Anyone who knows me knows I have an interest in mercenary, sorry, private security companies like Blackwater and Dyncorp. And by interest I mean loathing of. It is not so much that I loathe what these companies stand for…war profiteering, sanctioned murder, worship of the all mighty dollar…but what they are allowed to get away with. Blackwater and others were allowed to operate with impunity in Iraq, and this led to unneccesarry deaths and fights. They are still under investigation for incidents that happened in 2006 and 2007, and to my knowlegde they are still operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with impunity.
I know there was a movement sometime last year and earlier this year to change that, but I do not think it went anywhere. This is scary because these men can effectively commit murder in the name of helping out the United States’ efforts in their area of deployment, and not be held accountable. They have a license to kill, and if they no longer have that in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are about to get it again in Somalia.
Piracy has increased in Somalia, and NATO, which is sending a flotilla of 25 ships to patrol the region, needs help. Who do they turn to? Well, Blackwater, and others, of course. And again, there is no clear regulation covering these mercenaries, and exactly what kind of mandate they will have. Will they be able to fire upon any ship they suspect of piracy? Will they be able to fire upon, without fear of reprisal or leagal action against them, anyone they perceive as a threat? That could be quite a lot of folks as Africa, and Somalia especially are not known for their stability.
Right now the UN and NATO are contemplating what kind of rules and guidelines will be established for the companies, but who knows how long that will take? In the meantime, pirates continue to roam the region, attacking ships and taking hostages. There is no doubt that something needs to be done about them, and NATO and the Somali government (such as it is) have welcomed the mercenaries’ prescence, but I also think that it is important that these men know what they can and can’t do, especially after the fiascos in Iraq involving Blackwater and others.
For Somalia, Blackwater plans to bring a ship that is outfitted with helicopters and armed guards to patrol an area hard hit by pirates. I wonder of the ship will be armed (probably), and the helicopters too (count on it). This of course will lead to violence toward the pirates–not that they don’t deserve it–but there is also the fear that the pirates will respond to the new threat by obtaining more weaponry. This is not something that should be encouraged, but it makes sense. After all, if you have a stick, and the other guy has a sword, you are going to go out and get a sword, or something better, like an RPG.
If it were not so easy to get weapons in Africa, then maybe this would not be much of an issue, but the sad fact of the matter is that Africa has been plagued by violence and is full of armed warlords. If even one of these decides to join the pirates and fight the new NATO and mercenary prescence things could get ugly real fast. Or at least, uglier than they are now, and that is something I wouldn’t think possible. But then, I’m just naive like that.
I just read that on Thursday, Congress was supposed to have a hearing concerning the exact matter of Blackwater and others operating in Iraq, but since that is the newest news item I’ve been able to find, it is pretty clear that not much came from it. I will keep looking and keep you posted.