We couldn't make this stuff up. Brian Bonfiglio, vice president of Blackwater West, "I see a tactical operation center for East County fires," said Bonfiglio, noting that Blackwater's proposal includes water tanks capable of holding 35,000 gallons. "Can you imagine how much of a benefit it would be if we were operational now?"
This takes great big balls. This is from the guy who takes orders from billionaire Erik Prince, whom Congressman Waxman is now investigating for tax fraud, among other abuses. It's from the same company that sent an email Tuesday asking its undoubtedly well-paid supporters to lobby congress for Blackwater and help promote a newer, softer logo.
Mr. Bonfiglio has learned at the Mark Penn School of PR, where George Orwell lives. As a reminder, Hillary Clintons' top advisor, Mark Penn, runs a huge PR firm called Burson Marstellar which was hired by Mr. Prince before he appeared before Mr. Waxman's committee. Let's see if we can tie all these strands together.
1. Blackwater kills Iraqi civilians in open daylight and then claims that they are helping America improve its image. The Iraqi government excoriates Blackwater and the US Government for allowing these guys to run wild. US general officers point out that killing unarmed civilians while moving American diplomats around is bad for America's image in a country in which they already distrust us. And besides, it makes it much harder for our soldiers to do their jobs.
But here's the Mark Penn/ George Orwell/Blackwater summation: A few dead Iraqis is a small price to pay for America's democracy.
2. Blackwater hires soldiers that cost US taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each to train, but they are only paid maybe $3,000 a month. Blackwater then makes a sweetheart, no bid deal with Bush and Co. to be able to hire those same men for $20,000 or more a month. It's still your taxpayer dollars, but now these talented men are outside of the chain of command, providing exorbitant profit to Mr. Prince and unavailable to the US government. Put simply, we are paying Blackwater to poach our best soldiers and ultimately make us LESS SAFE in Iraq. Ask the US Army colonel who nearly got shot by a Blackwater operative.
But here's the Mark Penn/ George Orwell/Blackwater summation: Blackwater does a better job of protecting American interests than the US military for a lower price. Huh?
3. Fires of historic proportion break out all over southern California, including an as yet to be contained fire in Potrero, hundreds of yards from where Blackwater wants to open its 824 acre base including eleven live fire ranges. As Courage Campaign and 10,000 others wrote to Senators Feinstein and Boxer weeks ago, one of the major concerns people have about such a mercenary training facility is the risk of fire. It already happened without Blackwater there; think what would have happened had Blackwater been there with tons of live ammunition? And what about a spark from a live round used in training? Blackwater would be required by law to have 35,000 gallons of water on such a facility as a minimal defense to prevent itself from blowing up the neighborhood. That's equivalent to just under three DC-10 tanker runs. It's taken hundreds of such flights and a shift in winds to begin to contain the fires. It is literally inconceivable that the wilderness and small towns near such a base would be safer by having Blackwater there.
But here's the Mark Penn/ George Orwell/Blackwater summation: Blackwater needs to build a base in an environmentally sensitive fire hazard area because we'll make you safer.
I have begun to think of Blackwater as the Wal-Mart of mercenary firms. The laws don't apply to Wal-Mart or Blackwater. They say whatever they have to say in order to grow. And they'll do it again as long as we allow. Just this week, the people of neighboring Orange County, California succeeded in preventing Wal-Mart from opening another job-sucking superstore. Let's work to assure that the trend continues for Blackwater. If Mr. Prince were a true patriot, he'd announce that his firm will not proceed to build a fire-inducing mercenary training facility in East San Diego County. He'd give the several million he's spending trying to cram this down the local residents' throats to help them rebuild their lives. And he'd go shoot 'em up somewhere else. Like maybe in the Sahara Desert.
Until that time, we have to support our friends in Potrero as they recover from this conflagration and as they then face the Blackwater juggernaut.