Making an issue out of Blackwater


Lindsay Beyerstein is all over the antics of Blackwater. I don’t have anything original to contribute, except for two comments from a friend who has spent time in Iraq:

1. Having the very same State Department officials whom Blackwater protects making decisions about whether to continue to give Blackwater employees carte blanche to kill innocent civilians with our money puts a substantial bias into the process.

2. Blackwater employees are exempt from prosecution in Iraq, but they’re not exempt from prosecution here. But that would require the Justice Departments to tell the FBI agents in Iraq to investigate, and it would require Justice Department prosecutors to follow up. (That might be a good question to ask Judge Mukasey at his confirmation hearings, if the Senators can get beyond Mukasey’s open tolerance for beating up people held as material witnesses.)

3. There’s no particular reason to think that Blackwater’s contract fighters behave any worse than those from, say, Dyncorp.

I don’t know the polling data: maybe the cowboy behavior that seems to be characteristic of Blackwater plays well with swing voters. But I know that I will think better of any legislator or Presidential candidate who helps make a big fuss about this.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: