The CEO of Blackwater, a thirty eight year old former Navy Seal cum private security company Yuppie with a young Oliver North face and a great Hollywood name, Erik Prince, testified before a house panel looking into his company's alleged abuses coverups and crimes in Iraq today and essentially denied everything. His company "fires," "fines" and keeps its contract, he said. It disciplines irresponsible employees and is not really responsible for their acts.
It doesn't cover up crimes, get criminals out of the country, (all of that is false information) but works for the common good. Representative Henry Waxman of California, Progressive Democrat, and chair of the invstigating panel, mentioned that the State Department's deal with Blackwater was obviously working out very well for Blackwater, (which has received in excess of 800 million over the last few years) but Congress was questioning its value for the American taxpayer.
Other Democrats pointed to the evidence of reckless unprovoked shootings, cover ups, but the CEO kept on message, called all the information inaccurate and, as if imbued with the spirit of the the late Tricky Dick Nixon, "stonewalled" it.
But he wasn't doing too well. Dan Burton, right-wing Republican from Indiana (those with decent attention spans will remember that he was one of the leaders of the Clinton impeachment in the House even though a tawdry sex scandal was discovered about him as the farce went on) warned the other committee members not to make up their minds too soon before all the facts are in. He had no quarrel with the investigation, Burton went on to say, but everything would be "thoroughly investigated in Iraq by Iraqies and American officials" (for someone who refused to believe that either Bill Clinton had not had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky or that his own indiscretions in that area were anyting but minor and insignificant nearly a decade ago, Burton has become conveniently gullible today).
If a fare right Republican like Burton is in that kind of retreat and a CEO who is a former Navy Seal with an Oliver North face and a general Hollywood look can't pull an Oliver North before a congressional Ccmmittee and even pretend to get away with it, things are continuing to go from bad to worse for the Bush administration.
Meanwhile, Condi Rice, realizing that the State Department is heavily implicated in all of this (my view anyway) is calling for a "probing, comprehensive unvarnished investigation" of security contractors work
with the State Department in the Iraq-Afghanistan war zones (this reminds me of Louis, the Vichy Police Prefect in the classic film Casablanca announcing that he is shocked, shocked, that gambling was going on in Rick's Cafe while he has his winnings picked up.)
But the "unvarnished" investigation quickly took on a coating when Richard Griffin, an Assistant Secretary of State denied Waxman's specific charges that the State Department had worked to cover up up a Blackwater guard"s violent crime and ,when asked if that guard was being prosecuted, had the effrontery to reply that this was a matter for the Justice Department since "they are the prosecutors." For the State Department and Bush administration, "staying the course" and "passing the buck" appear to be one and the same.
Finally, there is some good news. The Senate voted 92-3 to establish an Independent Commission to investigate private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means that even most of the ultra-right Republicans realize that the scandal is so great and the corruption and crime so huge that they are jumping ship. But the Bush administration is threatening vetoes (which if such a vote holds would be easily over-ridden) because of the expansion of federal hate crimes legislation involved. (I guess the Bush administration fears the dangerous precedent of adding punishments for racist comments and other racist activities connected to violent crimes committed against foreigners by U.S. citizens in occupied countries, either in recruiting the individuals who will do such things without compunction or perhaps in the possible domino effect of such legislation on U.S. state and local hate crime precedents, which right-wing Republicans have traditionally either opposed or sought to ignore and table in legislatures.)
Even though it would be difficult to make all of this up if it were not happening, the investigation appears to be going well and deserves to be supported by all progressives as one facet of the interconnected campaign to end the four year U.S. occupation of Iraq and the seven year Bush administration right-wing Republican occupation of the United States.