Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paramilitary Protection for US Bananas & Iraq

Colombia is shouting foul after the USA's Chiquita Bananas Corp had fines of $25,000,000 levied against it for its horrible use of paramilitary parasites. Iraq is reeling from a paramilitary security gun fight involving the rightwing US Corporation, Blackwater, after an alleged shooting attack targeted a State Department convoy. The gunfight killed at least 8 innocent Iraqis and wounded 20 others. That incident initially angered the Iraqi president Maliki enough to revoke Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. That put the US military in a deep bind, as Blackwater is hired by the Pentagon, u$ing hundred$ of million$ of US taxpayer dollar$ to handle $ecurity operation$ previously handled by the US Armed Forces. Another remnant Rumsfeld poorly thought out defense policy.
From the start, Blackwater has played a major role in securing U.S. interests in Iraq: guarding top diplomats like Paul Bremmer in 2003 to the current U.S. ambassador.

Now, the Iraqi government has ordered the company to stop working until the investigation is complete - a direct challenge to U.S. policymakers on the ground here who rely on Blackwater for their own security.

“That's going to severely hamper the ability of the diplomatic corps to move around, but again you got other companies that are well-placed to step in and fill that void,” says former Blackwater vice president Jamie Smith.

There are incidents that explain why many Iraqis hate foreign security companies. For example, contractors from another firm filmed themselves shooting at Iraqi civilian vehicles and showcased the images on their Web site over an Elvis Presley soundtrack. (AP photo)
A little known fact, is there are more private contractors (180,000) in Iraq than US soldiers (160,000 due to the deplorable surge & splurge). Enter a Gomer Pyle, surprise, surprise, surprise, after torching the phonelines between the US & Iraq, the governments are now going to do an independent joint investigation with, ahem, Iraqi cooperation and tacit agreement. Amazing how that stuff happens with Bush buddies getting a free pass.

Meanwhile, the global brand name of Chiquita is taking a hit after hiring paramilitary group, United Self Defense Committees of Colombia, a group listed by the US as a terrorist group. US corp., Chiquita Banana's is $25 million USD lighter after paying this infamous paramilitary group of known killers. The cute little Chiquita bananas logo doesn't look so inviting along side the corpses of dead Colombians funded by another US business.

A US federal court Monday ordered the Chiquita banana company to pay 25 million dollars in fines for paying millions of dollars in protection money to Colombian paramilitary groups between 1997 and 2004.

Judge Royce Lamberth accepted an agreement between the company and the US government in March that spared company executives. (emphasis mine)
Who is paying the families of the innocents caught in Chiquita's crossfire? Those were hails of murderous bullets, not overripe bananas.
In accepting the fines, the prosecution agreed not to name or prosecute the executives involved in ordering the payments. On Monday prosecutors called the company's actions, which it has said were taken in the face of extortion, "morally repugnant." "Chiquita was funding the bullets which killed innocent Colombians," said prosecutor Jonathan Malis.
It doesn't end there, as Colombia is vowing to prosecute the company executives involved. Chiquita's exec's must have a real interesting profile for being hired. Where on the executive resume do you exactly tout experience working with known terrorist groups to protect a bunch of bananas and oops a few people died in the execution of Chiquita's strategic plan. Would love to know what type of political contributions these executives made while hiring contract paramilitary killers to get this kind of a sweetheart banana pudding deal.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos joined other officials in blasting the deal as outrageous and demanded the fine go to victims of violence, who are already seeking damages from Chiquita, one of the world's top banana producers.

"If the conduct of executives at the banana company Chiquita Brands constitutes any crime in Colombia, then we will ask, with the help of the attorney general, for these people to be extradited," the foreign ministry said in a statement. (picture courtesy AFP)
Many of the individuals working for Blackwater are ex-military and former special forces receiving tremendous cash bonuses and three times the salary of enlisted military personnel. Chiquita's hiring... The 4 US Blackwater employees dragged through the streets in 2004 horrified Americans. The families of those Blackwater employees are being stonewalled by republicans in Congress and the White House from getting information on their demise. Private company Blackwater is working hard to have their lawsuit dismissed under the catch-all national security rubric.

A banana republic may be what Iraq is morphing into under the might of US military power. Diplomats were in short supply for Iraq and an over reliance on private security/paramilitary options has wrought continuous long term issues and outsourced certain skills to the private sector. Privately held by Erik Prince, Blackwater is devastatingly portrayed in its infinite pervasiveness in the spectacular 2007 book by Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. A frightening, unnerving must read to understand the full horrifying scope of the company's insidiousness ties to ├╝ber rightwing politics and the conservative Christian movement. They are operating in a Muslim country.

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