In this case, quite a few of the 'foreign mercenaries' are Americans: and many of those are employed by Blackwater, a firm that provides security guards and related services in Baghdad.
One type of rumor about 'foreign mercenaries' in Iraq had guards killing innocent Iraqis. Details, like where, when, and how many, varied, but the basic story was the same: 'Foreign mercenaries killed my neighbor.'
I pay attention to rumors, but I don't accept them as fact.
Then, last month, Blackwater employees killed a lot of Iraqis. In Baghdad. With surviving witnesses. I've written about this before:
- "Blackwater Employees and Dead Iraqis: Let Foreigners Try Americans?!"
(October 4, 2007)
- "Blackwater USA: Not the Ideal Goodwill Ambassadors"
(September 18, 2007)
I also think the U.S. State Department is being smart, dealing with security needs in Iraq, the reasonable desire of Iraqis to not get killed without reason, and a security company that's gotten the reputation of being trigger-happy mercenaries. And, maybe earned that reputation.
Condoleezza Rice has issued new orders for Blackwater:
- Video cameras get mounted on Blackwater vehicles.
- At least one federal agent rides with security contractors escorting diplomatic convoys.
- Convoys Will maintain direct contact with tactical U.S. military teams in their vicinity.
Blackwater will be the only security company to have these benefits. Later, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy will be included. These companies work in north and south Iraq.
The U.S. State Department is reviewing all 56 shooting incidents involving Blackwater guards as part of a comprehensive investigation ordered by Rice.
I grieve with those who lost loved ones in the latest Baghdad shootout. That doesn't mean that I believe America should withdraw from the world and hope for the best.
America, Americans, and America's government make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. But, when we do, we don't walk away: We fix them. I see that as a strength.