Blackwater loses its gunmakers

Last night, German TV did an investigative piece asking the question:  who makes Blackwater's guns?  The program, from SWR's "Report Mainz" (which in the past has also done some nice work on US mistreatment of captives) laid out in some detail how the firm of Heckler & Koch (local, to the station) was Blackwater's strategic partner and gunmaker of choice.  

Let there be no doubt about it:  HK makes excellent weapons.  Doubtless this report struck a couple nerves, and not just in the management suites.  For a long time in the Cold War and thereafter pretty much every German soldier - conscripts now watching this in their living rooms - was issued a rifle that came from HK's production lines.  Most German cops' sidearms are from HK.  And then there are the government contracts going forward.

I've taken the time to translate the text of the story, and provide the video and text links.  Please watch and read.  And, nice catch to TPM and HuffPo for picking up this story.

The text version is located at this site.  

The video, about 6 minutes, is located here.  Even if you can't understand German, it's quite easy to get the tone of their report from the tone of voice.  [NB - the fox walking in the background behind the moderator is the station logo.  Smart like a fox....]

The report

A Questionable Partnership

US Private Army Blackwater shoots with German weapons

There have always been mercenaries.  Beginning in ancient times mercenaries fought for money.  In Iraq, the American mercenary-company Blackwater Worldwide is active ahead of all others. Their advertisements call them a ,,military service provider".  This is pure cynicism.  

Again and again these troops are in the headlines, because the Blackwater people, sometimes soberly levelheaded, sometimes drunk, have also shot civilians.  What does that have to do with Germany?  A lot, I'll tell you.  Thomas Reutter and Ashwin Raman have themselves looked into which weapons they use and how high-class German workmanship shows itself off.


The US security firm Blackwater.  Private troops for special applications.  Blackwater receives contracts from the US government for work they will not give their own military.  In a value from a billion dollars.  The vast majority of it in Iraq.  Blackwater does not enjoy a good reputation.  

In a video report of the NYT, Blackwater men killed 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007.  An eyewitness reported:

Voiceover of an eyewitness:  

 "They shot for 20 minutes.  Without there being any resistance."

Voiceover Tagesschau speaker:  

"The firm came into the headlines because of its crazed (raving, rabid) activity, during which civilians were shot."

Voiceover - Moderator:

And the US Congress now also seeks accountability from Blackwater, as these "warriors" are perpetrating violent attacks and the killing of Iraqi civilians.  

The Congress has investigated almost 200 shooting incidents in the past two years, in which Blackwater was involved.  The fruits of their (Blackwater's) labors:  163 fallen (dead);  also in 84 percent of the shooting incidents Blackwater opened fire first.  And Blackwater has a business partner in Germany.  

It is a traditional business in Upper Swabia.  The weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf am Neckar.  It is a renowned buisness, known world-wide for high-quality German workmanship.  Blackwater and Heckler & Koch have cooperated for years.  In 2006 the German company featured an advertisement on its homepage that it it had a unique and strategic partnership with Blackwater.  And more:  "Heckler & Koch will produce special-edition Blackwater [equipment]".  And H&K offered [training] courses with Blackwater.  Shooting with military weapons from H&K.  

How Blackwater actually shoots in Iraq, as this video shows, has also kept the US Congress busy/interested.  [The scene is] Blackwater men on a roof in Najaf.  A sniper shoots at men 800 meters distant, as if they were clay pigeons.

Voiceover (of the smiling shooter):  "This is like a f*ckin' turkey shoot."

Voiceover, Hans Christian Stroeble (Greens) deputy party leader.

"It is scandalous.  And it is irremediable/unacceptable (cannot be undone) that a German weapons firm works with a lawless mercenary army like that.  They were totally open in founding a partnership for developing new weapons, although they must have known that this firm was deeply involved in the illegal killings of people in Iraq."

At a demonstration in 2006 Blackwater presented the newest Heckler & Koch weapons.  And Blackwater then carried such weapons into action in Iraq:  a G36, an MP5 [photo of guy with submachinegun in one hand, can of beer in other].  A Blackwater merecenary in Afghanistan with a G36K.  But should Heckler & Koch be allowed to [continue to] sell Blackwater such weapons?

