September 28, 2007

California opposition growing to Blackwater military base

The recent shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater USA contractors has helped galvanize the opposition to their plans to build a private military base in California. In the most recent incident, Blackwater employees shot into a group of cars in a Baghdad square, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 12. The Blackwater employees said they were ambushed but witnesses have described the shooting as unprovoked murder. “This is a nightmare,” a senior U.S. military official told the Washington Post. “We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib”. Iraq’s Interior Ministry concluded that Blackwater was at fault and ordered their license revoked causing still another embarrassment and huge headache for the Bush administration, which has relied heavily on private contractors for the occupation of Iraq.

Blackwater describes itself as “a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations firm and has won more than $750 million in U.S. contracts for work in Iraq. It is owned by billionaire named Erik Prince, one of the largest donors to the Republican Party who is said to have links to the religious right and other far right political causes.

North Carolina-based Blackwater now wants to set up a paramilitary training base in the rugged mountains east of San Diego. The base is planned for Potrero, California, a small border town 45 miles east of the City of San Diego. The 24-acre facility is to have rifle and pistol ranges, helicopters and a helipad, armored vehicles and a defensive-driving motor course; and will have as many as 700 people present at any given time. The company typically hires highly trained former military personal such as Navy Seals for its security and paramilitary operations.

Residents of San Diego and Potrero have been organizing and began fighting this facility earlier this year on a number of issues- including environmental, local land control, noise, traffic, the risk of fire danger and basic opposition to the nature of Blackwater USA which many consider to be a mercenary group. It is strongly suspected that Blackwater has selected the San Diego border area in order to secure Federal Government contracts for border security.

Opponents to the expansion of Blackwater USA will stage a major rally and encampment at the gates of the proposed “Blackwater West” site in Potrero on October 6th and 7th. “The public is waking up to the atrocities attributed to Blackwater and to the private mercenary soldier industry now staring us in the face,” said Raymond Lutz, coordinator of Citizens’ Oversight Projects (COPS) and StopBlackwater.net. “The intimidating nature of these mercenary boot camps has kept locals from speaking out but, the tides have changed, when Blackwater USA tried to put in a jungle training camp in the Philippines they has to pull out after fierce public outcry. We can do the same here in San Diego County, we are resisting the further expansion of corporate mercenary armies and unregulated training of U.S. Armed Forces in residential areas.”

Filed under California Politics, Defense and Military, Iraq, U.S. Government by

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