Outburst by US security firm in Iraq is attacked by human rights groups
One of the biggest private security firms in Iraq has created outrage after a memo to staff claimed it is 'fun' to shoot people.
Emails seen by The Observer reveal that employees of Blackwater Security were recently sent a message stating that 'actually it is "fun" to shoot some people.'
Dated 7 March and bearing the name of Blackwater's president, Gary Jackson, the electronic newsletter adds that terrorists 'need to get creamed, and it's fun, meaning satisfying, to do the shooting of such folk.'
Human rights groups said yesterday that the comments raised fresh questions over the role of civilian contractors operating in Iraq and other world flashpoints.
'We are very concerned about the increased use of security companies, there needs to be more inspection and regulation of these companies,' said a spokesman for Amnesty International.
Blackwater has already been the subject of lobbying efforts to introduce tighter regulations on private military operations in Iraq.
It is one of the fastest growing private security firms in the world, and achieved global prominence last year when four of its men were ambushed by a crowd of Iraqis and their bodies mutilated and dragged around the Iraqi city of Falluja.
The controversial wording of the Blackwater bulletin appears to be an attempt to criticise the 'righteous outcry' that followed a recent statement from a senior US Marine general who, on returning home from Iraq, claimed it was 'fun to shoot some people'. While the views of Lieutenant-General James Mattis drew a frosty response from the Pentagon, others said his observations reflected the harsh realities of war.
Blackwater's entry to the debate appears to suggest that satisfaction can be drawn from combat if 'the bad guys' get what they deserve.
'All of us who have ever waited through an hour and a half movie, or read some 300 pages of a thriller, to the point when the bad guys finally get their comeuppance know this perfectly well,' says the opening address of the six-page bulletin, which The Observer believes to be authentic.
Called Blackwater Tactical Weekly, the newsletter was sent to environmental activist Frank Hewetson as well as the firm's staff. Last year Hewetson was offered a job by Blackwater with a salary of up to £85,000 plus health benefits to work with its 'military crisis operations support team.' Although he declined, Hewetson remains on the firm's database.
The 7 March bulletin also features a plug for Blackwater's training academy which offers potential recruits an eight-week course that includes training in various firearms, close quarter protection, physical security as well as 'ground fighting.'
Among its various roles in post-war Iraq, Blackwater has guarded provincial outposts for the Iraqi coalition provisional authority and had the contract to keep former chief US envoy Paul Bremer alive.
The company has been praised for its role in the rescue of a wounded soldier in Najaf. Defence experts have described Blackwater as a major player in the field of private arms with an important role to play in aiding American security in the war on terror.
Other Blackwater emails seen by The Observer, from last year, indicate the large market for civilian contractors in war zones. 'We will probably require at least 3000-4000 professionals above and beyond what we have in the Blackwater employment and resource system,' states one.
There are thought to be as many as 20,000 private enterprise soldiers in Iraq, with the US military an advocate of their use. This system allows governments to save money on paying permanent soldiers, and offers the political bonus that it is unlikely to attract as much media attention as conventional troops.
The Observer made numerous attempts to contact Blackwater's head office in North Carolina, but no calls were returned. There is, however, no evidence that company staff have ever shot people for fun.
The firm is understood to have disciplined and well-trained recruits. A number are thought to be elite soldiers who have retired from military special-operations units. Blackwater also offers extensive psychological counselling programmes to combat potentially traumatic battlefield stress.
Mark Townsend Sunday April 3, 2005
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005