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Vol. 71/No. 37      October 8, 2007

U.S. mercenary outfit back on streets in Iraq
(front page)
WASHINGTON, September 25— As the White House prepared to request another $195 million in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the private U.S. security firm Blackwater was back on the streets in Iraq after having been suspended.

The Iraqi cabinet suspended the outfit’s license September 18. Blackwater mercenaries had opened fire in Baghdad September 16, killing at least eight civilians. The Iraqi government called the shooting unjustifiable and said it expects to refer criminal charges to its courts.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry announced today that it had finished drafting a law ending legal immunity for private security outfits. The immunity was granted in 2004 by the government installed by Washington after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi government also said it is investigating five other incidents involving Blackwater, in which Iraqis were killed or wounded, and a sixth incident involving vandalism.

In addition to the 160,000 occupying U.S. troops in Iraq, 21 private security companies under contract with Washington have 10,800 armed employees deployed there, according to figures obtained from the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the mercenaries are elite soldiers recently retired from special operations units. Special operations units employ tactics such as “baiting” Iraqis by scattering detonation cords, plastic explosives, and ammunition, and then killing those who pick them up.

“Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it,” said Cpt. Matthew Didier, the leader of an elite sniper platoon. If someone picked the item up and attempted to leave with it, “we would engage the individual,” he said.

Liberals have seized on the Blackwater controversy as a factional wedge against the Bush administration’s tactics in conducting the war. But actions and statements by leading Democrats this week reflect the shallowness of their antiwar posturing.

Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos September 23 whether she would withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq during a first term as president, Hillary Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, answered that she did not know. “How much more aggressive will Iran have become?” she asked. The senator told CNN that some U.S. forces would remain in Iraq to train the Iraqi military and fight al-Qaeda.

A bill by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, failed by a vote of 47 to 47 September 21. It called for beginning the phased redeployment of troops from Iraq to be completed by March 2008. Echoing Clinton’s stance an untold number of troops would remain indefinitely.

Levin said he will try to get support for bringing the bill to the floor again by making the March 2008 date a goal instead of a requirement, reported the Detroit Free Press.

Spending requests for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have steadily increased from $94 billion in 2004, to $108 billion in 2005, and $122 billion in 2006. The administration’s request for $120 billion in “emergency” funding for the wars was approved with bipartisan support in May after Democrats dropped attempts to include provisions for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Meanwhile, militias backed by competing capitalist Shiite and Sunni forces continue to carry out bombings and kidnappings as they fight for control of oil and other natural resources.

Twenty-eight people were killed and 34 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a crowded mosque in Baquba September 25. The bombing targeted a meeting between the Shiite Mahdi Army militia and a Sunni militia known as the 1920 Revolution Brigades. In recent months, the latter has been joining with U.S. forces to secure Sunni regions in Iraq.
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