September 23rd, 2007
08:10 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama: I've been all over Blackwater

Obama said private security firms should follow miltary codes of conduct.

CRESTON, Iowa (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said Saturday during a question and answer period that he doesn't have "much patience" for private security firms like Blackwater USA "getting paid by U.S. Tax dollars."

Blackwater USA provides protection for U.S. Diplomats in Iraq. But the Iraqi government prohibited the firm from operating after a shooting incident Sunday where, according to the Iraqi government, as many as 20 civilians were killed by gunfire from Blackwater USA contractors guarding a U.S. diplomatic convoy. The U.S. Claims the guards were responding to an attack.

"It just so happens I introduced a bill in February...that says we've got to place Blackwater and all these private security firms under the same codes of conduct and the same auditing as our U.S. military."

The Democratic presidential candidate said companies like Blackwater can be "just as damaging to our foreign policy as anybody."

"The Iraqis look at these folks as if they're Americans," he said. "They don't make the distinction between...a private security firm [and]...the U.S. Military. It's all the same to them." U.S. resumes Blackwater convoys

Related: Blackwater resuming operations in Iraq

-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • Iraq
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Ron Nebraska

    Simply amazing! Once again Obama shows the kind of intelligence and common sense approach that has become almost non-existant in todays political atmosphere. This man is exactly what this country needs right now at this point in our history to begin to lead us out of the cesspool of the last few years.

    September 23, 2007 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  2. John Kantor, St. Petersburg, FL

    What's amazing is that Obama seems to take credit for everything (except inventing the internet).

    And what's damaging to American foreign policy is the Democrats undermining of the war. It's already led to the deaths of a couple of thousand American troops and genocide in Iraq. They have the second Vietnam they've been working for and now they are reveling in the carnage. More sick liberal hypocrisy.

    September 23, 2007 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  3. Chris, Middlefield, CT

    John – I disagree – in this scenario – I believe all he is asking is that the rules that govern the military's conduct – would be the same for private security firms. Is that bad? While I don't disagree the liberal left is like a disease in Washington – I Obama leans left...while Hillary has no idea where the middle is....we need a moderate – like Giuliani (since he's the only one)

    September 23, 2007 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  4. WDRussell, East Liverpool, Ohio

    It is nice to see that someone understands that we do have a problem.

    September 23, 2007 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  5. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Secret comments on blackwater?That's just like the bushies.

    September 23, 2007 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  6. Blayze Kohime, Columbus, OH

    What is truly pathetic is that after we gave Iran all the blame for bringing weapons in, it turns out groups like Blackwater might have been smuggling weapons in also. Nice way to raise the bar there guys.
    People who think 'Democratic undermining' has caused the deaths in Iraq would be hard pressed to explain the fact that democrats only turned against the war after the deaths and failures began. So their going against the war retroactively caused it to fail? I don't know if its any use talking to someone who defies physics with their blame.

    September 23, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  7. Michael James - Illinois

    Yet another stunning display of good judgment by Barack Obama! It is getting easier and easier to see why he should be our next president.

    Barack wanted to take action before there was a big problem.

    Hillary will probably come out with a statement in a few more days after her staff has had time to run some polls.

    September 23, 2007 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  8. anon, new york, NY

    Blackwater USA contractors are a shame og the Bush administration. They provide protection and security srevices to the US govt personnel there, which should be done by the US soldiers.

    Bush uses the contractors to lower the ever increasing military casualty figures to pacify the american voters, and to get around the soldier numbers sent to Iraq.

    Backwater USA (as well as Bush's and Cheney's personal companies) makes lots of money in this Iraq war and is likely owned by the republicans.

