Janessa Gans spent more than two years as a US official in Iraq. While she was there, she lived in the Green Zone but traveled all over the country, guarded by Blackwater employees. Today on my show, she had some harsh words for the way she saw the Blackwater guards act towards Iraqis — actions which she says serve to undermine the US mission in Iraq by turning locals against Americans and possibly into terrorists.

Gans doesn’t think of the Blackwater security forces as mercenaries, and isn’t calling for all private security contractors to be removed from Iraq. But she does think that their unregulated status and overly aggressive actions are harming the effort to win the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis, at a time when we can least afford it.

After her comments on Blackwater, I found Gans’ analysis of the current situation in Iraq and the problems we’ve had there to be very refreshing. She says some things that I haven’t heard anyone else come forward and say, particularly about the lack of political will on the part of the Iraqi leadership.

Gans, who also spent time in Afghanistan, continues to consult the State Department on Iraq while she’s a visiting professor of political science and Middle East politics at Principia College. Gans is founder of The Euphrates Institute, a non-governmental organization that seeks to “capitalize on the growing need and desire of many to bridge the divide between the Muslim and Western worlds.”

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