"There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t hope and pray for change."
In fact, after reading the news stories and hearing speakers like Jeremy Schahill, author of the book, "Blackwater: The Rise of World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", I was moved to begin a petition asking Congress to demand that the State Department and the Department of Defense cancel all Blackwater contracts.
To date 200 persons have signed that petition and I am deeply grateful for every one of those who have chosen to speak out. After all, the current political atmosphere in the United States questions the patriotism of anyone that choses to speak out against the Bush administration's actions in Iraq. However, I would be lying if I did not admit that I am a little amazed and saddened that more people haven't chosen to speak out on this issue.
Of course, I do understand that there are many people who may not fully understand why politically affiliated paramilitary organizations like Blackwater USA pose a threat to a democratic society.
I also understand that there are many people who do not believe that the 110th Congress of the United States will do anything substantive to address this issue.
I understand that there are many people who believe that the age of petitions, protests and strikes has past.
I understand that some people are discouraged from publicly participating in petitions and protests by their employers.
And I understand that there are hundreds of issues that hit closer to home for most Americans.
But I can't understand how those who daily criticize and even make jokes about the incompetence, callousness, avarice, hypocrisy and clearly impeachable behavior of the Bush Administration can remain silent on a situation that clearly threatens to spark WW III.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Our lives begin to end the day that we are silent about the things that matter."
The heartbeat of America grows fainter every day. And if Bill Moyers' interview with Jeremy Scahill does act as a defibrillator for our national heart then there may be little hope of reviving the patient.
If you missed the broadcast you can watch it online. The following are excerpts from the broadcast transcript.
Watch, Read, Tell Your Friends, Act & Pray that it's not too late for America to change!
transcript excerpts from the 10/19/07 broadcast of Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers' interview with Jeremy Scahill
Blackwater and Fallujah
BILL MOYERS:: We're gonna have to pause a moment and say right here... As you talk, I realized just how much you have studied this group and it's in your book very well posed. But what got you interested in this as a journalist?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I had gone-- I started going to Iraq in 1998. And I went in in the weeks leading up to the Clinton administration's attack on Baghdad in December of-- of '98. And I had actually spent a fair bit of time in the city of Fallujah. In fact, I had camped out there in the desert just outside of Fallujah in the summer of 2002 was the last time I'd been in the city. And it was a-- a place that I knew well. And-- and on March 31st, 2004 when four Blackwater operatives were ambushed and-- and killed in Fallujah, their bodies dragged through the streets, burned, strung up from a bridge.
BILL MOYERS:: I remember seeing those and they're horrifying. And the American public recoiled.JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And I mean, and initial reports on it were that civilian contractors had been killed. And the-- the image that was portrayed was that these were sort of like water specialists or engineers that were being dragged through the streets. And then, it emerged that in fact they were these mercenaries working for a-- a private company called Blackwater USA. And-- and we watched as the Bush administration then began to escalate the rhetoric. And it became clear that they were gonna lay siege to the city of Fallujah And what happened in the aftermath is well known. The-- the US military was ordered to destroy the city. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. A number of US troops. And I began from a very simple question. How on earth were the lives of four corporate personnel-- not US soldiers, not humanitarian workers. But how were the lives of these four corporate personnel worth the death of an entire Iraqi city? That siege had an incredibly devastating impact on events on the ground in Iraq. It gave rise to the Iraqi resistance. Fueled it. Attacks escalated against US forces. And it was-- it was really the moment that the war turned over the deaths of these four Blackwater guys
Blackwater's vs the US Military
BILL MOYERS:: Now, how would our diplomats be protected if it weren't for the private security contractors? The army is stretched thin. Isn't there a role for these people?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I think-- I think that the fact is that the US military has not historically done the job that Blackwater is doing. That was done through diplomatic security. And the-- the role for these companies is envisioned as-- as protecting diplomats in-- in all these countries around the world. But in Iraq, you're talking about an occupation of a country. And without these private sector forces, without companies like as Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Dyncorp, the occupation wouldn't be tenable.
BILL MOYERS:: Why?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, right now in Iraq, there are 180,000 contractors operating alongside 170,000 US troops. So it's effectively a doubling or more than doubling of the occupation force. What this does is it subverts the citizenry in the United States. You no longer have to have a draft. You don't have to depend on your own citizens to fight your wars. You can simply hire up the poor of the world to work for American and British companies occupying another country.
BILL MOYERS:: What do these private contractors, their guys, make compared to American soldiers on the ground?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well it varies widely depending on the company, depending on their role, depending on their nationality. If you're a former Navy Seal or a Delta Force guy working for Blackwater, you can make about 600 dollars a day for your work in Iraq. I mean, we're talking six figure salaries. Some of these guys working for private military companies make as much as-- as General Petreyas if not more.
BILL MOYERS:: Which is?JEREMY SCAHILL:He makes about $180,000 a year. Average troops in the ground, some of these kids are being paid forty thousand dollars a year to be in the exact same war zone as Erik Prince's men from Blackwater. And they're wearing the American flag on their shoulder, not the Blackwater logo
BILL MOYERS:: Didn't I read somewhere that one of our generals said we couldn't be here without Blackwater and these other companies? We couldn't be occupying. Or something to that effect?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Yeah. I mean, well, General Petraeus himself has been guarded by private contractors in Iraq. I mean, what message did that send when the general who's overseeing the surge in Iraq is guarded at times not by the US military, but by private forces.
