Blackwater: First Iraq, then Afghanistan …now Greece.

Blackwater is notorious.  A private mercenary army, it first came to public attention in 2003 two years after it was founded after the US government contracted it to provide military support for the war in Iraq.  Innumerable scandals followed.  And now the Greek Government has enlisted its services for domestic duties.

The first time Blackwater came to public attention was with the killing of four of its contractors in Fallujah.  The outpouring of rage at the atrocities the company was wreaking on the town which led to the killing made it apparent that substantial elements of the Iraq War had been subcontracted to a private company.  The contract that Blackwater held in Iraq was worth over $1bn, and the intervention became dogged by scandal with dozens of murders by Blackwater employees hushed up, including the murder of 17 civilians in Nisour Square in Bagdad.   It later emerged that senior managers of the company authorised secret payments of about $1m into Iraq intending to bribe officials to allow Blackwater to remain in Iraq despite Baghdad’s position that the company would be banned and the killers prosecuted when those and other murders came to light.

When its contract for Iraq was not renewed in 2009, it moved to Afghanistan, on a contract worth $200 million, yet still the scandals continued.  In May 2009, four drunken off-duty operatives killed a civilian when they opened fire on a car; and in January 2010, two operatives were arrested by the FBI on murder charges for a further two civilian deaths.  Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.

They’ll start firing at anything that moves; they will injure or kill innocent Afghans and they’ll destroy property, We’re getting fairly consistent complaints about them. Everybody knows somebody who’s been shot by the contractors”

Lt. Col. Jeff French

Now, despite Obama’s deadline of US withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, it has now emerged that the US government has given a contract worth $22 million to Blackwater to house US troops through to 2015.  The ironically named “Camp Integrity” not only provides barracks but also a 24/7 operations center, fueling stations, vehicle maintenance facility, lodging, office and conference space and a fortified armory.   It also houses the  Pentagon’s Counter-Narcoterrorism Program’s Afghanistan office , in a facility which includes a secure armory and weapons maintenance service.”

And very soon they will be in Greece

Rumours that the Greek government had signed a contract with the notorious mercenary outfit first started circulating online in November.  Several websites claimed that the Greek government had signed a contract with Blackwater (now renamed Academi“), to provide security services which would patrol urban areas with armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry, backed up with motorcycle support, commencing operations from early 2013.   These rumours were based on a US investment report which encouraged people to buy shares in private military outfits suggesting that domestic governments would start engaging their services citing Greece as an example.

Three days ago, these rumours were confirmed by Leonidas Chysanthopoulis, a Greek career diplomat who has worked closely with the EU.  Previously the Greek Ambassador to Armenia, Poland and Canada. until earlier this year he served as Secretary General of the Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Corporation Organization (BSEC).  In an interview with a Canadian journalist he stated..

The Greek government recently made an agreement with the successor company of Blackwater to hire mercenaries for the protection of Parliament.

So it would certainly seem that a contract has indeed been signed between the Greek government and Blackwater.  Although Chysanthopoulis made no mention of urban patrols, separate to the online rumours, there are also rumours circulating on the streets that the government is setting up new armed units, which will patrol and monitor part of the city which have high immigrant populations.  It would certainly seem like the reports are based on fact, and that very soon, Greece will have hired mercenaries with a record of involvement in war crimes, human rights abuses and extra-judicial murders patrolling its streets.  To my knowledge, this is the first time that a mercenary army has been used to police a civilian population outwith a warzone.

Yet none of this is being reported anywhere in the Greek media, other than obscure websites and blogs.  Perhaps the answer to why that is can also be provided by Mr Chysanthopoulis.

Guidelines have been issued to the mass media of what can be said and tolerated and what cannot be tolerated.

Journalists in Greece are facing massive levels of harassment.  There is no free press in Greece: journalists are beaten, fired and arrested should they deviate from what it is acceptable to talk about, and what it is acceptable to say.  Yet unanswered questions of a mercenary outfit providing domestic security support to a sovereign government abound.

    • If the police are unable to keep law and order what is being done to address that?
    • If indeed the police are unable to provide domestic security, why is the government not turning to its domestic army rather than bringing in foreign military contractors?
    • Why has a cash strapped government which prefers external security support, maintained its military expenditure throughout the crisis – despite cuts to all other areas?
    • Given that Blackwater is not cheap, how much – exactly – is all this costing?
    • What is the European Union position on a member state engaging a foreign military contractor for domestic security?

All these are questions that urgently require answers, yet only small snippets of the true state of affairs in Greece ever make it to the most obscure blogs, far less the front pages of national newspapers where it belongs.

Armed fascists inside the parliament; hired mercenaries outside.

Ain’t democracy great.

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