A congressional report released Monday found that security firm Blackwater USA’s guards have been involved in 195 “escalation of force” incidents in Iraq since 2005. The company’s guards, who protect U.S. diplomats, repeatedly fired guns from moving cars in Iraq without stopping to check on casualties. In some cases, the report said, Blackwater—the firm involved in a controversial fatal shootout last month—tried to cover up incidents, and the State Department made little effort to hold the firm accountable.
Blackwater was “a polarizing force in Iraq and in Washington” long before last months shootout, which killed 10 Iraqi civilians, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). Our own military officers “resent the private fighters,” who play by more aggressive rules than our soldiers and “needlessly” alienate Iraqis.
The Blackwater shootout “has reinforced a negative image of contractors in Iraq,” said the National Defense University’s Peter McHugh in The Miami Herald (free registration), but “we still don’t know exactly what happened.” Witnesses have given conflicting reports. Maybe the media’s “rush to judgment results from recognition that this might be an opportunity to attack the president and the strategy in Iraq without attacking our military heroes.”
Blackwater has certainly received more attention from reporters than the good news in Iraq, said Pete Hegseth in National Review Online’s The Tank blog. “While the mainstream media reports on roadside bombs and missed benchmarks, American soldiers—along with Iraqi security forces—continue to make great security gains.”
The “surge” of U.S. troops is clearly working, said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. How else do you explain the fact that civilian fatalities dropped by 53 percent, from 1,975 in August to 922 in September? The bottom line is that “hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis are alive today” who would be dead if U.S. forces weren’t making progress.
OK, but progress toward what? said Barbara F. Walter in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). History tells us that civil wars almost always “drag on” for many, many years.” So “if we don't plan to stay for a very long time in Iraq, there is no added benefit in staying a few extra years.” And even then we’re not likely to see a government that ties together the country’s warring factions—most civil wars end with a “decisive” victory for one side, and resentful losers who refuse to “lay down their arms” for good.