Thursday, May 31, 2007

God, Guns and Garda World

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.

P.S.

For more on the nexus of war, business and religion I recommend Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill.

21 comments:

Red Tory said...

Wow! You just blew my mind that one. Really… I’m quite amazed. I often think there’s little that can surprise me anymore about this conflict and then… sure enough… along comes something like this. Nice digging and well put together. Excellent!

5th Estate said...

RT...

thanks!

It is an interesting confluence of "actors" isn't it?

As far as I can tell Garda isn't in the mercenary business--yet. B;ackwater certainly is (indeed it is their 20 year plan to serve as a permanent military force contractor to the US and it's "allies").

I;ve no idea what the hell FRRME thiks it's doing--some of its members may be very sincere but where does the money conefrom I wonder, and what's the return?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic.

You begin with stating that these people were captured "inside" the Green Zone. This immediately rings alarm bells - the sam bells that signal the usual round of misdirected morons pontificating about issues that you clearly know nothing about, and are actually unqualified to comment on.

The whole article smacks of of someone who reckons they have something credible to say, probably from the cosyness of an armchair, and have never stepped outside of that comfort zone to find out what goes on in the real world.

If you cannot be bothered to get your facts right at the start, why should anyone read the rest of your dirge? I suppose you think you are being clever and your opinion counts for something, but in fact you actually nailed it in your strapline - nothing but "crap".

People like you should never be listened to - you: the gutless and the boring, who feel free to pontificate, but have never been to the edge and looked over. You'd be better off if you did.

5th Estate said...

Anon...

Thanks for the correction about the Finance Ministry's location--it was an assumption on my part.

Briefly keying-off that assumption I had written a para or two about the infiltration of US trained security forces in general which I've since removed that not as a result of your comments ( I was editing whilst you were commenting) but because the infiltration issue really isn't important to the post as a whole.

If I had titled this post "The Enemy Within" and written "this is just another example of the penetration of the green zone by opponents to the US military presence, with severe ramifications for the succes of the US mission and the safety of officials and soldiers" then my erroneous claim would be relevant and everything premised would be worthless.

But this one error is not actually relevant to my post. I don't use it to make any subesequent arguement or observation. It's inclusion is irrelevant to the body of the post and your obsession over it is also irrelevant.

If you choose to be informed solely by a single leading paragraph on any subject and judge the rest accordingly then indeed, why bother reading the whole thing?(even when the article's title dosn't conform to the lede"). I guess you are content to have reality defined in tiny easily digestible morsels.
If that's the case it is no wonder you miss the thrust of my post which is that there is an interesting conflunece of religion, business and private military actions and influence at play in Iraq to varying degrees and for various reasons both plain and obscure.

It seems from one erroneous (but inconsequential and irrelevant claim by me) everything else I have written is ipso facto not true or wrong according to your argument.

From my misidentification of the location of the Iraqi Ministry of Finance you conclude that I am a participant in...

"the usual round of misdirected morons pontificating about issues that you clearly know nothing about, and are actually unqualified to comment on"...

..that I am someone who...

"reckons they have something credible to say, probably from the cosyness of an armchair, and have never stepped outside of that comfort zone to find out what goes on in the real world."

..and that you suppose I think I am...

"..being clever and your opinion counts for something, but in fact you actually nailed it in your strapline - nothing but "crap". People like you should never be listened to - you: the gutless and the boring, who feel free to pontificate, but have never been to the edge and looked over. You'd be better off if you did."

Well your latter suppostion is a bit more extensive and radical than my suppostion that the Finance Ministry was "inside the Green Zone", but as I "shouldn't be listened to" I guess there's no point in me asking you to justify or correct what you've written with supporting references beyond your own convictions, is there?

For Christ's sake, Anonymous, I'm just making observations and expressing opinions with as much reasonable substantiation as I can muster.

BTW...

"..you: the gutless and the boring, who feel free to pontificate, but have never been to the edge and looked over. You'd be better off if you did."

