I came across this interview with Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
Blackwater, which is owned by right-wing “good Christian” nuts who’ve contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various Bush campaigns, reached New Orleans before FEMA and the Red Cross – and were paid lavishly by the Bush Administration.
Blackwater in New Orleans
Maass: YOU WERE probably the first journalist to discover that Blackwater was on the scene in New Orleans, in the days right after Hurricane Katrina struck. How did you come across them?
Scahill: BLACKWATER’S MEN actually beat the federal government, FEMA, the Red Cross and all these organizations to the hurricane zone.
In fact, I interviewed Cofer Black–the former head of counterterrorism at the CIA, and now one of the top people at Blackwater–at a mercenary conference, and he told me that they sent a helicopter and a bunch of their guys down there without any contracts at first. Clearly, they saw this as an opportunity to really cash in on the disaster of Katrina.
Within days of their guys deploying down there, Blackwater was handed a very lucrative $409,000 contract–literally to guard a morgue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Fourteen guys, four vehicles, for 22 days–and they were paid $409,000.That contract, which was not open to public bids, was awarded to Blackwater, and it would kick off a contract spree that in just four months would amount to over $30 million for Blackwater.
They were billing the federal government some $950 per day per man in the hurricane zone, raking in at one point from the government, over $240,000 a day. I had Blackwater men who told me that they were getting paid $350 a day, plus a modest per diem. So that’s $600 that Blackwater had to play with, above what they were paying their guys.
MAASS: HOW DOES the tens of millions that Blackwater is making compare to what is being spent in New Orleans on school reconstruction or affordable housing?
Scahill: WE REALLY don’t know how much Blackwater has been paid. We know that they were paid $30 million for the first four months. Well, now we’re nearing the first year anniversary of the hurricane, and we don’t have the updated amount of money that they’ve been paid. But this is just is just one company. There are scores of private security companies on contract with the federal government. This other company, DynCorp, is itching to get more of the action, offering their guards at $700 per day.There’s very little irony in all that, given that we’re talking about a place that has been utterly devastated, and people are being told that we don’t have the resources to rebuild their homes, and they’re going to have to live somewhere else in the country. Yet they have all the money in the world to pour into guns and mercenaries. – counterpunch
Gary Jackson testified before Congress, trying to get contracts from Homeland Security to train Border Patrol agents, saying Blackwater understands “the value of government one-stop shopping.” So, in so many words, he likened his company to the governments “para-mercenary/military 7-11!”
Good ol’ Obama said, in regards to the obscene amount of money paid to Blackwater for their role in Katrina, “It strikes me….that that may not be the best use of money.” No kidding Captain Obvious! And this guy is running for president?
Blackwater USA is one of five companies picked by the DOD Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office in a a five-year contract for equipment, material and services in support of counter-narcoterrorism activities. The contract is worth up to $15 billion. -Wikipedia
In 2003, Blackwater landed its first truly high-profile contract: guarding Ambassador L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, at the cost of $21 million in 11 months. Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones. In 2006, Blackwater won the remunerative contract to build and protect the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is the largest American embassy in the world.- Wikipedia