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Where Military Rules Don't Apply

Blackwater USA, whose employees guard U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has received $678 million in State Department contracts since 2003.
Blackwater USA, whose employees guard U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has received $678 million in State Department contracts since 2003. (January 2005 Photo By Scott Peterson -- Getty Images)

"What they told me was, 'Our mission is to protect the principal at all costs. If that means pissing off the Iraqis, too bad,' " she recalled.

Exline Starr said that most of the guards were highly professional but that their mission was different and appeared to be contrary to the U.S. government's overall goal of winning over Iraqis. She said she approached senior managers for Blackwater and DynCorp "to express my concern over the importance of maintaining relationships that have been nurtured for over six months." The companies took a more low-profile approach after the discussions, she said.

Chester Schultz, a former Blackwater guard from Fenton, Mich., said the company's goals differ from those of the military and the State Department.

"Unfortunately, the rules and regulations are way different than they're applied, and people are not held accountable, for the most part," he said. "I'm not saying it's a bunch of cowboys, but it's a different job. We're not paid to go out and find and eliminate the insurgents. Our job is to keep people alive and safe, and do what we need to do."

Degn said he believed that the Iraqi government was trying to hold up Blackwater as "a symbol." If the government can bring the company to heel, he said, all the other private security companies will have to follow.

"It's a symbol of the rift that still exists between both governments," he said. "The Iraqis are trying to establish their own authority. And if they do this, they can show the world that Blackwater is not untouchable. And that the U.S. is not the ultimate authority in their country."

Correspondents Joshua Partlow and Megan Greenwell in Baghdad and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.


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