A couple of days ago, Reuters reported on a strange dust-up between in Iraq between the private security firm Blackwater, and members of The New York Times' Baghdad bureau. "Blackwater killed our dog" the Times complained, reporting that one of the company's security specialists shot the animal before a U.S. diplomat visited the bureau last week. The American Embassy is reportedly investigating the incident (your tax dollars at work).
Responding to the charges, a Blackwater spokesperson told Reuters that the Times' dog (named Hentish) attacked one of the firm's bomb-sniffing dogs, during a security sweep of the compound. According to Blackwater's Anne Tyrrell:
"The K-9 handler made several unsuccessful attempts to get the dog to retreat, including placing himself between the dogs. When those efforts failed, the K-9 handler unfortunately was forced to use a pistol to protect the company's K-9 and himself," she said in an e-mail to Reuters.
And, there may be a bit more to this story than we first thought. Eason Jordan at the Huffington Post (literally) had some first-hand experience with the Times' compound dogs. Last spring, he suffered a serious bite from a dog named Scratch, who left three deep gashes in Jordan's hand, requiring treatment at a U.S. Army hospital in Baghdad.
After that, other dogs at the Times' bureau reportedly bit an Iraqi in the crotch, and attacked one of the paper's photographers in the chest. A Times correspondent told Mr. Jordan that the Baghdad compound has since been cleared of dogs.
As readers of this blog know, Mrs. Spook and Your Humble Correspondent are certified dog lovers, having owned everything from a miniature poodle to a Rottweiler. Our household currently includes two canines, a Catahoula Leopard (a.k.a. The World's Fattest Dog) and a recently acquired Chihuahua (it wasn't my idea). We deplore the senseless slaughter of any animal.
Yet, we also recognize that the Blackwater handler had a right to defend himself--and his dog--from attack. The Blackwater animal is a valuable asset in a city where hidden bombs are the preferred tools for killing. A certified bomb-sniffing dog is worth at least $18,000, the amount of money required to put the animal through weeks of intense training. Add in the cost of a kennel-equipped squad car or other vehicle to transport a working dog, and the price tag quickly soars past $40,000. In Baghdad, the cost of a K-9 explosives team is even higher.
Some would argue that Hentish was engaging in typical canine behavior by defending his home turf, and that makes us wonder: just who was responsible for the dog? If he was a bureau pet, didn't the NYT staffers have some obligation to keep their dogs under control? And where was Pinch Sulzberger in all of this? If he can provide "unrivaled bureau quarters" and "sumptuous food" in a war-torn city, you'd think he could fly in the "Dog Whisperer" for a few days of remedial canine behavior training.
Just for fun, check out the comments on Mr. Jordan's item at the Huffington Post. Guess who the left-wing nuts blame for the Blackwater incident? As you might have guessed, it isn't the late, lamented, sainted Hentish, or his NYT owners.
H/T: Sharon Weinberger at the Danger Room.