Private Security Company Association Iraq

Briefly, old news for some and new for others. For your reference is the Private Security Company Association Iraq. PSCAI is the in-country trade association (loosely) comparable to the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) and the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC).

The Private Security Company Association of Iraq “PSCAI” is a non-profit organization formed and maintained to discuss and address matters of mutual interest and concern to the industry conducting operations in Iraq.

The PSCAI seeks to work closely with the Iraqi Government and foster a relationship of trust and understanding.

The PSCAI has a Plenary Meeting every three weeks or when required inside the International Zone in Baghdad. These meetings are usually attended by representatives from 30  PSCs operating in Iraq, Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI), US Embassy Regional Security Office (RSO), Joint Area Support Group Central (JASG-C) Security Directorate, Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B), Reconstruction Operations Center (ROC) Directorate, USAF International Zone Police, Project & Contracting Office (PCO) Logistics, Logistics Movement Control Center (LMCC), and the Joint Contracting Command Iraq (JCCI).

Presently over 30 PSC members… Should be interesting to see how their roster changes as the US commitment changes.

Lucent Talks Raise Issue of Security (Updated)

The way the Lucent (NYSE:LUnews) buyout by Alcatel (ALA) (NYSE: ALANews; Paris: CGEP.PANews) plays out will be telling. Without an Arab company involved, it will surely not raise to the level of "sophisticated" political discourse that we saw with the "Dubai Ports" deal. The reality is this deal should raise greater concerns (especially since the port deal was a red herring), which I doubt it will.

Continue reading “Lucent Talks Raise Issue of Security (Updated)

USN Public Diplomacy in West Africa

More public diplomacy brought to Africa by the military. From Stars & Stripes:

Sailors from the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land have been working to build better relationships in Gabon one wrench turn at a time.

Dozens of sailors from the ship’s 1,400-member crew worked with the Gabonese navy and made repairs on two of its ships during a visit to the West African country’s Port Gentil.

The visit, which ended Friday, was the second stop on the Land’s current Gulf of Guinea deployment. The deployment is the ship’s second to the region in two years.

“These are not liberty port calls,” said Capt. Michael D. Budney, commander of the ship based in La Maddalena, Italy. “These are working ports.”

The ship is in the region as part of the U.S. European Command’s bid to strengthen everything from security in the area to relationships between the U.S. and nations around the Gulf of Guinea, which has large oil reserves.

But Land’s sailors have been more focused on the basics, strengthening those relationships at the lowest level, between sailors and their host-nation counterparts.

This is a great opportunity for interaction. How will we carry the goodwill forward? Will the locals treasure toys of US military ships or aircraft like the C-130 toys in Pakistan? We need to consider building upon these foundations for long-lasting relationships. The Pentagon is not the place to establish and maintain civilian relationships. We have the finest military in the world but do we want our global interface to be uniforms and weapons of war or something else? We could also throw in here the ever expanding stories (I still need to get to Bremer’s book) on how Rumsfeld himself shorted the civil affairs, er, reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Has State ceded all responsibility to DoD?

From the Associated Press comes Pace Tries to Ease Iraq Concerns:

ISTANBUL, Turkey – In the troubled region surrounding Iraq, a frequent question posed to the top U.S. military officer visiting the area was not when his troops will pull out of Iraq, but how long they will stay.

From the glittery King’s palace in Saudi Arabia to the devastated slopes of the Pakistani mountainside and a staid Turkish symposium, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sought last week to ease concerns about whether opposition to the war at home could pressure American forces to leave Iraq before it is stable.

"I think it’s fair to say that in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, there is a clear desire for the U.S. to stay with it until the job is done – which, coincidentally, is how we look at it," Pace said Sunday as he left Istanbul for Washington.

On his first diplomatic-oriented trip since last fall, Pace traveled to three countries whose leaders are worried about the U.S. commitment to the Iraq war and the global war on terror. Failure to secure Iraq could fuel insurgencies in their countries and instability in the region, where terrorism is a familiar threat.

I wish I had the time to analyze the news for word usage and framing in the context of the military doing "diplomacy" and related terms. Official DoD news releases do not use the word "diplomacy" or "diplomatic" but do use other key phrases normally associated with State.

