Sunday, September 23, 2007

Perspective: The Deadly Game of Private Security

ON a stifling summer’s day in Baghdad a couple of years ago, a senior American officer bound for a visit to troops in the Iraqi hinterland was preparing to board an army Black Hawk at the helicopter landing zone in Baghdad’s Green Zone command compound.

With undisguised disdain, he fixed his gaze across the concrete toward two smaller helicopters taking off from a hangar operated by Blackwater USA — the private security company whose men, while guarding an American diplomatic convoy, were involved last week in a Baghdad shootout that killed at least eight people and, according to an Iraqi government report, as many as 20.

In a style now familiar to many living beneath Baghdad’s skies, a Blackwater sharpshooter in khaki pants, with matching T-shirt and flak jacket, sat sideways on the right side of each chopper, leaning well outside the craft. With their automatic weapons gripped for battle, their feet planted on the helicopter’s metal skids, and only a slim strap securing them to the craft, the men looked as if they were self-consciously re-creating the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme...

As the Blackwater machines cleared the landing zone’s fence that day, the American officer leaned toward a companion and, over the thwump-thwump of the Black Hawk’s rotors, voiced his contempt. “If I’ve got one ambition left here,” he said, “it’s to see one of those showboats fall out.”

Read the rest at the NY Times