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Blackwater West

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You would never imagine that California would need or want a Blackwater mercenary training facility. And you'd be right: California and the residents near where Blackwater wants to set up shop really don't want Blackwater. After all, the Marines at Pendleton, a few miles down the road, keep us pretty safe.

Blackwater West, as they call it, will be created and run by the same folks who brought us four dead Americans with corpses strung up from a bridge in Fallujah. But as with so much else Blackwater does, the wishes of the people matter not one whit. It's all about a buck and the ideology of fear.

Thursday night, KNBC spent nearly eight minutes of its thirty minute news program shining a bright light on this secretive, privately held company's plans to set up an 824 acre training facility in East San Diego County. If seeing is believing, then have a look. The piece was a few months in the making and caught producer Frank Snepp's attention because of his own CIA background and because 3,500 members of Courage Campaign here in California have petitioned our senators and Governor to stop this insidious band of rogues before they stop civil society in our state.

Blackwater thrives on secrecy and when you read and watch what's going on with them, you see why. A year ago, Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films pried open the gates, just a little bit, with Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. In that film, we met the families who survived the brutal deaths of those four Blackwater employees sent into Fallujah without proper armaments, personnel or even a map. The families have been seeking legal redress for two years now, but Blackwater hired the best of the privateers, none other than Ken Starr, that paragon of justice, to help them keep their dirt out of the public view.

And then Jeremy Scahill wrote an entire book about Blackwater, which curled the few locks of hair I have left. But it goes on. On May 30, as reported in the Washington Post, Blackwater shot and killed an innocent Iraqi driver. The result? More ill will toward the United States soldiers fighting bravely daily and ironically more contracts for Blackwater.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Chicago says, "I understand this is war, but that's absolutely no excuse for letting this very large force of armed private employees, dare I say mercenaries, run around without any accountability to anyone." Schakowsky got an amendment into this next year's defense appropriations bill to make such firms at least somewhat accountable, a new idea for Blackwater.

It'll take years, if not decades, for the United States to recover from the ills this war in Iraq wrought. But, we can begin at home. We simply cannot allow Blackwater to set up shop in California. Conspiracy theorists often force odd fact patterns into unsustainable conclusions. Blackwater's plans are no theory. They already boast of the largest private army on the planet. They are building armed airships and heavily armored troop carriers. They have a huge training facility at their headquarters in North Carolina, another outside of Chicago and now this one planned for southern California. As KNBC reports, Blackwater itself says that it would like to provide security at our border, something hitherto always the province of federal authorities. And a former Blackwater senior executive works in the Schwarzenegger administration. The company's vice chair, Cofer Black, serves as senior advisor to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney and as our friends at AlterNet point out, now heads a new Blackwater division designed to privatize the CIA.

In the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina two years ago, Blackwater paramilitary personnel surfaced in New Orleans providing security. The only problem was, they had been neither invited nor hired. They were just there, toting machine guns, ready to do whatever they defined at the time as their jobs.

How long before we see Blackwater's trained killers turning up in metropolitan Los Angeles after an earthquake or fire, uninvited, soliciting work? On May 1, 2007, we saw what happens when a well-trained police force gets out of control. Imagine what will happen if a bunch of former special operations soldiers, who are trained to kill show up in an urban setting. And then, say no to Blackwater. We can't have them here. Not now. Not ever.

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