    September 23, 2007 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  9. KD, Dallas, TX

    I praise Obama and his insight into what the potential problems are in Iraq and in our own country. I praise his good judgement before we went to war in Iraq. He was against it before it ever began. Those with common sense knew it would become the quagmire it has become. Obama has no need to go to war for oil, no need for a stupid war. No one will ever convince me that Iraq was anything more than an oil concern. Anyone who knows about PNAC can figure that out. This administration worked so hard to come up with something to tie Iraq to 911 and it was proven there never was a connection. Those who support this war are supporting a very corrupt government. I do support our troops, I admire their courage. But I don't support the war. MY THOUGHTS ARE THAT BUSH CREATED THIS VIETNAM....CERTAINLY NOT THE DEMOCRATS. You need to remember that Bush was not elected in 2000, he was appointed. Many of us did not want anything to do with him and his extreme lack of experience and lack of common sense from the very beginning. I always thought he seemed like a bumbling idiot, having mentioned this to others who thought Bush was elected because many of the people voting for him thought he was more on their level.

    I support Obama and am continually amazed by him. His experience and intellect have been proven in Illinois and now in Washington.

    Blackwater will do nothing but damage what little respect we have left in the world. It could become the catalyst for all of Iraq's troops to turn against the Americans. Where will that leave Bush's war? It could become extremely dangerous for our troops as a result of the over aggressive Blackwater troops. They should be held to the same standards as the military. I agree that they will not be differentiated in the Iraqis minds, making them believe that our military is not there to protect them. It should be interesting watching what transpires from all of this.

    September 23, 2007 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  10. Jim Wick, Norman, Oklahoma

    John Kantor: Thanks for letting us know that we also have to "support" the flagless mercenary war profiteers or else we'll be branded as traitors by the right wing smear machine.

    What's sick is how twisted our perspective on the military and wars has become. We should be drafting these mercenaries into the military immediately, paying them what the rest of our soldiers get paid, and throwing their money-grubbing, filthy butts in the brig if they refuse to comply.

    The downfall of all great nations has come when more mercenaries were used to fight wars than actual soldiers. Number of mercenaries in Iraq: 180,000 (est.) Number of American troops: 160,000.

    September 23, 2007 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  11. Christian, Tampa FL

    To John Kantor, St. Pete:

    You're blaming the Democrats for the deaths of thousands of American troops? Wouldn't it be more logical to, hmm... Blame the President who sent them there in the first place and who refuses to bring them home???

    Anyway, Obama's right on Blackwater. Ever since I first heard of them, I've been disgusted that we're using mercenaries to such an extent in Iraq.

    September 23, 2007 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. donna, Seattle WA

    Hey CNN, Lets have some more information on how Romney and his top aides are connected to Blackwater.

    September 23, 2007 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. James P. Gailey Jackson, MI

    It was an accident. Everyone's so worried about it because they're a private firm. Get over it. War is hell. It's not recess.

    September 23, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    George Bush and Dick Cheney have created a corporate private miltary force as a for-profit business. Think about it.

    Taxpayers are paying the Blackwater their soldiers in Iraq $30,000 a month (plus overhead) – many times more than we are paying "OUR" troops. Soldiers are choosing to leave the US army to join Blackwater and the other corporate armies that have been created by taxpayer contracts.

    What happens when the US is out of Iraq? What does Blackwater do? It has a perfectly viable business, but if the US is not at war, do they go out of business? OR do they look for other clients? Doesn't anyone else find this to be wrong?

    September 23, 2007 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. RuthieM

    Great judgment on Obama's part, again. Now why aren't any of these sorts of comments, bills he introduced on this subject, his new social security plan, etc. splattered all over the headlines like Hillary's lies and thefts are?

    September 23, 2007 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. DanielO

    US sodiers are policing Iraqi streets and providing security to Iraqis while the security of US diplomats is sub-contracted.

    Figure out who owns Blackwater and how much they make and you'll have the answer to this paradox.

    The continuation of the war is big business to some people in Washinton while our soldiers die by the day.

