National Commentary

No Billion Dollar Contract for Blackwater

I am profoundly concerned about recent news that Xe Services – formerly known as Blackwater – is being considered for a new U.S. government contract worth as much as $1 billion for the training of the Afghan National Police (ANP).

Given this company’s track record, which includes the killing of innocent men, women and children, it would be disastrous to award such a large contract to Blackwater/Xe Services. To do so would undermine the hard work of our military and diplomatic corps and could be used as a propaganda tool by our enemies.

Blackwater/Xe Services has a long history of excessive use of force against civilians. According to incident reports obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, between 2005 and 2007 the company was involved in 163 “escalation of force” incidents in which its forces fired first. Not to mention that the company’s employees continue to face allegations of wrongdoing, including other forms of criminal activity such as fraud and weapons trafficking.

The Department of Justice has announced that it will continue to prosecute five Blackwater/Xe Services guards accused of shooting seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. It has also recently been reported that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Blackwater attempted to bribe Iraqi officials in the wake of the Nisour Square shooting. Given these ongoing probes into Blackwater/Xe Service’s past performance, it’s simply unconscionable that the Department of Defense would consider the company for such an important role as training the ANP.

Blackwater/Xe Services’ long pattern of irresponsible behavior has resulted in civilian deaths and has jeopardized our mission and the safety of U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel worldwide. The Iraqi government has not only refused the company an operating license, but in early February 2010, it also took the extraordinary step of ordering 250 current or former employees of the company out of the country. No company that provokes such animosity from host nations should represent the United States in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. It is time for the U.S. government to turn its back on the company formerly known as Blackwater and put the success of our men and women serving in Afghanistan front and center.

Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.