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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2733

Letter from America: Blackwater, Iraq and the Bush Administration

Habib SiddiquiBy Habib Siddiqui

If you have been following the Iraqi Invasion and the subsequent American Occupation, you probably did not miss hearing about the trigger-happy Blackwater mercenaries. Blackwater is the largest private military (mercenary) company in the USA that trains more than 40,000 people a year. The training consists of military offensive and defensive operations, as well as smaller scale personal security. The company has nine business units. Its Aviation Worldwide Services (AWS) provide services to the CIA, and its aircrafts have also been used in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” programs.

In 2003, Blackwater attained its first high-profile contract when it received a $21 million no-bid contract from the U.S. government for guarding L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Because of their savage, trigger-happy, killer instinct mentality which resulted in wanton killing of unarmed civilians, it did not take too long for these mercenaries to be loathed and despised by all Iraqis. As a display of furious public anger, on March 31, 2004, when four Blackwater employees were ambushed and killed in Fallujah, their bodies were hung on bridges.

From published reports, it is believed that since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget protecting U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones. In 2006, Blackwater won the contract to protect diplomats for the U.S. embassy in Iraq. For the security work in Iraq, Blackwater has drawn contractors from their international pool of professionals, a database containing “21,000 former Special Forces operatives, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents,” overall. It is estimated by the Pentagon and company representatives that there are 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq.

From the records of daily violence it appeared that the Blackwater mercenaries were possessed by devil who did not value non-American lives; they were in Iraq only to shoot Iraqis indiscriminately and be drunk. Between 2005 and September 2007, its security personnel were involved in 195 shooting incidents; in 163 of those cases, Blackwater personnel fired first. The company fired 25 members for violations of drug and alcohol policy and 28 more for weapons-related incidents.

The following incidents, extracted from the Wikipedia, offer glimpses of Blackwater’s shoot-first mentality. On February 16, 2005, four Blackwater guards escorting a U.S. State Department convoy fired 70 bullets into an Iraqi’s car, claiming that they felt threatened by the car’s approach. An investigation by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service concluded that the shooting was not justified and that the Blackwater employees provided false statements to investigators. The U.S. Embassy’s top security officer declined to punish Blackwater or the security guards, stating that “any disciplinary actions would be deemed as lowering the morale” of the Blackwater contractors.

On February 6, 2006, a Blackwater sniper opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry, killing three Iraqi guards working for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network. An Iraqi police report found that Blackwater had “caused the incident,” and described it as “an act of terrorism.” On Christmas Eve 2006, a Blackwater employee Andrew Moonen killed the security guard of the Iraqi vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi while on duty outside the Iraqi prime minister’s compound. While Moonen lost his job with Blackwater, he has since been employed by U.S. Defense Department contractor Combat Support Associates (CSA) in Kuwait. No other criminal charges have been filed against him by the US government.

Through out their stay in Iraq, there were many such occasions in which Blackwater mercenaries would open fire into the crowd on the streets killing civilians when they were not threatened at all. As a matter of fact, any civilian which came close to a Blackwater convoy or personnel would be killed unprovoked. The Iraqi government had no authority to punish them.

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. The fatalities occurred while a Blackwater Personal Security Detail (PSD) was escorting a convoy of U.S. State Department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad with USAID officials. The U.S. military reports indicate Blackwater’s guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force. Iraq’s government vowed to punish Blackwater after an Iraqi inquiry found that the guards were “not touched even by a stone” when they opened fire on the civilians in Nisour Square. As the NY Times later reported during the incident one member of the Blackwater security team continued to fire on civilians, despite urgent cease-fire calls from colleagues. Federal prosecutors convened a grand jury in the aftermath of the shootings. A number of Iraqi victims and victims’ families have filed a lawsuit against Blackwater in Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. Five Blackwater employees are awaiting trial on several manslaughter charges and a sixth, Jeremy Ridgeway, has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempting to commit manslaughter and is cooperating with prosecutors.

