LAST Monday, three former employees of Blackwater, the notorious US military contractor, were sentenced to thirty years in jail for carrying out a massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007.
They had been found guilty at a trial last year on 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.
A fourth was sentenced to life imprisonment. He had been found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder.
What became known as the Nisour Square massacre occurred in September 2007 during the height of US imperialism’s occupation of Iraq when a heavily armoured US convoy guarded by members of Blackwater drove through Baghdad.
When the convoy reached the busy road junction at Nisour Square, the Blackwater team, called ‘Raven 23’, decided to clear a path by the simple expedient of opening fire into the crowd and cars blocking their way, using machine guns, grenade launchers and sniper fire.
This murderous attack on completely unarmed Iraqi civilians left 14 dead and at least 17 wounded.
Despite the men claiming they had come under fire, no evidence was ever produced to back up that claim, no ‘insurgent’ bullet holes in the armoured car were found, while numerous eyewitnesses, including serving US military personnel, testified that it was a completely unprovoked massacre of innocents, including women and children.
So overwhelming was the evidence that even the US attorney’s office issued a statement saying:
‘In killing and maiming unarmed civilians, these defendants acted unreasonably and without justification.
‘In combination, the sheer amount of unnecessary human loss and suffering attributable to the defendants’ criminal conduct on September 16, 2007, is staggering.’
While the US government was forced to admit to the court that: ‘None of the victims was an insurgent, or posed any threat to the Raven 23 convoy.’
US officials have not always been so critical of the activities of Blackwater and the other private ‘security’ firms that they have extensively employed in every one of their imperialist wars and occupations from Iraq to Afghanistan and, as we shall see, far beyond.
Before the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater mercenaries had been the subject of complaints ranging from running cars off the road, shooting indiscriminately in the streets and of killing civilians – charges that were ignored by the US and the puppet Iraqi government.
So embedded was Blackwater in the US administration of George Bush that it was considered untouchable and beyond any inconvenient laws both domestic and international, such as the Geneva convention.
This was demonstrated just a few weeks before the massacre when officials from the State Department went to Iraq to investigate claims of misconduct against Blackwater.
This investigation was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager in Iraq issued a threat: ‘that he could kill’ the government’s chief investigator and ‘no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq’.
US embassy officials then ordered the investigators out of the country as they risked upsetting the relationship with Blackwater, which had a $1.5 billion contract to guard American diplomats.
In the words of the investigator involved: ‘The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves.’
Blackwater was in charge. They felt, with justification, that the US government relied on them.
The idea that the US military, which boasts of its overwhelming might, the CIA and the US government need the ‘protection’ of private security firms is unbelievable.
The attraction of mercenary outfits like Blackwater for US imperialism is that it can ‘outsource’ its dirty wars and campaigns of assassination and murder to private contractors operating outside of any restrictions placed on the official military – not that this stops the military from behaving in exactly the same way when required but it does provide a useful layer of ‘deniability’.
When, as in the case of the Nisour Square massacre, the activities of these private armies cannot be swept under the carpet or threatened out of existence then it becomes simply a matter of cancelling the contract.
For Blackwater, and its founder, Erik Prince (an ex-special forces navy SEAL) all this meant was to detoxify the company by changing its name.
Having lost its contract in Iraq, Blackwater moved on to Afghanistan in 2009 and a new contract from the US government worth $200 million.
In Afghanistan, Blackwater mercenaries carried on in the same murderous way.
In May 2009, four drunken contractors opened fire on a car killing a civilian and in 2010 two of their number were arrested on murder charges for two more civilian deaths.
These, of course, are just the crimes that have survived the cover-ups – the reality of their killing sprees remains unrecorded.
In 2010, Prince sold the company and its new owners renamed it Academi.
Faced with legal problems in the US, Prince, who has been ‘outed’ by a leak from the US intelligence congressional committee as being a CIA asset and part of a CIA team allegedly set up to assassinate suspected terrorists, moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010.
He was hired to recruit 800 foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates and formed a joint company with the UAE government called Reflex Responses.
While Prince has turned his corporate attention to the Middle East and Africa, Blackwater or Academi has carried on, ostensibly carrying out ‘protection’ duties but viewed by everyone as the US government’s private army to be used in situations where officially the US denies any involvement.
It is no accident that although technically they are a multinational company and can by hired by anyone, their board of directors includes leading ex-government officials like John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General, and former NSA chief, Bobby Ray Inman.
The latest appearance of Blackwater has been in the Ukraine.
Back in March 2014, when the working class of the Donetsk region rose up against the illegal coup in Kiev – a coup led by fascist bands and financed by US imperialism – and seized control of government buildings suddenly on the streets appeared a group of heavily armed unidentified men in uniform.
Videos taken in the eastern Ukrainian city showed them running through the streets brandishing automatic weapons.
The local people certainly had no doubt who they were and the video records the crowd of anti-coup demonstrators shouting ‘Blackwater’ and asking, ‘Who are you going to shoot at?’ at this group, forcing them to run off.
