Blackwater, our neighbor to the west

Our local peace group lobbied our Congressman to monitor the increasing number of private military contractors leeching off the war. One of them, Blackwater USA, is now running a training facility in western Jo Daviess County (part of Don Manzullo’s district). I was in that peace delegation and saw Donald’s aides get flustered like we caught them off guard.

Congressman Manzullo’s colleague, Jan Schakowsky (also from Ill.), was sponsoring a bill (HR 897 Contractor Sunshine Bill) that would simply require information for the legislators (i.e., number of dead and injured workers, the true costs, etc.). We asked Don to co-sponsor the bill. He said he knew Jan, and it seemed like he would. Well, now I learn that not only did our Congressman NOT co-sponsor, but he voted AGAINST it! Do I need it in writing?

Having private corporations take on military jobs really threatens our democracy, and increasing the military-industrial complex very simply means more war, more profit for Blackwater USA.

So Rockford Peace & Justice will host a panel on “Blackwater and Military Contractors” Monday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford. We’ll try to garner information ourselves. You can sign up for our web group at and see how successful we are.

One of the panel “informants,” Dan Kenney, is a member of the Northern IL Peace Groups Task Force on Blackwater, and has studied the impact of contractors on the U.S. military. Dan actually visited the Jo Daviess site, got a tour, and will have pictures.

This public meeting will provide an in-depth look into this secretive military force-for-hire. With video and PowerPoint, you will learn about your new neighbors. If you can’t make the meeting, then read Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Erik Prince, a wealthy religious conservative, owns this mercenary army, which is moving into JoDaviess County (Blackwater North) just outside Stockton, Ill. (this also seemed to catch the Congressman by surprise.)

Blackwater is not working for the U.S. military in Iraq, but has been paid by the U.S. State Department. They guard senior U.S. officials in Iraq, like Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, State Department officials, and more than 90 congressional delegations, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

On the morning of March 31, 2004, four men identified as civilian contractors were ambushed and killed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The Bush administration responded with a merciless revenge attack, laid siege to the city, killed hundreds of people, and displaced tens of thousands of others. This galvanized the insurgency and set the war effort back, if it wasn’t already so outrageously inept and incorrectly stupid.

There’s no accountability of the private contractors, there’s no oversight, there’s no effective laws governing their presence there. And it’s interesting that Blackwater USA and its executives are heavy funders of the campaigns of President Geoege W. Bush and his Republican allies, and these are the very individuals who have essentially created a Wild West environment in Iraq.

Just what they’ll be doing in Jo Daviess County, and how much more money they’ll cart off from the U.S. Treasurer is up for grabs. I’m sure our Congressman will pay more interest if there are brave souls who will ask him. I’m sure Blackwater USA will be “paying” Manzullo a little visit soon, and they’ll get their promises in writing.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the April 11-17, 2007, issue

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