Chicago Mercenary Firm Gets Millions for Protection in War Zones
Your tax dollars at work-- at least until we geonomize and replace taxes with dues and much government spending with a Citizens Dividend. This 2009 article was posted by AlterNet Apr 2. Its author, an independent war correspondent who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
By Jeremy ScahillTriple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia, may not have Blackwater's thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records.
Obama is using this company also in Israel/Palestine. The original arrangement with Triple Canopy in Israel appears to date back to at least September 2005 and has been renewed every year since.
Founded in Chicago in 2003 by "US Army Special Forces veterans," Triple Canopy won its first Iraq contract in 2004. In 2005, with its business expanding, Triple Canopy relocated its corporate headquarters from Obama's home state to Herndon, Virginia, placing it much closer to the center of US war contracting. (On several US government contracts, however, including the Israel security contracts, its Lincolnshire, Illinois address is still used.)
At one point during the US occupation, Blackwater was responsible for Baghdad (the largest share of the work), DynCorp covered northern Iraq, and Triple Canopy southern Iraq. Triple Canopy also worked for KBR. As of 2007, Triple Canopy had about 2,000 operatives in Iraq, but only 257 on the State Department contract.
The Obama administration may have traded Blackwater for Triple Canopy in Iraq, but it is likely that some of Blackwater's operatives, too, will simply jump over to Triple Canopy to keep working as armed security guards for occupation officials.
Blackwater is scheduled to continue to work in Iraq under Obama through its aviation division and in Afghanistan, where it has security and counter-narcotics contracts. It also holds millions of dollars in other US government contracts around the world and in the US. In February alone, the Obama administration paid Blackwater nearly $70 million in security contracts.
Like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has had its share of bloody incidents, among them allegations that operatives have gone on missions where they shot at civilian vehicles, including one after a briefing where a team leader cocked his M-4 and said to his men, "I want to kill somebody today. ... Because I'm going on vacation tomorrow." (The man in question denied any wrongdoing). While Triple Canopy fired some employees for not reporting shooting incidents in Iraq, none have been criminally prosecuted in Iraq or the US (For more, check out Washington Post foreign correspondent Steve Fainaru.)
Also like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has hired mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records: Peru, Chile, Colombia, and El Salvador. In Iraq, Triple Canopy hired more "Third Country Nationals" than US citizens or Iraqis. Due to El Salvador's civil war" that took some 75,000 lives, a Triple Canopy spokesperson reportedly said of the Salvadorans, "They've got the right background for the type of work we are doing."
On paper, new rules give Iraqi courts jurisdiction over contractor crimes. According to one Triple Canopy operative, "We were always told, from the very beginning, if for some reason something happened and the Iraqis were trying to prosecute us, they would put you in the back of a car and sneak you out of the country in the middle of the night." Another Triple Canopy operative said US contractors had their own motto: "What happens here today, stays here today."
The use of mercenaries by Hillary Clinton's State Department stands in stark contrast to her co-sponsorship as a Senator of a bill last year that sought to ban the use of such companies in US war zones, specifically Iraq. Last February Clinton said, "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due." Now, Clinton will be relying on these hired guns for protecting her and her staff in various countries.
Members of Congress -- whose actions when Bush deployed these private armies were too little, too late -- have a responsibility to investigate his use of companies whose profits are intimately linked to a continuation of war. Moreover, Obama's choice of this particular company should be investigated, both by the House and Senate, before May 7th when Obama's mercenaries become the official paramilitary force in Iraq. As for Triple Canopy's role in Israel, Obama's administration should explain exactly what these forces are doing on the US government payroll.
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