  • Pace said that he “did more listening than talking” during the
    meetings. Still, he was able to answer questions from his counterparts
    on U.S. government policy on Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. "It
    made for a full and open dialogue," he said….In Turkey, Pace said he tried "to solidify the superb relationship"
    between the two countries. "I looked them in the eye and told them the
    truth," he said….The chairman said his visits built on previous ones by other government
    officials, and said further visits will build on his progress. "We have
    to keep the dialogue open so you have ample opportunity to answer the
    questions before the questions become confusion," Pace said.
  • Good governance, economic development, and education are more important
    in ultimately choking off terrorism than military might
    , Pace said at
    the symposium, which is sponsored by the Turkish General Staff. There
    is a role for the military in providing security, but economic programs
    that create jobs will be the long-term solution to terrorism, he said.
    "Once we have security in place, the other elements of national power
    will be the keys to the long-term victory in the war on terror," he
    said…."Good education systems that do not teach hate, but tolerance of
    various religions, ideas and principles" will also help defeat
    terrorism, Pace said. "How can any country reach its full potential if
    it does not include various sectors of its people, whether it be for
    religious purposes, or color of skin or for any other reason, like
    gender?" he said.

Where is Condi and her State Department?

Who is biased now? Comparing LAT and AJ

Compare the following headlines

Iraqi Police Say U.S.-Led Raid Kills at Least 17 at Shiite Mosque


Many killed in Baghdad mosque clash: A clash at a mosque in eastern Baghdad between gunmen and US and Iraqi army forces may have left as many as 22 people dead.

Guess which one is from a Western newspaper and which is from an Arab newspaper?

The first headline is from the Los Angeles Times and describes an incident where the Americans "stormed" a mosque:

At least 17 Iraqis were killed Sunday night when U.S. and Iraqi special forces stormed a mosque and clashed with Shiite Muslim militiamen, police officials said, further inflaming the country as its leaders struggled to form a new government and stem sectarian violence.

An Iraqi police official said the dead were Shiite worshipers at the Mustafa mosque in northeast Baghdad. State-owned Al Iraqiya television showed more than a dozen male corpses, at least one of them elderly, laid out in what appeared to be a prayer room as a grieving man in white robes stepped among them on a blood-smeared concrete floor.

The incident is politically explosive because the mosque is a stronghold of followers of the radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose Iranian-backed movement has a powerful bloc in parliament and a large sectarian militia. Sunday’s clash was the most serious between that militia and U.S. forces since Sadr led two anti-American uprisings in 2004.

Interestingly enough, Aljazeera reported on the same incident very differently. Instead of a raid it was a "clash" in which Americans never entered the mosque.

Iraqi police said 22 people had died in the fighting on Sunday after armed men opened fire on US soldiers in the area.

Hasan Hamud, a police lieutenant, said eight people had been wounded and some of the casualties were at an office belonging to the Dawa party near the mosque.

The incident started when US forces came under fire from an unknown source in the direction of the mosque and the party office, Hamud said.

The American military said 16 "insurgents" were killed in the Ur neighbourhood by Iraqi special forces with US troops on the scene as backup.

"No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation," the military said in a statement, at least five hours after the incident.

"As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire… [Iraqi troops] killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals," the statement said.

For comparison, the New York Times, noting the facts are in dispute, uses both "raid" and "clash". An accompanying photo of dead Iraqis is captioned "what appears to be a mosque" while the opening paragraph does not even use the word mosque:

Frayed relations between Iraq’s Shiite leadership and the American
authorities came under increased strain on Monday as Shiite leaders
expressed fury over an American-led attack on a Shiite compound and
suspended negotiations over a new government.

How many times have you heard Aljazeera is biased? Aljazeera isn’t necessarily the Fox News of the Arab audience…

Navy Won’t File Charges in Iraq Contractor Fracas

Briefly, the Zapata Engineering vs USMC clash may be over. From the Washington Post comes Navy Won’t File Charges in Iraq Contractor Fracas.

Military investigators said yesterday that they will not file any charges after completing their investigation into an incident in Iraq last May in which a group of Marines alleged they had been fired on by U.S. security contractors….

