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Insurgent Vid Targets Blackwater, Other Contractors Print
By Noah Shachtman, April 23, 2008

Insurgents have put together hundreds of propaganda videos ranting about how oh-so-terrible the American troops in Iraq are.  But this is the first flick I've seen that directly and exclusively targets the private military contractors like Blackwater that have become a hallmark of the Iraq occupation.  

Earlier this week, the Sunni insurgent group Islamic Army of Iraq released "Bloody Contracts," in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.  "Crimes against Iraqis happen on a daily basis done by unleashed barbarians dressed in security uniforms, criminals protected by law and instructed by the Bush administration to murder for the sake of killing," the IAI's deadpan narrator tells his audience. A cartoon of a masked gunman shooting at a black helicopter is in the background.

The video starts on March 31, 2004 -- a day when Iraqis, not American contractors, were the ones acting barbaric. Four Blackwater employees were killed by locals after getting lost in Fallujah. Their bodies were burned, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge.  "Many were confused and shocked" by the actions, the video notes, and "wonder[ed] what could be the reasoning behind such aggressive acts done to these contractors... [W]hat had driven Iraqis to forget their civilized path?"

You already know IAI's answer.

"Bloody Contracts" shows "that security contractors are not being targeted just as an extension of targeting US forces but rather as a direct target," saysBen Venzke, the CEO of  IntelCenter, which meticulously tracks insurgent and jihadist propaganda.  "While attacks on contractors are nothing new, this video is one sign that the threat profile for contractors has continued to increase and that groups like IAI are specifically looking for ways to attack contractors such as Blackwater both on the ground and in the information war space."

Today's insurgencies aren't like the old-school revolutions in Vietnam or Malaysia, Steven Metz notes in a recent Parameters article.  "In addition to what might be labeled 'first forces' (the insurgent and the regime) and 'second forces' (outside sponsors of the insurgents or the regime), there are 'third forces' (armed groups such as militias, criminal gangs, or private military corporations) and 'fourth forces' (the international media and nongovernmental organizations) all with the capability to impact the outcome."

To P.W. Singer, the Brookings Institution scholar and long-time authority on wartime contractors, this video is an example of those forces all coming together: a quasi-terrorist, quasi-insurgent group dueling it out with a private military company, to appeal with outside sponsors, with  aid of the international media.  Complicated times.
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