On the decision of whether German weapons may be delivered or not there are clear legal guidelines:  The political basic laws of the Federal Government for the Export of Weapons of War.  Their goal is "Securing peace, preventing violence and protecting human rights."

How did these weapons then come to Blackwater in spite of this?  Heckler & Koch is keeping quiet about that.  The Federal government (and its economic ministry) never permitted a delivery from Germany.  An example, how the weapons deal could take place, was found on the homepage of Heckler & Koch.

In theory, the firm in Oberndorf only had to deliver them to Heckler & Koch USA.  From there, they could be sold directly to Blackwater.  Without German permits.  It was that simple to evade the basic law of the Federal Government.  

Voiceover, Werner Hoyer, Free Democratic Party (think business-Republicans) deputy party leader:

"That was a loophole in the law which must be closed.  And especially because we now see that a problem has grown there and will only get bigger, and therefore we need to get more transparency and precise legal lines [drawn]."

Question:  Also there must be a bit of movement there? [In other words, "there's going to be some urgency on this?"]

Voiceover, Werner Hoyer, FDP deputy party leader

"There will be a lot of movement [quickly];  this topic is of great concern."

Heckler & Koch refused to grant an interview.  In a written statement to us the firm confirmed the partnership with Blackwater, but denied developing weapons for Blackwater.  The firm's statement said the Heckler & Koch subsidiary in the USA had delivered weapons only for training courses and then the statement said:  "based upon the media reports about Blackwater which are known to us, especially insofar as they deal with the scope of [our] the relationship, we are closely examining this business partner [and its activities]."

In September of last year alone Blackwater killed 17 civilians in a plaza in Baghdad.  Publicly and arbitrarily.  What will have to happen, before Heckler & Koch ends its partnership with Blackwater?

Postscript, Fritz Frey:

Yes, and shortly before our broadcast we received this information from Heckler & Koch.  Therein it states:  "The management of Heckler & Koch has decided to immediately sever every connection with Blackwater."  It is pleasing when our reporting leads to such results.  

My kudos to Report Mainz, for good work.  And to H&K - for still being capable of being shamed.

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  • Display: Sort:
    A correction to my translation (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by scribe on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 06:15:30 PM EST
    this paragraph:

    The Congress has investigated almost 200 shooting incidents in the past two years, in which Blackwater was involved.  The fruits of their (Blackwater's) labors:  163 fallen (dead);  also in 84 percent of the shooting incidents Blackwater opened fire first.  And Blackwater has a business partner in Germany.  

    should read
    The Congress has investigated almost 200 shooting incidents in the past two years, in which Blackwater was involved.  The fruits of their (Blackwater's) labors:  in 163 shooting incidents (84 percent of them) Blackwater opened fire first.  And Blackwater has a business partner in Germany.  

    My mistake.  I missed an umlaut.

    Also, the clips from the Blackwater website come and go pretty quickly.  But they read:
    "Special-edition HK/Blackwater firearms are being developed."  This is followed by the sentence:  "HK logo products and accessories will also be available through the Blackwater website."

    That was interesting (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by splashy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 03:15:11 PM EST
    Very enlightening. Kudos to the Germans for stopping their support of those right wing religious mercenaries once it became known. I hope that others will follow suit and they will wither away from lack of military supplies.

    A person can wish, can't they?

    the army supplies their guns in iraq (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by wendymae on Sat Apr 05, 2008 at 06:09:52 PM EST
    that's what prince said in the congressional hearings anyway.  that really surprised me, and it stuck with me.  not that i don't hate all things blackwater, i just don't know if the german gunmakers are actually supplying the guns they're shooting innocent iraqis with.

    Excellent Report, scribe. (none / 0) (#4)
    by creeper on Wed May 07, 2008 at 09:17:45 AM EST
    What worries me the most about Blackwater is wondering where the mercenaries and their weapons will go when we get out of Iraq.  

    Nice to know the Germans have principles, even if our own government doesnt'.