US in Iraq: Soldiers out; Blackwater in?

AFP Photo / Patrick Baz
"The biggest thing in my mind is 'Will the press, will members of Congress and others continue to say it’s just a name change?” Tim Wright asks CNN. “Will they accept this as real change now?'"

Probably not. After all, it is hard for most people to shrug off the massacre of droves of innocent civilians.

Wright has recently come on board as CEO of Academi, a new name that the former execs at Blackwater have applied to the security squad in hopes of rebranding their organization after a decade of bad press and poor results. The controversial military contract company has raised eyebrows since the US government first installed its men and women overseas to reinforce America’s military presence, which instead resulted in a series of brutal killings of civilians gone largely without reprimand. In 2009, they changed the name from Blackwater to Xe Services LLC, and with their latest announcement, are rebranding once again in order to save face.

Easier said than done.

“Our focus is on training and security services. We’re continuing that,” CEO Wright tells’s Danger Room. “We’re not backing away from security services. The lion’s share of our business today is providing training for security services and [providing] security services.” Such security patrol has been the bulk of Blackwater (under whichever guise it chooses to go by that month) since the start of the company in 1997, but has come as a challenge for the security forces.

“As we make changes and they take root and we convince everyone they’re real,” Wright adds to Danger Room, “then the real proof in the pudding is convincing the government of Iraq and the U.S. government to let us do business in Iraq.”

With President Obama formally discussing the withdrawal of American troops the same afternoon as Wright reveals the name-change, that business might be easier said than done. After a decade of a war that a reporter asked Obama today if he thought it was “dumb,” Iraq is surely to be hesitant in allowing security forces back into the country, even with a cute name change. As per Obama’s promise, American troops will empty out of Iraq by the month’s end. Will Academi pick up the slack?

"We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company," Write says in an official statement on the company’s website. Among those changes are bringing Patriot Act purveyor and former-US Attorney General John Ashcroft on board at Academi. The result, says Wright, will allow for Academi to “develop a culture of operational excellence, governance, accountability and strategic growth.”

Even if they contractors aren’t allowed back in Iraq, they will still have a presence on America’s other long-standing battlefield; currently, Academi has a 10-acre operating base in Kabul, Afghanistan.