Blackwater defense overlooks the obvious

NY Times:

Blackwater Worldwide, its reputation in tatters and its lucrative government contracts in jeopardy, is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike.

It has hired a bipartisan stable of big-name Washington lawyers, lobbyists and press advisers, including the public relations powerhouse Burson-Marsteller, which was brought in briefly, but at a critical moment, to help Blackwater’s chairman, Erik D. Prince, prepare for his first Congressional hearing.

Blackwater for a time retained Kenneth D. Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel, and Fred F. Fielding, who is now the White House counsel, to help handle suits filed by the families of slain Blackwater employees.

Another outside public relations specialist, Mark Corallo, former chief spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft, quit working for Blackwater late last year because he said he was uncomfortable with what he termed some executives’ cowboy mentality.

Blackwater is pursuing a bold legal strategy, going so far in a North Carolina case as to seek a gag order on the lawyers for the families of four Blackwater employees killed in an ambush in Falluja in 2004. The company argues that the dead men had signed contracts that prohibited them from talking to the press about Blackwater and that this restriction extended to their lawyers and their estates even after death.


Anne E. Tyrrell, the company’s chief spokeswoman (and the daughter of R. Emmett Tyrrell, the longtime editor of the conservative magazine American Spectator), said that Blackwater was more comfortable operating in the shadows, but that it decided that it had to strike back publicly. She said, however, that she was not sure that the blitz was succeeding.

“It’s not as if we woke up one day and said it’s time to get out there,” she said. “We were put there. But there’s only so much you can do in one month, as opposed to 10 years of largely remaining silent.”

“There’s still a lot of misinformation out there,” she added, “but I think we have taken positive steps toward correcting the record.”


The article goes on to describe all the high priced legal and lobby talent the company has hired, but no where is an obvious defense to the shooting in Baghdad that caused most of the furor appear. I will give it to them for free here. If Blackwater is to do its job of protecting its clients it has to deal with an enemy that camouflages himself as a civilian and uses human shields. Both of those enemy activities are war crimes that put civilians in jeopardy when troops or Blackwater has to respond to an attack. When an attack occurs the time necessary to determine who is the enemy and who is a shield is seconds and a failure to respond could be deadly for the people they are protecting. From experience we know that the attacks by the enemy in Iraq follow a pattern. When an IED explodes that is a triggering event not the end of the attack. It is common for the enemy to attack those responding to the first attack. It is also common for the enemy to fire on its targets from a crowd.

The bottom line is that when civilians and noncombatants get killed when Blackwater is attacked it is because of the enemy war crimes. If the enemy wore identifying uniforms, the Blackwater personnel would obviously concentrate their fire on people in enemy uniforms. Far fewer civilians would be injured. Henry Waxman seems oblivious to this realty of the face of battle in Iraq. Fortunately for the Marines at Haditha, the hearing officers looking at their case have a better understanding of battle conditions in Iraq. Blackwater could do a service for itself and the troops if it educated the media and the Congress on these facts.


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