the West against the whole House of Islam. After 9/11, agitated voices on all sides insisted that no such clash was inevitable. But crusade was a match for jihad, and such words threatened nothing less than apocalyptic conflict between irreconcilable cultures. Indeed, the President’s reference flashed through the Arab news media. Its resonance went deeper, even, than the embarrassed aides expected–and not only among Muslims. After all, the word refers to a long series of military campaigns, which, taken together, were the defining event in the shaping of what we call Western civilization. A coherent set of political, economic, social and even mythological traditions of the Eurasian continent, from the British Isles to the far side of Arabia, grew out of the transformations wrought by the Crusades. And it is far from incidental still, both that those campaigns were conducted by Christians against Muslims, and that they, too, were attached to the irrationalities of millennial fever.
And now a company whose ownership deeply believes such religious extremism, has a history of funding extremist right wing causes, has been accused of defrauding the government of tens of millions of dollars, was responsible for a massacre of civilians, in Iraq, the investigation of which is already being handled, shall we say, a bit delicately has a spy division! At a time when no one in government seems to want to stand up and say that there’s something wrong with spying on the American public!
So, Blackwater and its associated companies are now, essentially, a fully functioning private Department of War. Acoountable not even to whatever laws remain, after Bush’s shredding and Congress’s capitulating. The only good news is that Blackwater’s “services” are far awayl overseas, right? Right?