NOTE: I've edited this from yesterday's original--removed some unneccessary whining about the press and tightened things up a bit.
A couple of days ago dozens of men in new Iraqi police uniforms walked into the Finance Ministry in the Green Zone (Correction: The Ministry is NOT in the Green Zone) , walked out with five Britons and drove off in their new police SUV’s without any interference.
Much of the press coverage (mostly from AP and Reuters) reads like this…
“Hundreds of Iraqi and U.S. troops cordoned off sections of Baghdad's Sadr City slum early Wednesday and conducted a series of raids in an apparent effort to find five British citizens” (emphasis added).
This terminology reminded me of the original reporting of the four Blackwater "contractors" who were ambushed. mutilated and strung up on a bridge in Fallujah 3 years ago.
"U.S. officials said the civilians were killed in a grenade attack by suspected insurgents.." (CNN May 6 2004)
It eventually transpired that the "civilians" weren't hired for their truck-driving skills--they were actually ex-US military providing armed escort with licence to kill and total immunity from military, national and international law--hardly the definition of a "civilian" by anyone's standards.
So as the press is once again demonstrating a complete lack of curiosity I thought I'd dig a little deeper.
You’ll note from the press reports that the abductees are being generally referred to as “citizens”. In one or two instances it has been noted that 4 of the 5 were “security guards” working for an outfit called GardaWorld.
(Now I know things are pretty bad in Iraq, but to have four security guards protecting one individual inside the Green Zone? Is that extravagant, or sensible? In this instance apparently it’s neither.)
GardaWorld is the “Global Risk Security Group” of Garda World Security Corporation which, judging by its company literature is pretty impressed with itself and insists we should be impressed too.
It is one of many “security “ firms operating in Iraq, like the US-based Blackwater, Titan, CACI, ESS, Triple Canopy, Fluor. the UK–based Aegis and others.
Garda however is Canadian which is interesting because the Canadian government stayed out of the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq, as did Chile--which I mention because Blackwater has employed a couple of hundred Chileans in Iraq following which Chile passed a law making it illegal for ex-military to participate in conflicts without government sanction.
Canada apparently has no such law and it is unlikely the current PM and Bush admirer Stephen Harper would sign such a thing willingly.
(RedTory's post Canada's 'Global Risk' Mercenaries has more background on Garda and some salient questions)
There are some significant differences between Garda and Blackwater, but some notable similarities too.
Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, a Navy SEAL who interestingly was also heir to an auto-accessory manufacturing fortune. Prince leveraged his wealthy family’s political contacts as well as his own military connections to establish a private paramilitary training facility in North Carolina in 1997.
Garda started out in 1995 as a general security firm providing cash-handling and office security and expanded into investigations and risk-management.
Blackwater (whose "vision" is to "support security, peace, freedom, and democracy everywhere") has become the largest and best-equipped mercenary force in the world thanks to the privatizing, militaristic Bush administration.
Garda meanwhile, dominated by sales and marketing entrepreneurs, expanded more through ordinary commercial acquisitions but just lately acquired Kroll Security International and thus a significant entry into the lucrative personal security business thriving in Iraq.
Aside from the cash-cow that is Iraq, there’s one other thing that these two companies share—a religious element.
Blackwater is infused with conservative religious purpose (neatly summed by founder Erik Prince's blurb of a book called "Christian Fatherhood: The Eight Commitment's of St. Joseph's Convenant Keepers" which he said "provides men with the basic training they need to complete their mission") . And Garda seems to have a religious connection of its own; on its website it proudly states that it is “the recipient of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) 2007 Prize for Peace in the Middle East.”
The FRRME is chaired by Lord Carey a former Archbishop of Canterbury and compared to US religious poobahs, Carey is practically the antichrist—he allowed women to be ordained in the Anglican church, prefers talking to Muslims instead of bombing them and though he thinks homosexuality is a sin he seems to have no problem with gay civil unions (but “marriage” is verboten).
Now this “Peace Prize” wasn’t presented in a church or the FRRME’s UK headquarters or Garda’s HQ in Montreal--it was presented in a ceremony in the Pentagon!
“GardaWorld has provided an outstanding service to every aspect of our work in Iraq and in reality is the biggest contributor to our efforts of peace-making.” (said the President of FRRME Rev. Canon Andrew White).
The FRRME’s mission apparently is to expunge religious violence and intolerance--so they pal-around with the Bush administration and his Christian soldiers in the military? Well good luck with that whole combating religious violence and intolerance thing!
I call bullshit on that—they’re just profiting off the Iraq like everyone else. Where do they get the money to hire their security in Baghdad? (yes, they are there in the Green Zone being protected by private guards and the US military—not by God!)
So why should the US risk its soldiers to recover a handful of abducted British citizens provided by a Canadian company doing business in the middle of a warzone?
Because the US government is in the corporate religious war business now and it needs to look after its own—not its own citizens or citizen soldiers, but the contractors and middlemen that keep the business going.
For more on the nexus of war, business and religion I recommend Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill.