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by Lawrence S Sarni
Friday, Jun. 29, 2007 at 6:09 PM
firstname.lastname@example.org 626-824-7987 646 Fairview Ave #34
Blackwater Mercenaries on the USA-Mexico Border
By Nancy Conroy
In San Diego County, California, a firestorm has erupted over plans
to build a Blackwater mercenary training camp in the hills behind
Potrero, a remote area east of the city. The residents of San Diego
are opposing the idea on the grounds that firing ranges are noisy
and mercenaries would be undesirable neighbors. So far the
controversy has been a localized, "not in my backyard," type of
debate involving planning commissions and citizen's action groups.
Americans tend to think in an American way, and therefore nobody
seems to have noticed that the location of this camp is right on the
US-Mexico border, just a few miles from Tecate.
From an international perspective, there are a number of
geopolitical reasons that could explain why this border location was
selected. This is probably not merely an issue for the local
planning commission, given that the idea of mercenaries along the
border has broader international implications.
Blackwater USA is a private army based in Louisiana that has
received billions of dollars in US government contracts to assist
with the Iraq war. These "contractors" are highly trained ex-
military specialists, many of whom come from foreign countries with
poor human rights records.
Blackwater, at its website, identifies itself as "… not simply
a `private security company.' We are a professional military, law
enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm
who provides turnkey solutions."
The presence of Blackwater in Iraq has generated controversy over
the concept of an "outsourced" war, using mercenaries instead of
regular US troops. The mercenaries do not answer to US military
commanders, their conduct is not governed by the Geneva Convention,
and they answer only to the people who are signing their paychecks.
Critics often compare them to the Nazi brownshirts.
A Blackwater camp on the border may be a covert attempt to
militarize the border without going through congressional oversight
or public debate. A so-called "training camp" could probably also
function as an operational base. Perhaps Blackwater will obtain
government contracts to patrol the border, gradually edging out US
agents and putting border security into the hands of a private army
away from public scrutiny.
And Blackwater could run immigrant detention camps using the same
methods they use in the Middle East. Even if this is not the plan,
the Mexicans would have good reason to suspect this motivation.
The proposed training camp is located near international drug supply
routes controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. The remote, mountainous
terrain is like Afghanistan, where Blackwater has years of
experience running covert operations.
Six miles from the proposed Blackwater camp, northern Mexico has a
serious problem with "Men in Black" who coincidentally look, dress,
and act just like the Blackwater people. In Mexico, the Men in
Black are kidnappers, corrupt police officers, fake federal agents,
or Zetas, a narco-paramilitary group. Although Americans may still
be swallowing the argument that Blackwater is a "military auxiliary"
outfit, the Mexicans are not fooled about who the Men in Black are,
what they do, and who they work for. That these same people are now
camped out on the US border, or are somehow involved in border
enforcement, will lack credibility in Mexico.
Since the Iraq war, business at Blackwater has been booming, which
is why they need the new "Blackwater West" facility. Most of
Blackwater's contracts come from the US government, at least those
that are publicly disclosed. But, Blackwater is a private army that
is available to run "corporate security" missions for anyone that
can afford it. This suggests another possible motivation for the
border location: to serve emerging markets in northern Mexico.
There are surely plenty of possible clients with money in the Baja
California area who need special operations. Since Blackwater
personnel look just like the Mexican Men in Black, they should have
no trouble blending in.
Another possible reason for the border location is the potential to
perform "extraordinary renditions" into Mexico. "Extraordinary
renditions" is a euphemism for off-the-record prisoner processing,
the subjects of which are known in Latin America as "los
desaparecidos" ("the disappeared" ). Blackwater conducts
extraordinary renditions in the Middle East, quietly transferring
prisoners to third countries where interrogation techniques are not
monitored. From their new border location, Blackwater could perform
extraordinary renditions into northern Mexico far away from prying
Blackwater has said that the reason for the site selection is to be
close to the San Diego area, where many branches of the US military
need extra training. Still, the location so close to the US-Mexico
border raises international issues that local San Diego citizen's
groups are not aware of and generally do not think about. Americans
should consider the possible international dimensions, and
responsible Mexican citizens should evaluate the potential impact of
this camp on their own country.
As well, if Mexicans were more informed about this issue, the
specter of mercenaries along the border has the potential to create
an international controversy.
Nancy Conroy is the Publisher of northern Baja California's biweekly
Gringo Gazette North. She can be reached via e-mail at
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