Reports in the German media, citing German intelligence sources, said that 400 mercenaries from Blackwater/Academi were taking part in military operations against workers in the town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region.
The German Bild am Sonntag paper revealed on April 29 2014 that German Intelligence Service (BND) had informed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government that mercenaries were taking part in the Kiev regime’s attacks on workers in the south-east of the country.
Academi denied involvement saying it was ‘rumours’, although it is impossible to dismiss the German security service as ‘irresponsible bloggers’.
What is clear is that Blackwater or Academi or any of the other private corporate mercenary companies were up to their necks in providing boots on the ground to aid the overthrow of the democratically elected government of the Ukraine and maintain the puppet regime subservient to imperialism in a country on the doorstep of Russia.
Franchising out counter-revolution enabled Obama to claim non-involvement while sanctimoniously attacking so-called Russian interference.
Ukraine is not the only country outside the original stomping ground for these hired killers of US imperialism.
In 2013, Blackwater/Academi turned up in Greece.
In January 2013, rumours began to circulate that the Greek government had signed a contract with Academi to provide ‘security’ for the right-wing coalition led by prime minister Antonis Samaras.
Samaras was facing an insurrectionary wave of strikes, occupations and mass demonstrations by Greek workers and youth against the savage austerity measures being implemented by the coalition at the diktat of the Troika (the EU, ECB and IMF).
These mass actions had been met with brutal force by the riot police with pitched battles taking place.
At the same time there was a rise in violence from the fascist Golden Dawn party against workers.
As the economic crisis of capitalism tore Greece apart and drove forward a revolutionary upsurge amongst workers and youth so it drove the Greek bourgeoisie (with the active support of their European capitalist masters) towards dumping bourgeois democracy and moving to outright and brutal dictatorship.
They began by consciously whipping up racism against migrant workers, detaining 6,000 in a nationwide campaign.
Fascist demonstrations were held under the protection of the riot police while any anti-fascist counter demonstration was brutally attacked by these same police.
It was against this backdrop of a weak, embattled government rapidly moving in the direction of dictatorship in order to drive through austerity that Blackwater/Academi appeared on the scene.
At first the rumours of a contract (signed in December 2012) was denied by the government and no mention of it appeared in the company’s published books.
However, in January 2013 the Greek ambassador to Canada, Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, let slip in an interview that a contract had indeed been signed.
This was later officially confirmed a few days later by the Greek military news site Defencenet.
The reason advanced by supporters of the government was that Academi had been employed in a dual role.
First to ‘oversee’ police operations because the government had suddenly become aware that the riot police was comprehensively infiltrated by members of Golden Dawn and could not be trusted to stay loyal, and secondly to act as a ‘neutral’ force to protect the government from attack either by the fascist right or by the revolutionary workers and youth from the left.
It is believed that Academi’s remit involved the setting up of new armed units that would patrol urban areas in armoured vehicles and equipped with heavy weaponry.
None of this was reported at the time in the bourgeois press because, according to Chysanthopoulis, ‘Guidelines have been issued to the mass media of what can be said and tolerated and what cannot be tolerated.’
The idea that Academi was to be employed to protect the government from fascist bands is laughable, as is any idea that these outfits are in any way loyal to the people or governments dishing out the contracts.
They operate as the unofficial military wing of US imperialism. Any contract with the Greek government was with the approval and for the benefit of the US government.
The contract in Greece was clearly designed to facilitate the move to dictatorship in Greece and prevent the government being brought down by the revolutionary movement of the working class.
In the event, the Greek working class proved too strong for a fascist /police-led coup to be attempted.
The appearance of heavily armed US mercenaries on the streets of Athens would have brought down a revolutionary avalanche not just in Greece but throughout Europe.
The main lesson to be drawn from the events in Greece has, however, been entirely lost on the hopeless reformists of Syriza.
Despite the universal acknowledgement that the Greek police, especially the riot police, are comprehensively ‘infiltrated’ by fascists and owe no allegiance to any government, when Syriza came to power this year pledged to end austerity, it left the riot police completely intact.
Instead of immediately disbanding this fifth column of counter-revolutionaries they left them to their own devices and even placed authority for them under the control of a member of their junior coalition partners the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks party. In fact, Syriza placed all Greek army, police and security services (every one of them counter-revolutionary to the core) in the hands of openly anti-working class representatives of the Greek ruling class.
In doing so, the Syriza government has placed the Greek working class under the threat of a military coup, a new regime of Colonels, when they refuse to accept the compromises with the troika that Syriza is desperately trying to negotiate with.
They ignore the hard-won lessons of the past, insisted upon by Marx and Engels, that the capitalist state rests on bodies of armed men and that in a crisis threatening its rule, capitalism will unleash the full brutal force of repression against the working class.
These bodies of armed men today include the private corporate armies of Blackwater and Academi and the rest.
The working class cannot compromise with these counter-revolutionary forces, the capitalist state must be smashed completely and replaced by a workers state with its own militias and military organisations to defend it.
Only through the socialist revolution can the murderous activities of a barbaric capitalist system and its hired killers be ended for good.