I Don’t Know Whether Or Not To Be Angry or Just Downright Mad …………..
Once a month I meet up with up with several friends of mine who like myself are ex-military. We’ll sit around and discuss whatever is on our minds , as the case maybe. Be it sports , politics or whatever else might be the tour-de-force as in the subject of the moment. Of the six of us who meet regularly on a Sunday morning and the for the better part of the day. We’ll sit around either in a local park in Winter Haven or at one of the local eateries and just wile the time away. Well this Sunday I made the decision that I’d invite the guys over to my home and I’d prepare them a meal that evening. Rather than us meeting up at as is our norm on a Sunday morning.
Well, the meal was set and we sat down to eat. While having our meal , the tv set was on , and the program in question being shown was the CBS news magazine program ’60 Minutes’. Now to my mind this is by far the best news magazine program on television , bar none. It’s informative , insightful and well researched . One topic that seem to have all of us peeked in terms of our interest , concerned the death of two US military servicemen on a private plane operated by the defense contractor Blackwater. Now I’ve always questioned the US military’s use of private contractors in carrying out duties that the military is more than capable of doing. This happened to be the case in the first ‘Iraqi’ conflict of the nineties. But never was it on such a large scale, as can now be witnessed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. What might be even more disturbing is the mere fact that contractors , such as Blackwater are over-charging the US government by tens of millions of dollars . And there seems to be no accountability at all to either of the legislative bodies of the US government. But then again it’d appear that neither the Senate or Congress seems to be that overly concerned with the matter. Unfortunately, this time around at the behest of then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney this was being fought on the cheap. Soldiers were essentially going of to war ill equipped and then being asked to pay for the necessary armor protective jackets. This was how they felt the wars could be fought to the full effectiveness of the military. What both of these individuals (Cheney & Rumsfeld) in their haphazardness , in wanting to fight both of these conflicts on the cheap , failed to take note of , was the very fact that Blackwater was not best served to deal with many of the issues that the military would face. And even when it came about that there had been some serious mismanagement and misjudgment of not only finances but also of the transportation of equipment for the military. We were still led to believe that these contractors such as Blackwater , were still doing an outstanding job in the field. Nothing could be further from the truth on that account. But it would appear that neither the Defense Department and State Department would rather none of this get back to the public and within the press’ domain.
Courtesy of CBS News – ’60 Minutes’
(CBS) More than 5,000 American servicemen and women have now died in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 20 percent of those deaths have occurred under what the military calls “non-hostile circumstances.”
We are going to tell you about three of them. All of them were killed when a small turboprop plane with the call sign “Blackwater 61” slammed into a mountain in Afghanistan. The flight was operated by Presidential Airways, the aviation arm of Blackwater, the private military firm. It was operating under a government contract to haul troops, mail and supplies to remote landing strips. The crash was barely noted except for the fact that one of the passengers was Lieutenant Colonel Mike McMahon, at the time the highest ranking soldier to die in the war.
But it was an accident that never should have happened and you would not be hearing about it now if it weren’t for his widow, herself a former high-ranking Army officer, who has waged a five-year battle against one of the military’s most important contractors.
“He would have liked to have been able to go out, you know, fighting. Not in the back of some plane, somebody else’s victim,” Army Colonel Jeanette McMahon told “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft.
Col. McMahon was no ordinary widow and in her mind her husband was the victim of Blackwater. Until her retirement a few months ago, the West Point graduate and former helicopter pilot seemed to be a future candidate for general, but her life changed when her husband and West Point classmate was killed on a routine flight back to his cavalry squadron in western Afghanistan.
And while still on active duty, she decided to sue Blackwater’s aviation subsidiary for flagrant safety violations and reckless disregard for human life.
“I wanted to understand what happened. For me, if I couldn’t be there when he died I felt like I wanted to at least be able to recreate what happened,” she told Kroft.
She says it took her a year to get the full story, which begins early on the morning of November 27, 2004 at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, where Lt. Colonel McMahon had been meeting with his superiors. He hitched a last-minute ride on Blackwater 61, joining two of his soldiers for the two-and-a-half hour flight into a dusty airstrip at Farah.
Forty minutes later the plane’s wreckage would be scattered near the top of one of Afghanistan’s tallest mountains, far from any logical route.
“What was your reaction when you first found out that the plane had crashed at almost 15,000 feet?” Kroft asked.
“Well, what the heck were they doing up there? It was clearly not anything to do with the mission or where they were going,” McMahon replied.
Asked if she thinks they were lost, McMahon said, “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.”
We decided to retrace the flight to try and find out how Blackwater 61 got so far off track on a morning when the flying conditions were perfect. Some of the answers you’ll hear from the pilots themselves in this cockpit voice recording recovered at the crash scene.
