Thursday, 25 February 2010

Senator Levin trashes the Blackwater morons

If you would like to get an idea of the level of skill, professionalism and regard for human rights exhibited by Blackwater/Xe/Paravant - whatever you want to call the company - then I suggest you read Senator Carl Levin's opening remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.
Senator Levin notes that Paravant, (simply another name for Blackwater) gained its one and only contract in Afghanistan in 2008 when it entered into a subcontract with Raytheon Technical Services Company to perform weapons training for the Afghan National Army.
The immediate cause of the Senate committee hearings was an event that took place on 5 May 2009, when Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff, two men working for Paravant in Afghanistan, fired their weapons, killing two Afghan civilians and injuring a third.
Levin said: "In reviewing the Army’s investigation of the incident, then-CSTC-A Commanding General Richard Formica said that it appeared that the contractor personnel involved had “violated alcohol consumption policies, were not authorized to possess weapons, violated use of force rules, and violated movement control policies.”
According to the Department of Justice prosecutors, the 5 May 2009 shooting “caused diplomatic difficulties for United States State Department representatives in Afghanistan” and impacted “the national security interests of the United States.” According to one media report, the shooting “turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence” and quoted a local elder as saying, “if they keep killing civilians, I’m sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents.” On 6 January 2010, Cannon and Drotleff were indicted on firearm and homicide charges for their involvement in the May shooting and they are now awaiting trial.
But that is not the half of it.
Months before that event, on 9 December 2008, another event involving Paravant personnel took place which should have rung alarm bells. Let's quote Levin again:
"Paravant Program Manager Johnnie Walker told Committee staff that on December 9, 2008, the Paravant training team working at Camp Darulaman decided that it was “going to learn how to shoot” from a vehicle when, in what Walker described as a “wild idea,” the training team leader decided to get on the back of a moving car with a loaded AK-47 and “ride it like a stagecoach.” The vehicle subsequently hit a bump, causing the team leader’s AK-47 to discharge, seriously injuring one of the Paravant trainers on his team. The reckless disregard for weapons safety is particularly striking given that he and his team were hired for the specific purpose of teaching the Afghan National Army how to safely use their weapons."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Read this article if you want to know what military contractors are doing in our name in Afghanistan. Don't kid yourself for a moment that Afghans differentiate between disciplined regular soldiers and these morons. They don't.
Incidentally, here's some background on Drotleff and Cannon. A court order directing that Drotleff be detained during trial concluded that his military record, prior to joining Paravant was “abysmal.” It apparently included assault, insubordinate conduct, absence without leave, failure to obey order or regulation, larceny and wrongful appropriation.
Drotleff’s criminal record after his discharge from the military included convictions for reckless driving, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and trespassing. In ordering that Drotleff be detained during his ongoing trial, the court explicitly referenced his “extensive criminal history” and “propensity for violence.”
Levin also noted that public reports reveal red flags in the military record of Paravant contractor Justin Cannon. In January this year an AP report noted that Cannon was discharged from the U.S. military after he was absent without leave for 22 days and tested positive for cocaine. While the proposal for the Paravant contract – which was signed by Vice President for Contracts and Compliance Mr. Fred Roitz – stated that the company maintained a copy of the military service records of each of its independent contractors, the company informed the Committee that it does not have those records for Cannon or Drotleff in their files.

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