Blackwater didn’t file the proper forms

Blackwater faces Fines over Arms Deal

The State Department is preparing to slap a multimillion-dollar fine on private military contractor Blackwater USA for shipping hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq without the necessary permits.

Some of the weapons are believed to have ended up on the country’s black market, department officials told McClatchy Newspapers, but no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

This isn’t good, of course, but it’s also not terribly surprising. The explosive growth in the private security contracting business has left a lot of companies with more contracts than they were prepared to handle. It’s tough to say no to offers of paying work, and that’s when corners get cut.

For all the bad press Blackwater and other US contractors get, it sure seems that they’ve got the job done. I’d personally like to see a little bigger military and a little less reliance by the military on contractors, but the fact is that contractors can do a lot of the day-to-day things when the military is busy. You don’t need acts of Congress to bring in more security guards, cooks, and mechanics when the troops are busy fighting if contractors can help fill the need.

As far as things like security for the State Department and VIPs, that’s going to be contractor work all the way.

At the same time, I don’t want to minimize the issue if some of these Blackwater weapons were sold illegally:

The Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, a McClatchy newspaper, first reported that two former Blackwater employees, Kenneth Wayne Cashwell and William Ellsworth “Max” Grumiaux, had pleaded guilty to weapons charges and were cooperating with federal prosecutors in North Carolina.

What became of the weapons may never be known.

Iraq has a brisk black market for weapons. Pentagon probes have found that Defense Department-supplied weapons intended for Iraq’s security forces were diverted. The Turkish government has complained that some ended up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which Washington and Ankara consider a terrorist group.

That would be bad. (No jokes about the CIA wanting to be the ones pulling a cool profit on deals like this, either…) If it did happen, the next thing to do would be to see if this was a Blackwater operation or if it was a couple of idiots trying to profit via loopholes.

No doubt the news of this fine is going to get all the anti-“mercenary” types all hot and bothered.


  1. Murdoc,

    One thing that always is a major gripe for me is how the media handle things like this. They harp on and on like an ink-based jock itch about the “excesses” of Blackwater, or our militarym, or whomever, but they never tell the part about how we take those folks to task and prosecute them if they DO break the law.

    Like Abu Ghreib, our own military had taken action on the folks involved and had already started courts-martial proceedings and other actions long before the story broke on the cover of the NYT.

    If some folks from Blackwater broke the law(s), then by all means inv3stigate and take such actions as are warrented. However, we ought not to be tarring the whole for the actions of a very tiny minority.

  2. You’ve also got an overeager reporting mixing apples and oranges to sell a dramatic story: The McClatchy rag you quote says “Pentagon probes have found that DEFENSE DEPARTMENT-SUPPLIED WEAPONS intended for Iraq’s security forces were diverted” and then reads the sloppy reader to believe that it was Blackwater intentionally selling guns to the black market. I’m sure that–just like the military itself and most every other security contractor–Blackwater has screwed up plenty of things in the fog of Iraq. But this is typical agenda-driven schlock journalism hype and hysteria.

  3. We’re (contracters) all subject to the UCMJ now. We’ve been bluntly told if you screw up and commit any felony grade activity; expect to get appropriate unwanted attention! DDOOHH!! Can’t speak for BW, but I recently received training/prep on current import/export/tech transfer regs too.

    Good points by you folks too, there’s a big diff between willful violation and making an honest mistake, that should be differentiated between before corrective action or legal sanction is applied. Unless of course you’re into the mob lynching thing. 🙂

Comments are closed