These men did nothing wrong. They were forced out of the country by the
Marines who in fact had engaged in conduct that was abusive to our own
citizens," Myers said. "I’m pleased that whatever cloud that was
hanging over those men is now removed, even if the Marine Corps will
not admit it made a mistake."

Apparently, the NCIS closed the case a long time ago, but the news is just surfacing now.

Skype = backdoor?

If you’re a Skype user, and many of us are (including me), you may be interested in this presentation by Philippe Biondi and Fabrice Desclaux. Be forewarned, it’s long and detailed, so here are the take-aways in the conclusion:

First the "Good Points"

  • Skype was made by clever people
  • Good use of cryptography

Then the "Bad Points"

  • Hard to enforce a security policy with Skype
  • Jams traffic, can’t be distinguished from data exfiltration
  • Incompatible with traffic monitoring, IDS
  • Impossible to protect from attacks (which would be
  • Total blackbox. Lack of transparency.
  • No way to know if there is/will be a backdoor
  • Fully trusts anyone who speaks Skype.

ZDNet explores the presentation more than I will but only a bit more than I did. Jan in Malaysia explores the safety of Skype password systems.  Googling Skype and backdoor returns a fair number of hits. I’d recommend Googling the news for more details.

Prime time for PMCs

Private military companies hit primetime TV according to Starpulse News Blog:

Currently in its 16th season, "Law & Order" moves to its new time slot with a politically charged fictional case that questions the reason our country is at war. In "America, Inc.," Detectives Fontana (Dennis Farina) and Green (Jesse L. Martin) suspect vengeance is the motive behind the slaying of a private military contractor. The investigation soon leads the detectives to fellow commando, Kevin Boatman (guest star Pablo Schrieber), and the younger brother of a man who was murdered by Iraqi insurgents while under the victim’s questionable command. But as A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) fights to keep a frightening video of the Iraqi execution out of court, he confronts unexpected political intrigue when more details are revealed about a recently captured terrorist. Annie Parisse, S. Epatha Merkerson and Fred Dalton Thompson also star.

Iran and al-Qaeda

I’d receommend reading this interesting post from Security Watchtower on al-Qaeda and Iran:

…growing concern in the intelligence community that Iran is strengthening ties with al Qaedaand maintaining some level of operational cooperation with the
terrorist organization. A sizeable percentage of al Qaeda’s leadership
is in fact being harbored by the Iranian regime according to many.

This is more evidence on how this Administration has actually weakened our security position in the world than strengthened it. How might we deal with Iran now? What about North Korea? Was Iraq really the imminent threat? Clearly, this Administration is in its own little world.

The Nyala

Interesting, Canadian troops get new toy:

The U.S. military, which designates the vehicle as the RG-31 ‘Charger’, has 148 units on order. Other nations and organizations that use the RG-31 include Columbia, Rwanda, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the infamous private military contractor Blackwater USA.

Hmm…. Columbia, Rwanda, S Africa, UK, UN, and… a PMC. I certainly don’t agree with the word "infamous" here, but it is interesting to put Blackwater on this list. Are they the only private enterprise to employ these vehicles? Certainly Blackwater is becoming more like a national military (it has stuff even the UN doesn’t: war memorial, air support, blimps, parachute team, etc), but to be included on this list?

Terrorists or criminals

Briefly, something on the distinction between a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘criminal’ from The Plank:

Prosecutors paint the Aryan Brotherhood as a cunning and well-organized network of convicts more concerned with earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from gambling, drug sales and prostitution than with racial superiority. This is the prosecution? It sounds like the defense! ("Your honor, my clients aren’t really genocidal Nazis, they’re simply trying to make a few bucks.")

Terms matter. How the enemy is described frames the debate and the emotional foundation for support of and against. Generalisms can easily come back to haunt and they can also lead to the wrong strategy.

DHS Gets Another F in Computer Security

This is comforting DHS Gets Another F in Computer Security.

Several agencies saw a considerable drop in their scores. The Department of Justice went from a B-minus in 2004 to a "D" in 2005, while Interior earned failing marks after getting a C-plus in 2004.

