I was wandering through the Blackwater USA site. The header to this page was the photo below:

Thirty seconds later, I found this picture:

There’s also a Fox News Video that allows you to see, among other things, Blackwater folks doing their job in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also gives you a look at Blackwater’s new vehicle, the Grizzly.

Now, the other day I had a post that stated things like this:

Put another way… the Iraqis don’t seem to think that Blackwater is in their country legally, but the company is clearly there at the request of the American government. Seems kind of an odd situation for a sovereign country.

And another thing… (as one of Steve Benen’s commentators asks): are Blackwater employees readily identifiable as not being American troops? Somehow, I doubt it. In the minds of the average Iraqi, when they see something done by a Blackwater employee, they automatically assume its done by “Americans.”

Now, look at the above pictures, and watch the Fox video. Say that some folks from Blackwater light up another carful of Iraqis or has another standoff with Iraqi troops. (I don’t think either of these events is particularly unlikely given the state of chaos that exists in Iraq. The best trained personnel in the world cannot avoid causing damage to third parties, even innocent victims, in such an environment.) Perhaps some of the Blackwater folks are in a Grizzly when it happens, and the rest are dressed as Blackwater publicity photos might lead us to believe they would be dressed. (Note – I really don’t think those are stock images. Those look to me like official Blackwater photos.)

If you asked some Iraqis who happen to witness that, who are they going to say did it? Are they going to say, “It was some folks from Blackwater. The US military had nothing to do with it”? My guess… they’re going to say, very simply and succinctly, “It was the Americans.”

Now, for those who will insist on misinterpreting this post, I am not against the US military, nor am I against Blackwater. I am merely trying to point out – the activity of military contractors reflects on US troops in Iraq and affects how the locals see US troops, and whether its right or wrong, fair or unfair, its true. Period. End of story. If the contractors are subject to looser rules, and are less likely to be punished for infractions, both of which seem to be the case, US troops will suffer for it. Hearts and minds.