“Yeah, with this good visibility, it’s easy as pie,” the captain, Noel English, could be heard saying on the recording.
The tape has never been made public.
McMahon said she had never heard the actual voice transmission, but told Kroft she wanted to hear it.
“I swear to God they wouldn’t pay me if they knew how much fun this was,” Captain English said on the recording.
English and his co-captain, Butch Hammer, had only been in Afghanistan for 13 days, and neither one of them had ever flown the route between Bagram and Farah. And their inexperience showed: they didn’t file a flight plan, and instead of taking the easier route to the southwest with lower mountains, they set off to the north and never seemed to get their bearings.
“I hope I’m going in the right valley,” English said on the voice recording.
Flight mechanic Mel Rowe voiced his concern early on. “I don’t know what we’re going to see, we don’t normally go this route,” Rowe said.
“Bingo! ‘We don’t normally go this route,'” Jeanette McMahon reacted, listening to the tape.
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The main crux of this 60 Minutes piece, was to delve in what was at the time deemed combatant accident wherein three two military service members loss their lives on Presidential Airways’ (Flight61) flight in Afghanistan. The flight in question was from Bagram AFB in Afghanistan. And it was to take the two military combatants back to the front as part of the Blackwater’s air subsidiary’s mission. From the outset the inexperienced crew did everything that could be deemed wrong , was done so negligently. They failed to file a flight plan and they took a route that was more dangerous and more likely to place the flight directly in harm’s way. It would be traversing over some of the most dangerous mountain regions in Central Afghanistan. What took place once the flight was underway and with the intervening minutes before the plane careened into the side of hilly mountain range. Well that can be explained by the fact that Blackwater and its subsidiary failed to take the necessary steps to make sure that all possible flight safety measures had taken place.
Culpability in the death of Lt Colonel Mike McMahon and another soldier has left many wondering what it is that these contractors are doing when they’re endangering the lives of our military servicemen for all of the wrong reasons. This is but the tip of the iceberg under which several military servicemen have lost their lives so needlessly while it’s being entrusted in the hands of military contractors who are said to have a wealth of experience . Well , if that experience means not having the necessary equipment on board their planes and at the same time having inexperienced pilots who nothing of the terrain in the country in which they are located. Then it’s understandable why there has been so many incidents negligent action by Blackwater employees. And it hasn’t stemmed the criticism of the company not only by both the Afghanistani and Iraqi governments. But also too there has been criticism leveled at the company by the Justice Department after the slaying of Iraqi civilians by several Blackwater employees on the outskirts of the suburb of Baghdad , Iraq ,as recently as 2007.
Courtesy of Christian Science Monitor
American troops investigating the deadly Sept. 16 incident in Baghdad found no evidence that security contractors were fired upon.
The Blackwater security forces that opened fire on a public square in Baghdad last month, leaving 17 dead, attacked fleeing Iraqi civilians in a “criminal event,” according to American soldiers on the scene just minutes after the incident. News of the Army report comes just a day after the families of three Iraqis killed in the September 16 incident, along with another Iraqi man who was injured, filed a lawsuit against Blackwater in US federal court. The fallout over the incident has made it increasingly difficult for contractors to operate in Iraq, and also Afghanistan.
The Washington Post says that according to their report, the US soldiers – after investigations at the square and interviews with witnesses and Iraqi police – found no evidence that any Iraqis had fired weapons and concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved.” They did find evidence, however, that indicated Blackwater contractors fired on civilian vehicles fleeing the square.
“It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.
Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. “I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon,” said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.
“Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life,” the 17-page complaint says. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the company was aware of the lawsuit and would defend itself vigorously. She declined to comment further on the Nisoor Square incident until an ongoing FBI investigation is completed.
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And it would appear that the form of justice that the US espouses and would like to see enacted in other parts of the globe. Well when it comes to egregious acts carried out by the contractors. It would appear that there are two laws in that are abeyance. One that follows the strict letters of the laws of UCMJ or that of the US ‘law’ but instead follows that of the laws of the jungle. And it would appear that Blackwater is allowed to abide by the laws of the latter. Because as of yet they’ve not been tried for any act of known crimes that have been committed by their employees whilst under contract to the US government and various forces under the coalition. Somehow there seems to be something gravely wrong , in which the neither this administration or its predecessor was apparently willing to address. Are the lives of civilians and that of the US military now so worthless that they just don’t give a damn at all ?
Alan Parkins aka tophatal
NB Blackwater has since changed its corporate name , to that of Xe Services Inc. The company is now a multi-billion dollar business that operates in conjunction with the US government on a wide range of logistical functions. The company also has ties to several Middle Eastern countries where they also operate.