Image of protester defacing Blackwater logo (in 2007) from
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In early 2007, citizens of tiny Potrero — 45 minutes from downtown San Diego and 8 minutes from Tecate — rebelled. A mercenary firm, Blackwater USA, wanted to build an 824-acre training facility three miles from the hamlet of fewer than 1000 residents. Well over half of Potrero's 435 registered voters protested vigorously. The county backed Blackwater.

Potrero won. In March of 2008, Blackwater abandoned its Potrero plans.

The New York Times is now reporting that just weeks before Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007, the State Department began investigating the $1 billion contract that the mercenary firm had to protect American diplomats.

A State Department investigator wrote a scathing report about Blackwater's activities. The investigation was jettisoned after Blackwater's top head in Iraq said "he could kill" the investigator "and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq," according to State Department reports.

Whew! The people of Potrero may have sensed how Blackwater would disturb its tranquility. The company has since gone through several permutations and name changes, and is now a part of Constellis Holdings.

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shirleyberan June 30, 2014 @ 4:50 p.m.

I bet you can explain the connection between Blackwater and Halliburton. Is that Constellis perhaps? No reason for high crimes and exploitation here, good call. Also have heard some word on the Clintons cashing in, but maybe that's from books and speaking engagements, doubtfully.


Don Bauder June 30, 2014 @ 9:12 p.m.

shirleyberan: A 2006 film claimed four companies, including Blackwater and Halliburton, were overcharging the U.S. and doing shoddy work. VP Dick Cheney, former head of Halliburton, had close ties with Blackwater. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan June 30, 2014 @ 5:46 p.m.

Maybe I'm imagining something of a conspiracy theory.


Don Bauder June 30, 2014 @ 9:13 p.m.

shirleyberan: Blackwater had close ties to the Bush administration and certain rightwing Christian groups. You are not a conspiracy theorist. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 30, 2014 @ 9:16 p.m.

Roberto Fernandez: What's the story? The State Department reported that the head of Blackwater in Iraq said he could kill the State Department investigator and the company could get away with it because it happened in Iraq. And you don't think that's a story? Please. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 30, 2014 @ 9:18 p.m.

Alec Wood: While Blackwater was doing mercenary work in Iraq, its employees made much more money than comparable U.S. military people. This caused a lot of unrest -- and should have. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh July 1, 2014 @ 9:14 a.m.

I'm with Alec. The US is, and was in 2003, the "world's sole remaining superpower", yet we had an army of fewer than a half million. With commitments all round the world, that meant that anywhere we went to war, the force would be short-handed. In Iraq, victory came quickly, but when it came to running an occupation, insufficient numbers of "boots on the ground" were there. The now-discredited former VA chief, Shinseki, was chairman of the joint chiefs at the time, and told Rumm-Dumm that a force of 200,000 was needed for the occupation. Rumsfeld denied the need, and made no attempt to staff up. But the real reason was that our army simply didn't have enough troops for that task. And so, the mercenaries were hired. All of the reasons for not hiring people to replace soldiers are good ones, and one is the disparity in pay, benefits, and control. Blackwater was a product of poor planning, and a desire to cut our military forces too far. I'm not defending the corporation, just pointing out that if it wasn't Blackwater, it would have been some other operation, one that might have been even worse.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 12:11 p.m.

Visduh: Why didn't our military have adequate forces? It is possible that the voluntary Army isn't working. It just recently came out that the military rejects well over half those who apply.

Reinstating the draft would be political poison. The Vietnam protests taught politicians that.

Of course, in my judgment, we never should have gone into Iraq the second time anyway. We had no pretext except the unspoken one -- helping the oil industry. The way the war was sold through distortions and outright lies will go down in history as one of our country's most shameful episodes. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker July 1, 2014 @ 12:24 p.m.

That, and the personal issue the Bush family had with Saddam Hussein. And the younger Bush's confused, end-game religious thinking.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 2:03 p.m.

eastlaker: Yes, and remember the Bush family was in the oil business. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh July 1, 2014 @ 1:22 p.m.