One of the greatest threats to our national security has been the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Between that and the fantasy that taking off my shoes to go through the detector at the airport (what about the chemical plants, railroads, airport employees, ports, small fields, Canada, tunnels under the southern border, etc) we are simply farther from having our act together. Too much time, money, and resources were spent on this massive re-org. How’s the FBI’s case management system coming along? How about giving email to the agents?

ERSM Video Follow Up (Updated)

Following on the post about BIAP Road / Route IRISH video on this site, I was contacted by someone who knew and had served with in the military with one of the KIAs in the video. The loss of a buddy or a family member is difficult and reliving it on video may intensify those feelings. Our exchange over email prompts me to write this post (that and the large number of hits I get on the BIAP post).

The purpose of posting the video is to, as I explained to the friend in private email, highlight the difference between realities. The differences between the corporate AAR and the Yeager AAR are interesting, but not something I will get into. This is something for you to see and read yourself. Many, especially the mainstream media, ask what our government is thinking by allowing it and who is really benefiting from the war?

There are two critical questions here and "what is our government thinking" is one. First, what was the government thinking? The military wanted more forces and the Administration said no. We had enough to win the war but not enough to win the peace. While some may argue this was a difference of opinion in defining war (see comments), it is an issue of defining and understanding purpose and goals.

The purpose of changing the "regime" required a force to maintain order post-conflict. It required civil affairs and "reconstruction" crews to move in immediately to maintain or impose order, as the situation dictated. As we saw post-Katrina, it is too easy for civil society (and we’re supposedly more civil than Iraq) to breakdown in the absence of basic services and not meeting basic needs.

Keep in mind that criminal and power-hungry elements were able to seize power in the vacuum we created. Why were the military leaders, present and former, including General Shinseki and General Wesley Clark, ignored? Why is some 25% of the reconstruction budget spent on private security?

The roots of this quandary, as I see it, may be found in the increasing civil-military relations divide in the United States. Far from the President not visiting Dover and Rumsfeld using a signature machine to sign condolence letters, we have Executive and Legislative branches increasingly separated from the military. The success of the Administration to hide the effects of the war from the public and allow us to keep watching baseball and football, fill up our Hummers, and bet on March Madness without distraction means ignoring the nearly 2,500 KIA and nearly 20,000 wounded. But that does not explain the use of private military forces to provide security for "persons, places, or things".

Most often the accountability point is placed on the table as the primary reason for the US to field, or allow the fielding of private military force. Sometimes the first point raised is avoidance of what’s been referred to as the Dover Test: the test the President and his policies goes through when a flag-draped coffin lands at Dover Air Force Base. Those pictures don’t happen unless an airman snaps an illegal photo of the coffins. This isn’t the place to delve deeper into the reasons, but one might suggest obfuscation of the security dilemma created by the White House strategy (against the advice of some military strategists) and the ability to deploy security forces to the benefit of some and without Congressional or military oversight that would accompany ‘public’ force deployments. One might also suggest over-extension as a contributing factor.

The result is more important than the reason. Operating with the explicit permission of the USG, the use of private military companies are more than the tool of American foreign policy, they are conducting foreign policy at (too often) their own discretion and under their own rules. Their actions are, also too often, represent face of the United States government and society. In other words, this is foreign policy and public diplomacy by proxy.

Even if one disputes the
Clausewitzian notion that war is "not merely an act of policy but a
true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse,
carried on with other means", the local population on the ground
invariably see the force, public or private, as representative of
American force, and by extension American foreign policy.

So why not increase the ‘public’ force to provide this security? Besides the above stated reasons of why PMCs were initially engaged in such large numbers, the White House was concerned about the perception, this would create in, mostly, if not exclusively, the US. Keep the numbers the same or similar through stop-loss was better than deploying more troops. Remember the arguments against deploying more then look at troop deployment figures.

PMCs, like ERSM, provide a service the Administration did not want to provide through the military. Whether or not ERSM, Blackwater and other firms did all that was possible or reasonable to prevent tragedy is ultimately the result of failed oversight. If a military unit failed to properly plan, provision, or execute, there would be repercussions. The implicit firewall between PMC and State and DoD both encourages distance and discourages adequate oversight to prevent and punish failures. This firewall doesn’t have to exist. As the client, contracts can be written to require certain standards of performance, excellence, and punishment. However, there is a long history to tell us how relationships with defense contractors will go. This isn’t true of all contractors, but it can happen too often and just as often, arguments over the use of PMCs fail to consider the fact the USG has the right and obligation to faithfully execute our foreign policy and conduct public diplomacy to protect and advance our country.

