Utne Blogs > Politics

Blackwater Looks for Loopholes

by Jake Mohan 


Tags: politics, law, Iraq, security, military, Blackwater, Islam, Sharia,

Blackwater, the private-security firm winning a suspiciously high number of contracts in Iraq, has also been at the center of some of the war’s most horrific events. Yet the company continues to reap billions of dollars in government contracts and staff their highest positions with retired officials from the military, CIA, and other government agencies. They are uniquely positioned to reap the maximum benefit from both the public and private sector.

The agency is currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the widows of three soldiers killed when a plane operated by sister company Presidential Airways crashed in Afghanistan. Last year Blackwater attempted to have the case dismissed under a provision that soldiers can’t sue their government, at whose behest Blackwater was serving. When that didn’t work, the firm took a strange new tack: Rather than be tried in an American court, it requested that the case be tried under Islamic law, or Sharia, which doesn’t hold companies in its jurisdiction responsible for their actions. If this request is honored, it would effectively dismiss the lawsuit.

Talking Points Memo highlights the obvious irony of an ostentatiously patriotic company with well-known right-wing ties preferring Muslim law to the good old-fashioned U.S. legal system, and AlterNet snarks: “If this becomes well-known, the GOP's corporate base will become fundamentalist Muslims faster than you can say Mecca Oil & Gas.” Meanwhile, DailyKos posts the mock-hysterical headline, “Blackwater Wants to Establish A Sharia Caliphate Here in the U.S.A.”

Erik Prince, Blackwater’s CEO, argues that his company’s request is a reasonable one since the plane—carrying U.S. military personnel and operated by a U.S. corporation—crashed in Afghanistan, which is governed by Sharia. This logic is patently absurd, but Blackwater has proven it can get away with murder in the past, and this is just more evidence that the agency wants it both ways: When it’s to Blackwater’s advantage,  it’s a governmental entity, acting on behalf of the U.S. Armed Forces; as soon as that becomes inconvenient, it plays the private-sector card and attempts, often successfully to circumvent the law. Pretty slippery, and plenty scary.