The downsizing of the army in the 90's was a political decision. At the time the Wall came down and we headed into the Gulf, the army had 800,000 in uniform, and that had nothing to do with a draft, which had ended twenty years earlier. The nation was willing to spend what was necessary to have an adequate force during the latter days of the Cold War, but didn't want to keep anything above a minimum afterward. That's why the military was not of adequate size.

In hindsight it appears that the reasons for invading Iraq that were stated were mistaken. Just remember that at the end of the Clinton administration, the CIA and DoD had ample reason to fear Saddam's WMD's. It is likely history will not treat that war (and those behind it) well. At the time of the invasion, the US was already engaged in Afghanistan, on top of all its other commitments. Just not enough people in uniform.

This talk of a high rejection rate of enlistees is alarming, but doesn't necessarily mean that the armed forces cannot get enough men and women to fill their ranks.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 2:29 p.m.

Visduh: And as San Diego learned painfully, the downsizing did not just involve personnel. The aerospace-defense industry in Southern California crumbled in the early days of the 1990s, wreaking havoc in the overall economy. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan June 30, 2014 @ 9:38 p.m.

I was aware of the Cheney/Bush connection but I thought maybe the wheeler-dealers had crossed party lines.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 7:10 a.m.

shirleyberan: American embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater, despite its multiple misbehaviors, but the State Department wanted the company gone. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 12:13 p.m.

Kalum Truett: I know Blackwater set up a rifle range in South County after it abandoned Potrero, but I know nothing about Mt. Laguna. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh July 1, 2014 @ 1:25 p.m.

That probably refers to Blackwater (or was it Xenon by that time?) setting up on the Los Coyotes Reservation. When its presence became widely known, I remember them leaving there. That reservation is in the mountains in San Diego County, but is many miles north of Mt. Laguna.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 2:05 p.m.

Visduh: Mt. Laguna is still a mystery to me. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 7:35 p.m.

shirleyberan: I didn't know that. Best, Don Bauder


monaghan July 1, 2014 @ 7:30 p.m.

Privatizing the U.S. military was the brainchild of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and it finally blew up when a contingent of Blackwater "security" people killed an innocent Iraqi family in their car at a Baghdad intersection. Oops. Read war reporter Jeremy Scahill's scathing book on Blackwater.

Blackwater had an affinity for America's Finest City, all-military-all-the-time San Diego. Blackwater tried to set up shop in Potrero and was thwarted. They also tried to establish a secret base in East County, near or on some Indian land. Finally, before moving away and changing their name multiple times, our own ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders gave Blackwater a lease on a big warehouse in South Bay near the Border.


Don Bauder July 1, 2014 @ 7:38 p.m.

monaghan: As I recall, Blackwater was challenged in court on that big warehouse (which I thought was an indoor shooting range) and the company won under a Republican judge. Best, Don Bauder


MiriamRaftery July 1, 2014 @ 9:50 p.m.

The Indians booted them off their land on the Los Coyotes reservation after the Eagle Fire, which was started by disgruntled fired employees as I recall. As for how Potrero ousted them, the people actually recalled all 5 community planners who voted for Blackwater and staged a march through the forest to show what would be lost. Then the Harris Fire proved BW's VP was a liar, going on national TV claiming they were confident their property in Potrero would not burn, when it already had the night before. I know. I got the photos as proof.


Don Bauder July 2, 2014 @ 7:20 a.m.

Miriam Raftery: Yes, the battle went on for some time. Blackwater pulled several PR stunts to woo Potrero residents, but the majority stayed adamant: the company had to go. Look at the ugly publicity the county would have received if San Diego had become known as Blackwater's second home. It was one of the few times that greed was up against quality of life, and the latter won. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan July 1, 2014 @ 8:03 p.m.

Some gold-mining this side of the mountain as I understand.


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