A professor of history at the University of California, Irvine speaking from Baghdad where mass protests had just taken place.
On Wednesday, four U.S. contractors were brutally murdered in Fallujah. They all worked for a private military contractor firm called Blackwater, which has boasted that it wants to build the largest private army in the world. [includes rush transcript]
On Wednesday, four American contractors were brutally killed in Fallujah. There bodies were beaten, dragged through the streets and mutilated. Two of the corpses were hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.
It marked the most gruesome attack on U.S. interests captured on film since the start of the US Invasion.
The four Americans who were killed worked for a private security firm called Blackwater USA.
Blackwater is one of a growing number of for-profit companies hired by the U.S. military to do work traditionally performed by soldiers.
It was founded by 1997 by an ex-Navy Seal.
In August of last year, Blackwater was awarded a $21 million no-bid contract to supply security guards and two helicopters for Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq. The company also provides security for food shipments in the Fallujah area.
According to the Knight Ridder news agency, at least 33 U.S. civilian contractors have been killed in Iraq but the total could be much higher because the deaths of contractors often receive far less attention than the deaths of soldiers.
On Wednesday, the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Web site didn’t even mention the attacks. One of the top headlines on the website read "Iraqi Police Equal to Task of Public Safety"
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by investigative reporter, Barry Yeoman. Last year he wrote a major article for "Mother Jones" on these private security firms titled, "Soldier of Good Fortune." He joins us on the phone. In these brief few minutes we have, Barry, can you talk about Blackwater and the men now in Fallujah, from Blackwater, U.S.A.
BARRY YEOMAN: Sure. Blackwater is a small player in a very big field. We have seen ten-fold growth in private military firms since 1991 when we were in the first Gulf War, we typically hear about Halliburton and Dynacorp. They really are big players. However, Blackwater is a small company that has very big dreams. It was founded by a group of Navy Seals. It’s headed by a former Navy Seal, who told me his goal was to build the largest private army in the world. He has talked about expanding to serve militaries in France and other places, and right now has contracts that he says are so secret that he is not able to tell one branch of the Feds that he’s working for a different branch of the Feds. They provide all sorts of military services. As you know, with no-bid contracts sometimes. They stop short of combat, but it’s often hard to see the line between what’s combat and what’s not combat.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Also, you write that quite a few of the people who work for Blackwater are Chileans, who were from the time of Pinochet in Chile?
BARRY YEOMAN: Not my article, no.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Wasn’t in your article. Sorry…
AMY GOODMAN: Although there are some references to it, now, that Blackwater, U.S.A. has employed some Chilean — some Ex-Pinochet forces.
BARRY YEOMAN: I suspect there is a lot about Blackwater that we don’t know yet. What really struck me is that even though Blackwater was the only private military firm which opened its doors to me, much of the interview I had with them was couched in this — this almost cowboy-like secrecy. They were very proud of being on these top secret missions. So, I suspect that as the news starts to spread about this horrible event, we will start to learn more and more about Blackwater.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. Barry Yeoman, wrote a piece for "Mother Jones" on Blackwater U.S.A and other private firms.