Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Blackwater, USA Case Goes to Arbitration

In January of 2005, a wrongful death and fraud suit was filed against Blackwater Security Consulting. As you know, Blackwater, USA is a training camp for mercenaries based in North Carolina. It is run by religious zealot Erik Prince. The Prince family has funded all of religious-fanatic James Dobson’s enterprises and ministries. Blackwater, USA cleared ground for its training camp in 1997. Blackwater Security Consulting was formed in 2002. BSC is one of the private contracting firms paid by the US State Department to provide security personnel for officials and their installations in Iraq. BSC also has been training Iraq’s army and police force and it provides “other support for occupation forces”. (Read, BSC provides the mercenaries for the United States’ shadow army in Iraq.) The wrongful death lawsuit came about because of the grisly deaths of four Blackwater Security Consulting contractors who were shot in March 2004 by Iraqi insurgents. Their bodies were burned and the charred remains hung from a bridge across the Euphrates River in Falluja. The insurgents televised the scene and gleefully shook their fists. The lawsuit was brought by the families of the four civilian contractors. All Blackwater contracts are explicit. They release the Blackwater companies from "any liability whatsoever" even if it is "the result of negligence, gross negligence, omissions or failure to guard or warn against dangerous conditions." Former Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, Paul Bremer, issued Order No. 17 as his last act before fleeing Iraq as though his pants were on fire. It grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq’s laws. Blackwater, USA contractors cannot be prosecuted by the Iraqis for their acts of mayhem and malfeasance. And Blackwater, USA contracts release Blackwater, USA from any liability whatsoever regarding their mercenaries. Blackwater has almost perfect protection against liability. Except, the families of the murdered contractors decided to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged: “Blackwater broke explicit terms of its contract with the men by sending them to escort a food convoy in unarmored cars, without heavy machine guns, proper briefings, advance notice or pre-mission reconnaissance, in teams that were understaffed and lacked even a map.” The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court and it looked as though Blackwater, USA might, in fact, be handed a well-deserved comeuppance. The lawsuit was so important to Blackwater that it hired Kenneth Starr (the prosecutor who pursued a vendetta against President Clinton) to argue its side before the Supremes. Last February the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. That allowed the lawsuit to proceed to state court. On May 11th, the Senior US District (North Carolina) Judge James Fox issued an order that the parties to the lawsuit had to take the dispute to arbitration. The three-member arbitration panel is anything but objective. One of the members is former FBI and CIA director William Webster, who has personal and business ties to several Blackwater lawyers including Starr. The arbitration hearings began on May 25th. A retired Special Forces lawyer and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio said, "This is a very important decision...It is a recognition that the contract is iron-clad and that its terms absolve the company of liability. In future cases, this will be cited as a precedent." Blackwater, USA has moved a legal showdown out of the courts and into the non-judicial area of arbitration where everything takes place behind closed doors and the outcome is confidential. This is clearly a big win for the rightwing religious zealots in the Republican Party and for the fascists in the White House.


Richard said...

Now we can expect jackboot activity globally as sold out governments
bow to this months flavor of gunboat deplomacy? Quoting Henry C.K.Liu:
"Market capitalism has made drastic errors that have impoverished billions of people around the world and stunted their growth for centuries for the benefit of a select few. Yet proponents of capitalism manage to accentuate the positives to adjust its flaws and shortcomings to perpetuate an economic system based on individual greed and exploitation of others."

Perhaps the political leadership view this as another Hobbesian choice. Oh, I forgot. Arbitration is the only choice.

Barry Schwartz said...

I do take heart in the fact that Weimar Germany was a much more violent place than the US today, and that Hitler was the sort who volunteered for service, showed up for duty, and excelled as a soldier, entirely unlike the make-believe heros we have here. I think our situation in terms of its fascism is much less dangerous than Germany's was.