The Clinton/Blackwater Connection
BILL MOYERS:: I was intrigued to learn that the PR-agency that is handling Prince, Busrton Marsteller, is also the guy who heads - the CEO is also Hillary Clinton's top strategist, Mark Penn.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mark Penn.
BILL MOYERS::Mark Penn. Sort of-- he's been called Hillary's Rove. What-- I know something about how this system works. How a PR company comes to you and says hey I've got this client that would like to be on air here. Here's how we'd like to do it. And then, you see the same thing in being repeated from show to show to show-- like Hillary Clinton was on all five of the Sunday morning talk shows recently. What-- what have you learned about how the system works between the political and media elites?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I mean, PR-companies are also mercenaries and I know oftentimes work for the highest bidder. I think it's interesting that--
BILL MOYERS:: They're not shooting people though.
JEREMY SCAHILL:No, no, no. But they're mercenaries in the sense that they'll-- they'll rent their services out to anyone. And once you're defending Erik Prince, you're working for him, then you become part of his sort of mercenary operation. I also think that it was a strategic choice to go with the company with Mark Penn because-- because of his connection with the democrats and Hillary Clinton. But let's, lets remember here we're talking about Blackwater right now because we have a Republican administration. For so many years, we had a Republican dominated Congress. Blackwater is certainly the beneficiary of the-- the Republican monopoly in government. But this system has been bi-partisan for a very long time. When Hillary Clinton's husband was in the White House, he was an aggressive supporter of the privatization of the war machine. Bill Clinton used mercenary forces in the Balkans. Who do we think gave Dick Cheney's company all of those contracts during the Nineties? We talk about Halliburton. It was Clinton. It was the Clinton administration. And and, Blackwater may be a-- an extraordinary Republican company. But they're gonna be around when there's a Democrat in office.
Blackwater in New Orleans post Katrina
BILL MOYERS: You know, I had a scary thought during the night as I was thinking about talking to you. And I know some people--
JEREMY SCAHILL: That happens to me a lot. (LAUGHTER)
BILL MOYERS: The thought was, you know, suppose we had a national emergency. Suppose the terrorists struck again. And a President, President Hillary Clinton, or President Barack Obama declared marshal law in order to try to deal with this threat. And there was a private army of twenty thousand soldiers that I could call upon to throw a ring around the capital and make sure that the Congress didn't leave town or didn't get back to the capital if-- how far fetched is that?
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I mean, I was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I think we saw a real window into the possible future. You know, I was standing on a street corner in the French quarter on Bourbon Street. And I was talking to two New York City police officer who had come down to help. And this is just a couple of days after the hurricane had hit. And this car speeds up next to us. No license plates on it, a compact car. And three massive guys get out of it. And they have M-4 assault rifles, bullet proof vests, wearing khakis, wrap around sunglasses, baseball caps on. And they come up and they say to the cops, "Where are the rest of the Blackwater guys?" And my head sort of started, you know, I didn't even hear the answer. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Where are the rest of the Blackwater guys? So, they get back in their vehicle and they speed off. And I said to this cop, Blackwater? You mean the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan? They said, oh, yeah. They're all over the place down here. And so, I said, well, I'd like to talk to them. Where are they? And they said, you can go either way on the street, implying that they're everywhere. So, I walked a little bit deeper into the French quarter. And sure enough, I encountered some Blackwater guys. And when I talked to them, they said that they were down there to confront criminals and stop looters.
BILL MOYERS: Who called them in?
JEREMY SCAHILL:And-- well, this is an interesting story. Erik Prince sent them in there with no contract initially. About 180 Blackwater guys were sent into the Gulf. They got there before FEMA. I don't even know if FEMA's there yet. But they got there before FEMA, before there was any kind of a serious operation in the city at all.
Foreshadowing the future
BILL MOYERS: You're a reporter, not a prophet. But what does this foreshadow for our world?
JEREMY SCAHILL: I think it's really scary. I mean, I think that the U.S. government right now is in the midst of its most radical privatization agenda. Seventy percent of the national intelligence budget is farmed out to the private sector. We have more contractors than soldiers occupying Iraq. I think that what this does is it takes-- it sanitizes it also for the American people. There's not a draft.
There's been, you know, almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq; we don't know how many private contractors. But that's a relatively small number compared to Vietnam, for instance, where we talked about 65,000 body bags coming home. And already, people are outraged at it. And I see this as a real subversion of democratic processes in this country and a subversion of sovereignty of nations around the world.
BILL MOYERS: But isn't it a way to keep protest at home against the war in Iraq and other wars from rising to the level of--
JEREMY SCAHILL:Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. I mean, it masks the human cost or the human toll of the war in terms of American lives. Because the contractor deaths are not counted in the official tolls nor are the injuries of them.
And it also masks the true extent of the occupation when over half of your occupation force comes from the private sector. Bush almost never talks about it. He doesn't have to own it in front of the American people. He's having enough trouble owning the 170,000 troops that are over there right now. And the story is starting to slip out. But you're absolutely right. It keeps the death toll down-- in terms of what's being reported. And it keeps protests down as well.
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Oversight Committee Releases Report on Blackwater
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