Plus ça change …

Eric Prince, the famously secretive CEO of Blackwater USA, has emerged from an unspecified location to testify before a House committee, and delivered a vigorous defense of his company’s performance in Iraq. Despite Blackwater’s vigorous defense, no casualties were reported among House members, staff or press, so the hearing was deemed a great success. Much of the questioning had to do with the Christmas eve killing of an Iraqi bodyguard by a drunken Blackwater employee . It should be noted that the incident ended well. The employee was hustled out of Iraq, and his pay was docked, presumably for wasting ammunition. After that, there was only a quick claims adjustment to be made, and everything would be all tidied up:

[A]n official of the United States Embassy in Iraq suggested paying the slain bodyguard’s family $250,000, but a lower-ranking official said that such a high payment “could cause incidents with people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family’s future.” Blackwater ultimately paid the dead man’s family $15,000.

You really have to admire the way that lower-ranking official watched out for the budget. Start making lavish payouts every time a private security guard gets sloshed and opens up on the citizenry, and Iraqis will be cashing in their relatives left and right. Best to nip that in the bud.
For some reason, the committee members seemed perturbed by all this. For me, though, it harked back to a simpler time, when a can-do organization like Blackwater was not harried by packs of hand-wringers with their pathetic complaints about “accountability” and “due process” and “could you remove the electrodes from my genitals, please?” The happy spirit of that age was captured best by Mark Twain:

I refer with effusion to our railway system, which consents to let us live, though it might do the opposite, being our owners. It only destroyed three thousand and seventy lives last year by collisions, and twenty-seven thousand two hundred and sixty by running over heedless and unnecessary people at crossings. The companies seriously regretted the killing of these thirty thousand people, and went so far as to pay for some of them—voluntarily, of course, for the meanest of us would not claim that we possess a court treacherous enough to enforce a law against a railway company. But, thank Heaven, the railway companies are generally disposed to do the right and kindly thing without compulsion. I know of an instance which greatly touched me at the time. After an accident the company sent home the remains of a dear distant old relative of mine in a basket, with the remark, “Please state what figure you hold him at—and return the basket.” Now there couldn’t be anything friendlier than that.

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