Laura posted here earlier today that Blackwater is the subject of heated discussions between the State and Defense departments over the company's conduct in last week's shootings in Baghdad. It's not the first time the company has been accused of unauthorized killings. Laura noted that "the mercenaries who provide security to the US embassy in Iraq may be looking for their own sort of protection in Washington." Well, to some extent, they've got it in the form of Doug Brooks, founder and president of the International Peace Operations Association.
IPOA is a trade group representing 42 of the private military industry's biggest players, including Blackwater, MPRI, and DynCorp, among others. Last week, as news of the Blackwater shooting was breaking, I met with Brooks to discuss how he had come to be the unofficial spokesman (and outspoken defender) of the private military industry. He told me of his travels in Africa in the 1990s, during which he had visited Sierra Leone and observed military contractors in action. His favorite story from that period deals with a South African helicopter pilot—a former member of the world's first modern private mercenary army-for-hire, Executive Outcomes—who, for a period of months, almost singlehandedly kept rebel forces at bay until his gunship broke down. Afterward, the rebels advanced and killed thousands of people in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown. The lesson to be learned from this, according to Brooks? Private companies can save lives in areas of conflict, particularly where the rest of the world lacks the political will or capability to intervene.
After his return from Africa, Brooks founded the IPOA, which represents the interests of the private military industry, while simultaneously claiming to oversee its activities. Each member company agrees to adhere to IPOA's code of conduct, which is backed up by an enforcement mechanism, ostensibly to guarantee compliance with IPOA standards. Problem is, Brooks' association is funded largely by dues from member companies. To live up to its own rules, IPOA would essentially have to bite the hand that feeds. This, needless to say, has never happened and seems unlikely to do so.
So, is Doug Brooks just a shill for Blackwater? Or is he a privately frustrated idealist, clinging to his hopes for private sector security even in the face of accusations of unauthorized killings in Baghdad? Decide for yourself. Click here to read more.