The New York Times is still obsessing over Blackwater – well at least it gives Halliburton a break. Today the Times reports:
The American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials.
The Times doesn't have any precise figures for Blackwater, but explains:
In 2005, DynCorp reported 32 shootings during about 3,200 convoy missions, and in 2006 that company reported 10 episodes during about 1,500 convoy missions. While comparable Blackwater statistics were not available, government officials said the firm’s rate per convoy mission was about twice DynCorp’s.
So DynCorp's 'shoot rate' was around one mission in a hundred in 2005, and around one mission in 150 in 2006. Blackwater's shoot rate was about twice as high, so if we average the shoot rate for DynCorp over the two years (one incident per 125 missions) then double it and round down for good measure, that gives Blackwater a shoot rate of one incident per 60 missions.
I don't know about you, but I find those figures – both for Blackwater and DynCorp – staggering, even allowing for the fact that there must be other incidents where convoys come under attack, but keep going without returning fire.
I was under the impression that every time a convoy left the Green Zone it was like the scene in Mad Max II where the fuel tanker (no spoilers in case you haven't seen it) driven by Max leaves the good guys' compound. I pictured insurgents leaping off buildings on to the roofs of SUVs, IEDs going off left, right and centre, and suicide car bombs and RPGs coming from every direction.
Where did I get this impression? From watching the TV news and reading the mainstream news websites. It's almost as if… as if… the media is exaggerating how bad things are in Iraq!
Having helped the reader to establish that Baghdad is actually safer than anyone but the most optimistic Petraeus enthusiast had previously thought, the Times continues its half-hearted assault on Blackwater, claiming the company 'flaunts an aggressive, quick-draw image that leads its security personnel to take excessively violent actions', and so on and so forth. (See this post of mine and The White Rabbit for more on why these and other accusations leveled at Blackwater don't stick.)
Then, not content with shooting itself in one foot, the Times puts a well-aimed round through the other one (and they say Blackwater's guys are careless!) by giving a perfectly reasonable explanation for the disparity in the frequency of shooting incidents:
Today, Blackwater operates in the most violent parts of Iraq and guards the most prominent American diplomats, which some American government officials say explains why it is involved in more shootings than its competitors. The shootings included in the reports include all cases in which weapons are fired, including those meant as warning shots.
Sounds fair to me.
Yet the story limps on for another whole page: 'corporate culture…' 'stoking resentment…' 'close relationship with the Bush administration…' (That's right – Blackwater has close ties to an administration it does business with, and whose employees it's protecting.) Over 1,500 words of accusation, speculation and gossip, but nothing that comes close to a point.
Blackwater should of course operate according to rules of engagement as strict as those imposed on the military, and its contractors should be subject to the full rigours of either military or civilian law. It's crazy that those rules were apparently never agreed upon, and the company's activities should be curtailed until the legal stuff is sorted out.
But Blackwater, and companies like them, are here to stay, both in Iraq and elsewhere. There's talk of such outfits becoming involved in places like Darfur, where others either fear to tread or lack the necessary competence. And if I were a diplomat or aid worker I know who I'd rather trust with my life, given a choice between Blackwater and a bunch of stoned, rape-happy African 'peacekeepers' supplied by the UN.
So the Times might as well get over itself. This latest attack on Blackwater is overly aggressive, undisciplined and way off target – in short the Times is doing with words everything it accuses Blackwater's contractors of doing with bullets.
Update: Thanks to Instapundit and Hot Air for linking. If you came via Hot Air you may not have seen this excellent piece on Blackwater, with some great comments, which Glenn linked to earlier.
There's bound to be a few Monkey Tennis newbies among you, so here's the welcome spiel: I've been at this for just two months, so do check out some of my earlier stuff while you're here, and let me know what you think. A couple of recent favourites are my earlier Blackwater post, and this one on the MoveOn 'Betray Us' ad. I try to mix it up a little, but as I explain in my mission statement, most days I run into some egregious MSM mistake/distortion/outright lie regarding the War on Terror, and that kind of fills up my blogging day, meaning I don't get to add many smaller posts linking to cool stuff I've found – I'll try and do better!