What's "the edge", Anonymous? Is that advice, a warning or some kind of threat? I can't tell.

You seem really exercised, as though I'm some kind of inviduous influence in the world. I'm flattered, but just like my claim that the Iraqi Finance Ministry is "inside the Green Zone" it's just not true.

But don't listen to me, I'm a misdirected unqualified crap-writing gutless boring pontificating moron.

teaghan's mom said...

it seems that this "anonymous" character, for all their blustering, is the true misdirected unqualified gutless purveyor of coprolite.

Red Tory said...

Isn't it funny that some people (Anonymous, of course) immediately react, blurting all kinds of rubbish, completely missing the point, then slink back to their comfortable retreats?

It's a reasonable assumption that the building in question was inside the "Green Zone" and I've seen nothing that would contradict that.

Parklife said...

5th.. man.. you freaked my bean..

That was awesome.

5th Estate said...

RT...

well 'anonymous' certainly didn't provide proof the Ministry ISNT inside the green zone( I guess he coudln't be bothered to get HIS facts straight) but I could hardly use that as proof it is (despite Rumsfeld's unique philosophy that the lack of evidence doesn't disprove an argument) so after some actual research I couldn't find any info either way and reversed my (irrelevant) assertion, in the interest of restoring my "credibility".

5th Estate said...

parkliife...dude!
I didn't mean to "freak your bean" I was just following a line inquiry that had some rather odd connections.

sumo said...

Screw all the Anon's of the blogosphere anyway. I hate it when cowards hide behind that moniker when they should step up to the plate and unequivocally let us know who they are. That way their words (might) hold some credibility and be paid attention to. Anon people should just drop off the edge...in my honest opinion!

Professor Zero said...

I had been wondering what those "citizens" or "civilians" were doing there, anyway. Now I know.

Anonymous said...

All you had to do was watch the news and see the maps to identify where the event occurred - or do you need to be led by the hand through everything you do? Of course, if you'd actually been to Iraq you'd have known, but like many of the spineless people who Blog shit like you on these topics, I should think you havent been anywhere near - but still feel you have a valuable opinion to offer - and that's my point.

As for anonimity - what difference does it make?! Shall I be any more conspicuous to you and your sycophantic following by calling myself Parklife, or Professor Zero, or Sumo or Red Tory?!! You are all so immediately identifiable arent you? - What a bunch of self-impotant idiots. If I wanst laughing so hard, I might just jump of that edge...

Anonymous said...

All you had to do was watch the news and see the maps to identify where the event occurred - or do you need to be led by the hand through everything you do? Of course, if you'd actually been to Iraq you'd have known, but like many of the spineless people who Blog shit like you on these topics, I should think you havent been anywhere near - but still feel you have a valuable opinion to offer - and that's my point.

As for anonimity - what difference does it make?! Shall I be any more conspicuous to you and your sycophantic following by calling myself Parklife, or Professor Zero, or Sumo or Red Tory?!! You are all so immediately identifiable arent you? - What a bunch of self-impotant idiots. If I wanst laughing so hard, I might just jump of that edge...

Carl said...

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")

Wouldn't learning a good judo chop have been a bit more useful?

(Go ahead, Blackwater, do your worst...I can outwit your security clearances anyday...)

*sniffsniff* I smell troll...

Carl said...

Anonymous said...
People like you should never be listened to - you: the gutless and the boring, who feel free to pontificate


Ooh, pot, kettle...you two should get along well...

5th Estate said...

To summarize:

Because I misidentified the location of a building my entire post about the confluence between paramilitary contractors in Iraq, unrestricted business in a war zone and the apparent partnership between the military and Christian religious elements is complete crap; ergo there are no contractors in Iraq, Blackwater and Garda are figments of my imagination. the FFRME doesn’t exist and everything I’ve written is totally invalidated.

