Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Need to hire some security in a war zone? Call Blackwater Xe.

The scandal-ridden security firm Blackwater USA is officially changing its name effective immediately as the company moves to rebrand itself after being fired last month by the State Department from its job protecting diplomats in Iraq.

The company will now be known as Xe and hopes to be a “one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics”, according to a memo sent by company president Gary Jackson to employees today.

The division that handles the diplomatic protection services will now be known as U.S. Training Center, Inc., but now its primary focus will be operating training facilities, including the flagship campus in North Carolina, according to Jackson. It was that very division that handled Blackwater’s overseas operations, which also faced the most criticism.

Blackwater has been the target of at least four grand jury investigations and accusations of tax fraud, improper use of force, arms trafficking and overbilling. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.

The firm is best known for its automatic weapon-brandishing diplomatic protection force in Iraq. Officials there recently refused to license Blackwater to operate in Iraq citing lingering outrage over the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 civilians by Blackwater guards.

Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. No charges were brought against the corporation.

As if the name itself were the problem. If they don’t sort through their domestic and international legal messes and take proactive steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, the name change will mean nothing. At the very minimum, heads need to roll and people need to be held accountable if the company wants to save face and start fresh.

A classic example of this that I found during the two years that I went to school there was South Central Los Angeles, the area where USC is located. After the 1992 riots, the area was renamed South Los Angeles, because they felt that there was too much of a stigma associated with South Central. The same underlying problems caused by gangs, poverty, drugs and crime are still there. It’s not a war zone by any stretch of the imagination, but the area didn’t turn into Bel Air just because of the name change.

John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden get calls from Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice about the ongoing Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) being discussed with the Iraqi government because of their respective roles on the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. Sarah Palin… not so much.

According to the State Department, Palin is a governor with no relevant jurisdiction or oversight of the State Department or Department of Defense, but as this briefing shows, some people aren’t going to be able to help but interpret it as a snub of the Republican vice presidential candidate. From Friday’s daily State Department briefing:

QUESTION: You called Senator Biden, you called McCain, you called —

MR. MCCORMACK: Chairman Biden, I guess I should have said.

QUESTION: Yeah. Did you also call Governor Palin?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. She – if you hadn’t noticed, she’s a governor, not a senator or congressman.

QUESTION: She’s a vice presidential candidate.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: She also has extensive foreign affairs experience. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I explained to you the reasoning behind the phone calls.

QUESTION: Anything that has to do with Russia, you would have called her?

Regardless of the substantive issue of whether or not a governor has jurisdiction of foreign policy, as vice presidential candidate, she or any other candidate – regardless of gender or political affiliation – are entitled to get a briefing or courtesy call on this subject so they can be informed as candidates. If she is entitled to receive classified intelligence briefings from the DNI, I see no reason why she shouldn’t be filled in on SOFA.