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OP/ED: MP decries Canadian contracting of 'Blackwater' mercenaries

We often hear stories in the press about mercenary armies in which soldiers-for-hire do the dirty work of various governments around the world. One such group is Xe Services,which was originally foundedby former US Special Forces SEAL Erik Prince, under the name of Blackwater. This private mercenary company was first contracted by the American government in 1998 to train Special Forces for the navy and for the FBI. Xe Services now operates through 30 affiliate shell companies to secure its contracts.

Between 2005 and 2010, Canada’s Department of National Defense (DND) awarded $7.7 million in contracts to Blackwater. According to an access-to-information obtained by the magazine l’actualité, these contracts were signed just a few months before our troops were sent on their dangerous combat mission to Kandahar province in Afghanistan. A number of ‘classified secret’ contracts were signed without an open bidding process and involved our military police, special forces and snipers. 
 
On Sept. 16, 2007, Blackwater mercenaries fired upon a crowd at Nissour Square in Bagdhad, killing 17 innocent civilians and wounding approximately 20 others. Blackwater has also been responsible for other civilian deaths in Afghanistan. 
 
The US House of Representatives published a report in October 2007 which revealed that, out of 195 gun battles in Iraq and Afghanistan in which Blackwater took part, the hired guns were the first to fire in 163 of them.
 
Out of the total $7.7 Million Canada paid out to Blackwater, 72 per cent was spent following the massacre in Bagdhad. It is a sad reflection on our country that the DND continued its relationship with the perpetrators of such crimes after that tragic day.
 
So far, 233 of our military police have been trained to survive in volatile danger zones at Xe Services’ 6,000-acre facility in Moyock, North Carolina, which is outfitted with simulated Afghan and Iraq villages, weapons stores and state-of-the-art shooting ranges. We have no information on the number of other military personnel or on the type of training received at the private base.
 
There are serious moral questions we need to ask. Should we be getting involved in wars that have nothing to do with the security of our country? Should ‘professional killer’ companies, mired in multiple controversies pertaining to civilian casualties, arms dealing and torture in other parts of the world, be contracted to train our soldiers? To my way of thinking the answer is a resounding ‘NO’. If we do not have the facilities in place to train our troops at home then we have no business sending our forces into harm’s way in the first place.
 
I have always maintained that war should be the very last resort after all other possible solutions have failed. Had we not been one of the few NATO countries to send its soldiers into combat in Afghanistan, a mission which thankfully is coming to an end, we would not have resorted to the moral hazard of collaborating with a private mercenary army that hires out professional killers for lucrative contracts.
 
In my opinion, there needs to be a much more open and serious consideration of all the implications, including the use of mercenary armies, prior to any further combat engagement for the men and women of the Canadian Forces. 
 
Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior