Blackwater Strikes Back
From tomorrow’s WaPo: Private Guards Repel Attack on U.S. Headquarters
An attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia members on the U.S. government’s headquarters in Najaf on Sunday was repulsed not by the U.S. military, but by eight commandos from a private security firm, according to sources familiar with the incident.
Before U.S. reinforcements could arrive, the firm, Blackwater Security Consulting, sent in its own helicopters amid an intense firefight to resupply its commandos with ammunition and to ferry out a wounded Marine, the sources said.
The role of Blackwater’s commandos in Sunday’s fighting in Najaf illuminates the gray zone between their formal role as bodyguards and the realities of operating in an active war zone. Thousands of armed private security contractors are operating in Iraq in a wide variety of missions and exchanging fire with Iraqis every day, according to informal after-action reports from several companies.
In Sunday’s fighting, Shiite militia forces barraged the Blackwater commandos, four MPs and a Marine gunner with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 fire for hours before U.S. Special Forces troops arrived. A sniper on a nearby roof apparently wounded three men. U.S. troops faced heavy fighting in several Iraqi cities that day.
Given that their own were brutalized recently, there is some justice in this. Still, it belies the notion that these men are there merely as some sort of security guards. They’re every bit as much combatants as our “advisors” in Vietnam forty years ago. I’m glad that they were there in this instance. But I’d sure feel better if we were using soldiers subject to the UCMJ and the laws of war than private contractors.