bloodthicker - May 8 2006 The Nation 11 ARTICLES BLOOD IS...

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May 8, 2006 The Nation. 11 I t is one of the most infa- mous incidents of the war in Iraq: On March 31, 2004, four private Ameri- can security contractors get lost and end up driving through the center of Falluja, a hotbed of Sunni resistance to the US occupation. Shortly after entering the city, they get stuck in traffic, and their small convoy is ambushed. Several armed men approach the two vehicles and open fire from behind, repeat- edly shooting the men at point- blank range. Within moments, their bodies are dragged from the vehicles and a crowd de scends on them, tearing them to pieces. Eventually, their corpses are chopped and burned. The re mains of two of the men are strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River and left to dangle. The grue some image is soon beamed across the globe. In the Oval Office the kill- ings were taken as “a challenge to America’s resolve,” according to the LA Times . President Bush issued a statement through his spokesperson. “We will not be intimi dated,” he said. “We will finish the job.” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt vowed, “We will be back in Falluja…. We will hunt down the criminals…. It’s going to be deliberate. It will be precise, and it will be overwhelming.” With in days of the ambush, US forces laid siege to Falluja, beginning what would be one of the most brutal and sustained US operations of the occupation. For most people, the gruesome killings were the first they had ever heard of Blackwater USA, a small, North Carolina–based private security company. Since the Falluja incident, and also because of it, Blackwater has emerged as one of the most suc- cessful and profitable security contractors operating in Iraq. The company and its secretive, mega- millionaire, right-wing Christian founder, Erik Prince, position Blackwater as a patriotic exten- sion of the US military, and its employees are required to take an oath of loyalty to the Con sti- tution. After the killings, Black- water released a statement saying the “heinous mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraor- dinary conditions under which we voluntarily work to bring free- dom and democracy to the Iraqi people…. Our tasks are danger- ous and while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq.” The company swiftly rose to international prominence: Jour- nal ists were flooding Blackwater with calls, and military types were clamoring to sign up for work. “They’re angry…they’re saying, ‘Let me go over,’” Blackwater spokesman Chris Bertelli told The Virginian-Pilot ten days after the killings, adding that applica- tions to work for Blackwater had increased “considerably” in that time. “It’s natural to assume that the visibility of the dangers could drive up salaries for the folks who have to stand in the path of the bullets,” he said. A day after the killings, Prince enlisted the serv ices of the Alexander
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bloodthicker - May 8 2006 The Nation 11 ARTICLES BLOOD IS...

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