When ERSM does not provide armored vehicles and Blackwater does not provide a fifth or six gunner and possibly violates OPSEC by asking directions at a hotel, the fallout is on the United States even if the White House and Rumsfeld and Rice wants to refer to the deceased as "only" contractors. But they do refer to them only as contractors and fail to acknowledge their contribution to our image overseas, let alone in theater. 

The bulk of the PSC operators are good, well intentioned (and experienced) guys. The bulk of the PSCs operating in Iraq are unknown to the general global citizen / observer because they fly low and avoid the radar. Unfortunately, bad things happen and PSDs are there with limited reserves / support and it seems sometimes the corporate drive interferes with the military mission. It probably happens more often. Sometimes they’re lucky and sometimes not.

Just a few thoughts. The video isn’t exciting, it’s sad. Good men die what may have been preventable deaths.

Other Africas: Images of Nigerian Modernity

Oppressor While doing research on Nigeria, I came across this excellent website on an exhibit that ran Jan – April 2002 at Southern Illinois University.

The exhibit’s statement: "Critical observers have long noted that museum collections from Africa are composed largely of the spoils of colonial pillage. Thus the Africa we normally encounter in museums–the Africa of masks and ritual objects displayed on walls and in glass cases–is a fetishized Africa of colonial nostalgia. The objective of this exhibit is to offer images of Other Africas, perspectives that lead us away from the desolate and romanticized Africa of the Western imagination toward those places where African modernities are emerging."

At right is a poster titled The Oppressor:

This popular calendar entitled "The Oppressor," is explicit commentary on wealth and inequality in Nigeria. Here, a very large man dressed in European style clothing (which is indicative of his wealth and status) rests his feet on the very backs of Nigeria’s poor and unfortunate. Although they carry his large platter of food, he offers them nothing even as they are starving. One of the biggest criticisms that Nigerians have of the elite is their failure to share this wealth with others, even by investing in Nigerian businesses. Thus, they are often depicted as greedy and selfish.

This stunning exhibit moves you beyond thinking of Africa through a colonial frame of poached masks and thatched roofs, themes echoed by the statements of the curators. More than worth the click through time.

Slight pause on posting…

My posting will continue to be sparse or non-existent for a few more days as I work heads down on some other projects. Keep the email and comments coming. — talk soon, going back under.

Stuff I’d like to post on, but can’t right now (some I may, others will slide by):

You are as likely to lose an email as the checked bag on your next flight?

Breifly, from Deep Freeze 9: You’re as likely to lose an email as the checked bag on your next flight.

You’re as likely to lose an email as the checked bag on your next flight More email is lost than I thought. The loss rate is at least 0.7%, or 7 messages in 1,000 [1]. If you send ten messages a day, this means 25 will go astray in a year. For comparison, airlines operate with 3 to 10 lost baggage reports per 1,000 passengers on major airlines [2]. As for the old-fashioned way of doing it: the British Royal Mail has admitted that more than 14 million letters and parcels were lost, stolen, damaged or tampered in 2005, out of 22 billion items handled. That’s 0.06% — ten times better than email!


Accountability and Civil Wars

Briefly, Real Clear Politics quoted General Franks in Qatar and highlighted the following:

“The number of stories presented in any media outlet over the last five years that can be called into question and proven invalid is huge, and the number of incorrect assertions and absurd allegations is enormous.

If you as a military officer, diplomat or politician, use your judgement to make decisions and if your judgement is bad, what happens? You lose your job, livelihood, because you are responsible for what you do…”

Interesting, but if you’re a politician and you make a bad judgement, do you lose your job or livelihood? Obviously not.

In the same Q&A reported in a different Gulf Times article, General Franks reminds that “there is no guarantee that there not be” a civil war in Iraq. Continuing, he said, “My own country was founded in the late 18th century and some 60 years later what did we see? A civil war.” Ah, enter the General into the battle of words On the Media capably reported on 3 March 2006.