Thursday, November 12, 2009

Channel Xe

This seems ... stupid: Blackwater said To Approve $ 1 Million In Iraqi Bribes After 17 Deaths
Top executives at Blackwater Worldwideauthorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Four former executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then Blackwater’s president, had approved the bribes and that the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where the company maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.

If true (and company executives like Cofer Black resigned in protest when they learned of the scheme), this was a mounmentally dumb move. Then again, when you've already acquired a reputation as a "cowboy" outfit, and then kill 17 people in a wild downtown shoot-out, I guess trying to bribe your way out of trouble doesn't seem like a bridge too far. It is the Middle East, after all. When you are trying to do something like, say, get an American citizen out of a Yemeni jail (don't ask), it's funny how quickly the conversation turns to, "Hey, is there anyone we can pay to make some headway?"

By the way, NY Times, Blackwater changed its name to Xe quite a while ago. Is stubbornly calling it "Blackwater" some sort of Burma/Myanmar thing?

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