    September 23, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Mrs. America

    Who knows for sure what really happened. What I find unsettling is that every additional coalition death death seems less and less for a valid reason, what with Maliki getting snitty, turning away from the ones giving their blood for his people (who have huge casualties) to the ones who likely are majorly responsible for shedding that blood, like Iran and Syria. It stinks, and I wish George W could see that he's even losing Iraq as an ally, as people keep on dying. I find this all terribly distressing.

    September 23, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Coach Haughton

    What's amazing is that Obama seems to take credit for everything (except inventing the internet).

    And what's damaging to American foreign policy is the Democrats undermining of the war. It's already led to the deaths of a couple of thousand American troops and genocide in Iraq. They have the second Vietnam they've been working for and now they are reveling in the carnage. More sick liberal hypocrisy.

    Posted By John Kantor, St. Petersburg, FL : September 23, 2007 6:02 am

    How is a man who opposed going to war somehow responsible for the deaths of our soldiers. If it were up to him they would never have gone.
    I understand that alot of republicans are very angry but please use some logic.

    September 23, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  19. sonya, atlanta, ga

    For those who pay attention, this recent "incident" with Blackwater isn't the first. They have had trigger happy responses before. Hiring a protective firm that is outside of the control of the military is insane. That is like having bounty hunters patrol our streets.

    September 23, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Paul Conley, Palmetto Bay, FL

    Anyone who believes that Blackwater is not guilty is deluding themselves.
    I feel more than confident that the Blackwater cowboys shot first and ask questions later.
    Blackwater and the more than 100,000 contractors in Iraq are the Bush back door draft. They have every available active duty, national guard and reserve unit they can scrap up and must rely on contractors". A less charitable person might call them mercenaries. The extremely high pay these contractors receive is the reason it cost $10 billion a week.
    When in the history of the world has a country ever gone to war with a volunteer army? Bush says we are in a global war. If this is true the first thing the President should do is mobilize (draft). To avoid that little political unpleasantness he is paying top dollar to recruit and hire every shady contractor he can find.

    September 23, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Ron Nebraska

    John Kantor.....just because you say it or make it up does not mean it's true. Your argument is completely without merit, similar to Bushs' presidency.

    September 23, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  22. Teri Wenninger. Somerset kentucky

    If the Government is not going to back up the military and the contractors hired to respresent our government, then WHY are we sending our military and contractors to Iraq. There has been many lost lives in Iraq and our own U.S. personel. It is a risky job and at times innocent do get in harms way. If Iraq government wants to bring justice to the very people that is helping Iraq, AMERICANS COME HOME! U.S. Government needs to stop putting our own military and contractors on trial. This is a WAR!
    Alot of military is in jails over situations in IRAQ and have lost their own freedom for a country that has shot at them, tortured them mentally and physically. JUSTICE is to SEND ALL AMERICANS HOME!

    September 23, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  23. Allen, Redlands CA

    So, let me get this straight: When our soldiers, who are paid near poverty wages, accidentally shoot civilians they get court-martialed. But when these highly overpaid "bubba bandits" kill civilians nothing happens and they simply go back to work. This is the Republican system at work, folks. Voting for them is voting for more of the same.

    September 23, 2007 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  24. R.John Austin, TX

    There's a reasonable (most of the time) book by Pelton about groups like Blackwater (which figures prominently in the book).

    While I think Obama has some good ideas and that the Blackwater people most likely erred in this incident, the idea that Blackwater should be held to regular US 'military codes of conduct' is probably not a good one (depending, that is, on exactly what Obama means by that; good luck, however, pinning him down on that one).

    If that happens, MORE not less Iraqis are likely to be killed by the contractors. And that is not a negative comment about the US military forces stationed over there.

    September 23, 2007 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  25. demwit

    Dem logic.

    Hey.., lets stop these highly paid and trained combat hardened ex veterns from going to Iraq to stand guard over those "hard working" Iraqi councilmen, so we can send in young inexperienced low paid new recuits to do it. Don't want to ruin our foriegn policy image do we..

    September 24, 2007 10:54 am at 10:54 am |