7deb1504-ae32-4c0b-8b79-695b49e91cda.jpgThis is the term Iraqi’s use to describe the force of mercenaries we have brought to their country. It translates as “sentry-turned-thief.” The latest round of killings of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater employees has captured media and Congressional attention but Iraqis have been familiar with this behavior for all too long. Azzaman goes on to note that

“Some of the U.S.-contracted thieves are remnants of Serbian militias whose role in the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo cannot be denied. Some others are the remnants of the hated apartheid regime of South Africa.”

As as Paul Salopek reported in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week:

Nobody knows how many South Africans have signed up for such hazardous duty. The foreign affairs ministry puts the number as high as 10,000, though industry experts and U.S. contracting firms say the figure is far smaller, more like 2,000 to 3,000 men. Still, even the lower estimate would make South Africans the third-largest contingent of armed foreigners deployed in Iraq after Washington’s closest military ally, Britain.

One example of such fellows Salopek met during his reporting:

The house’s resident, Deon Gouws, is a former police sergeant who had received an amnesty under South Africa’s famed Truth and Reconciliation Commission for human-rights abuses, including assassinations, he committed under the old apartheid regime.

Gouws was employed as a mercenary in Iraq by an unnamed US firm, injured in a suicide bombing and is now applying for US Workman’s Compensation.

Salopek’s reporting is a useful reminder that the problem is not just Blackwater. Apparently Condi Rice is also concerned – and she has sent a blue ribbon commission to Baghdad to investigate.

While there’s talk of removing Blackwater from Iraq, Government Executive notes that this expectation is permature. Not surprising given that the commision itself is headed by Ambassador Patrick Kennedy who was Chief of Staff for the same Coalition Provisional Authority which granted Blackwater complete immunity for its thuggery.

Joining Kennedy is Retired General George Joulwan – currently serving as the Executive Director of the Steele Foundation. The Steele Foundation speciailizes in providing private security services in places like … you guessed it – Iraq! Sourcewatch has a quote from a now vanished Steele Foundation web page about it’s Iraq services noting:

“More than $100 billion has been allocated to fund reconstruction projects throughout Iraq. This vibrant marketplace is now host to hundreds of multinational and local companies who are combating the security threats…” says their website. Among the services they offer in Iraq are: security consulting, personal and convoy protection, risk assessments, business intelligence, force protection, and kidnapping mitigation. By the spring of 2004, Steele’s numbers in Iraq had risen from 50 to 500. [4]

These two commissioners are joined by Stapleton Roy – who has been the Managing Director of the very secretive Kissinger Associates and is currently the Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc. and a Director of ConocoPhillips. ( Kissinger Associates hides its client list but sources link them to such major oil firms as ExxonMobil, and is where Paul Bremer worked as Managing Director) Rounding out the team is Eric Boswell who works for our friend, Director of National Intelligence McConnell.

Condi Rice has the utmost confidence in this esteemed panel:

“My instructions to the panel are simple: Their review should be serious, probing and comprehensive,” Rice said. “Once they have established baseline facts, I look forward to hearing their recommendations on how to protect our people while furthering our foreign policy objectives.”

Perhaps someone should explain the the Iraqi phrase “hameeha harameeha” to Condi and her commission?

Updates: Dr C – a blogger who is very worth reading – has an interesting post about our conversation with Dr. Maryam and pediatric oncology and Iraq. Dr C is also a great source of info on the impact of US health care issues on real people – like here.

And Cholera continues to spead in Iraq  – please support the Red Crescent’s efforts across Iraq.