Can someone explain the State Department Protective Services’ contract logic, please?
The LA Times published a wonderfully emotive article today about the activities surrounding the investigation into the Blackwater incident in Nisoor Square on September 16. The article, for all its emotion, does make a couple of good points. I was in Azerbaijan when the Blackwater contract was renewed – we are working with the local authorities in their determination to create a more effective and accountable Public Order capability – and so did not comment on the issue at the time.
We see here the gap between operational necessity and public perception. All the evidence available from reports of those in Iraq using their services is that Blackwater has worked offensively to project a much more efficient, user-friendly image. They are also now being far more closely supervised and are working even more closely with the military. The State Department clearly believes that their continued use is advisable, and the rumour inside the Beltway is that the State Department is likely to engage them for another major contract in the next 60 days.
The public reaction to the continuation of the Blackwater contract is clearly negative. The Iraqi Government apparently sees it as an insult, and the Iraqi public certainly do. From the State Department’s perspective, there must have been good operational reason to run on Blackwater in their contracts. However, the State Department completely failed to inform and educate the public, particularly in Iraq, as to why that was so. Such a decision at the Embassy level seems bizarre, because in doing so the Iraqi public were clearly going to feel as though their lives have less value, and their feelings do not matter.
At this point, I feel it inappropriate to either criticize or applaud the decision; I simply want to know why Blackwater’s contract was extended, and why there was no information outreach conducted toward the Iraqi and American peoples?