The fact that I’ve never been to Iraq completely disqualifies me from knowing anything about it or from having an opinion or making observations. So if I expressed the opinion that being in a war zone increases one’s risk of being killed I should be completely ignored because I’ve never been in a war-and I’ve never been killed—indeed any opinion is entirely predicated on direct experience, according to anonymous.

That being the case anonymous must therefore have been to Iraq (or at least nearer to it than I have been) and knows me well enough that he can offer entirely valid opinions about my unfortunate lack of vertebrae, a condition which I can only assume anonymous also has—otherwise why would he express an opinion without the qualification of personal experience?.

But thanks to anonymous, I now realize what I must do to address my self-importance and stop writing shit I know nothing about. I must become a Baghdad taxi-driver. Only then will I be able to speak with authority about the locations of important buildings in particular and Iraq in general.

Of course it won’t be easy without my sycophantic friends—especially Professor Zero who has undoubtedly been the most sycophantic of all—but I;ve reached the conclusion that this is something I simply have to do. Sorry, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Oooh, wait a minute… I forgot! I’m totally unqualified to have an opinion! Damn!

Parklife said...

Jessh.. Anon.. wtf? How did I get dragged into this one? If you really want. I'll buy you a beer next time your in town. Yes, a cool Pabst Blue Ribbon is waiting for you. MMmm.. now that is some “Select” brewing. Just, please, stop with the Bush League sniveling and grow up. Honestly, I dont care if youre a coward.

And this nutty idea that you cant comment on Iraq unless you've been there. That sure is helping McCain right now. Next time your in Baghdad, can you pick me up a pair of those rose-colored glasses? I asked the last troll to pick some up. I guess he went to Iraq and never made it back. Must be the great summer weather they get.

"self-impotant idiots"
Do I need to comment on this? Christ, you're dumb.

Professor Zero said...

Ah literal minded Anon. - a huge point of the post was how, by simply referring to them as "citizens" and "civilians," discussion of the omnipresence of "contractors" who are really *mercenaries* is obscured.

By even saying this I am feeding you, Troll-Anon., but what can I say, I could not resist the temptation to point out poor logic.

Anonymous said...

They arent mercenaries. They are basically high profile bodyguards. A mercenary performs an offensive action against a person or group on behalf of another person or group. A BG's (a.k.a PSD or Security Contractor) role is to break contact as quickly as possible and protect the principle. Possibly there are some PMCs that are performing offensive actions against insurgents but I dont know about it. The four that were recently kidnapped were PSD not mercenaries. Just trying to make the distinction. It seems people love to say "mercenary" when they talk about PSD.

Anonymous said...

"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."
Immunity from military law, yes they are not military personnel so of course they cannot be tried in a military court. Immunity from Iraqi law, yes this was I cant remember the particulars but remember reading they cannot be charged for any crime which of course raises concerns. However, they can be charged under international law for war crimes. I have never heard of this happening but that doesnt mean it hasnt happened. Dr Eike Kluge raises this point in the movie "Shadow Company"
"(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.)"
A couple points.
First, "pretty bad in Iraq"? this is a gross understatement. This is a place where people are routinely executed, beheaded, and subjected to every kind of inhumanity imaginable. Some of the people targeted are engineers, truck drivers and anyone aprticipating in the reconstruction effort. This is viewed as "westernization" by some of the Iraqis and they have no qualms about killing those involved.
You said earlier that it wasnt in the green zone, then go on to say that having four security guards is extravagant. In the green zone it would be since his is where most of the PSD reside. But it wasnt, it is located by Baghdad International Airport which is not a safe area.

imsmall said...

WHAT OF NEWSWEEK THEN?

To read in Newsweek Eric Prince
Comes off as like a prince
Of peace--in praise the magazine
Its words does hardly mince.

Painted as a good Christian man
And blah blah blah blah blah,
But he would kill another man
To profit without awe.

So what of Newsweek then? What of
The so-called journalists
Employed there? Propaganda´s arm
The moniker resists

Of journalism--so it seems:
If info comes distorted
So blatantly, why bother read,
Why bother to report it?