A close examination of the circumstances surrounding the March 31, 2004 attack on four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah raises "serious questions about the consequences of engaging private, for-profit entities to engage in essentially military operations in a war zone," according to a report released Thursday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The consequences suggested by a study of the Blackwater Fallujah incident are the tragedies that tend to result when a for-profit entity cuts corners in order to maximize profit potential.
The committee undertook an investigation of the incident after holding hearings on contractor accountability in February 2007, at which Blackwater's general counsel testified that the vehicles involved had an “appropriate” amount of protection and that the level of staffing was “the norm” given “the threat as it was known on the ground in Iraq.”
The committee report discusses Blackwater's attempts to obstruct the oversight inquiry, even reporting that the company had to be threatened with contempt of Congress before it produced some key subpoenaed documents.
The report's negative conclusions suggest the company had reasonable fears in attempting to block any deeper look into the precipitating events and company conduct related to that tragedy.
* At the time of the Fallujah incident, Blackwater was taking over operations from a British security company, Control Risks Group. The project manager for the British company states that Blackwater "did not use the opportunity to learn from the experience gained by CRG on this operation, ... leading to inadequate preparation for taking on this task." The company's incident report states that Blackwater was informed that Control Risks Group twice rejected the mission because of unacceptable security risks, reporting: "Blackwater were informed that we had turned this task down and the reasons why were given."
* Prior to the Blackwater team's departure, two of the six members of the team were cut from the mission, depriving both security vehicles of a rear gunner. These personnel were removed from the mission to perform administrative duties at the Blackwater operations center.
* Blackwater had a contract dispute with a Kuwaiti company, Regency Hotel & Hospitality, over the acquisition of armored vehicles for the Blackwater team. Blackwater officials instructed its employees to "string these guys along and run this ... thing into the ground" because "if we stalled long enough they (Regency) would have no choice but to buy us armored cars, or they would default on the contract," in which case the contractor who hired Regency "might go directly to Blackwater for security." According to a Blackwater employee, Blackwater's contract "paid for armor vehicles," but "management in North Carolina made the decision to go with soft skin due to the cost."
* One day before the Fallujah attack, Blackwater's operations manager in Baghdad sent an urgent e-mail to Blackwater headquarters in North Carolina with the subject line "Ground Truth." The e-mail stated: "I need new vehicles. I need new COMs, I need ammo, I need Glocks and M4s. ... I've requested hard cars from the beginning. ... Ground truth is appalling."
* Because they were without maps and the mission had not been sufficiently planned, the Blackwater personnel arrived at the wrong military base the day before the attack, where they were forced to spend the night. A witness at the military base assessed that "the mission that they were on was hurriedly put together and that they were not prepared."
PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN IRAQ: AN EXAMINATION OF BLACKWATER’S ACTIONS IN FALLUJAH oversightbwfallujah.pdf