Thursday, August 28, 2008
Waxman’s call comes as newly revealed federal documents obtained by USA Today show US spending on armed private contractors like Blackwater is on the rise. This year alone, the US State Department will spend more than a billon dollars on armed contractors. That’s a 13 percent increase from 2007. A State Department official revealed contractors “will increasingly take over…former military roles and missions, increasing [the] numbers of private security.”
As Barack Obama prepares to make the war in Iraq a centerpiece of his campaign against John McCain, serious questions remain about what Obama will do with this massive private shadow army in Iraq. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill filed this report.
JEREMY SCAHILL: When you talk to people here at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, it’s taken as a fait accompli that, if elected president, Senator Barack Obama is going to end the Iraq war swiftly.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I’ve been against it 2002, 2003, 2004, ’5, ’6, ’7, ’8, and I will bring this war to an end in 2009, so don’t be confused.
JEREMY SCAHILL: But it’s not hard to be confused by Senator Obama’s statements on Iraq. Cut through the fiery rhetoric, and the devil is in the details. While Obama’s plan starkly differs from that of his rival, John McCain, Obama’s Iraq policy in reality is one of downsizing and rebranding the occupation, not entirely ending it.
One aspect of Obama’s Iraq plan that has received little corporate media attention is what he plans to do with for-profit war corporations, particularly mercenary companies like Blackwater. While Obama has consistently been very critical of these companies, calling them unaccountable, above the law, and a danger to US troops and Iraqi civilians, his own Iraq plan will necessitate using them in Iraq. Indeed, one of Obama’s senior foreign policy advisers told me earlier this year that Obama, quote, “cannot and will not rule out using these companies.”
Obama representatives say he will not sign onto legislation sponsored by Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders to ban the use of Blackwater and other armed contractors in US war zones. Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, has not signed onto the legislation either. Instead, Obama has sponsored his own legislation that seeks to regulate the industry and hold contractors accountable under US law.
He articulated his position in a brief interview with Democracy Now! in March.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Here’s the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops. So what I want to do is draw—I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops. Alright? I mean, I—
AMY GOODMAN: Not a ban?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I don’t want to replace those contractors with more US troops, because we don’t have them, alright?
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