So, what is new about these criminal mercenaries? This past week, a former Blackwater employee (identified in the court papers as John Doe #2) and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company (identified as John Doe #1) have made some explosive accusations. In sworn statements filed in federal court in Virginia, the two men claimed that Erik Prince, the company’s owner, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.

John Doe #2 also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with exterminating Muslims and wiping the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.” To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the Christian Jihadists who fought the Crusades.

According to award-winning investigative journalist, correspondent for the national radio and TV program “Democracy Now,” and author of the bestselling book - Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Jeremy Scahill, “In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.”

These allegations, and a series of other charges, were filed late at night on August 3 as part of a 70-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for war crimes and other misconduct. John Doe #2 alleges that “Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.””

Doe #1 states that “Blackwater knew that certain of its personnel intentionally used excessive and unjustified deadly force, and in some instances used unauthorized weapons, to kill or seriously injure innocent Iraqi civilians.” He concludes, “Blackwater did nothing to stop this misconduct.” Doe #1 states that he “personally observed multiple incidents of Blackwater personnel intentionally using unnecessary, excessive and unjustified deadly force.” He then cites several specific examples of Blackwater personnel firing at civilians, killing or “seriously” wounding them, and then failing to report the incidents to the State Department. Doe #1 also alleges that “all of these incidents of excessive force were initially videotaped and voice recorded,” but that “Immediately after the day concluded, we would watch the video in a session called a ‘hot wash.’ Immediately after the hotwashing, the video was erased to prevent anyone other than Blackwater personnel seeing what had actually occurred.” Blackwater, he says, “did not provide the video to the State Department.”

Doe #2 expands on the issue of unconventional weapons, alleging Prince “made available to his employees in Iraq various weapons not authorized by the United States contracting authorities, such as hand grenades and hand grenade launchers. Mr. Prince’s employees repeatedly used this illegal weaponry in Iraq, unnecessarily killing scores of innocent Iraqis.” Specifically, he alleges that Prince “obtained illegal ammunition from an American company called LeMas. This company sold ammunition designed to explode after penetrating within the human body. Mr. Prince’s employees repeatedly used this illegal ammunition in Iraq to inflict maximum damage on Iraqis.”

As Scahill tells Keith Olbermann of the MSNBC, “Obviously to hear the term murder and Blackwater in the same sentence is no great surprise, particularly to people who have been following the history of this company… Erik Prince viewed Blackwater as a neo-crusader force and has from the beginning. This is a guy who comes from the powerhouse of the radical religious right. His father was a major bank roller and gave the seed money to Gary Bauer to start the Family Research Council, James Dobson, Focus on the Family. And then we have his force employed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade. What we have here, Keith, is a confirmation from insiders at Blackwater that, in fact, Erik Prince did have a neo-crusader agenda, and, most explosively, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were intending to or did cooperate in the federal government’s criminal investigation of Blackwater. This is deadly serious.”

When asked by Olbermann how the Bush administration’s State Department could have missed this crusader element, Scahill said, “I think it was considered a plus in the Bush White House… what we had here was the Bush administration essentially create a force that acted as an armed wing of the administration, not subject to the military command, not subject to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, that reported directly to George Bush’s secretary of state and then to the president. These were his men, his private force in Baghdad. And the allegations that they were running around shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally, as is actually what one of these individuals said, is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of Constitution, law or human rights.”

When Congressman Dennis Kucinich was briefed on the substance of the court allegations by The Nation, he replied, “If these allegations are true, Blackwater has been a criminal enterprise defrauding taxpayers and murdering innocent civilians.” Kucinich is on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and has been investigating Prince and Blackwater since 2004. He said, “Blackwater is a law unto itself, both internationally and domestically. The question is why they operated with impunity. In addition to Blackwater, we should be questioning their patrons in the previous administration who funded and employed this organization. Blackwater wouldn’t exist without federal patronage; these allegations should be thoroughly investigated.”

If actions mimic one’s intentions, obviously, we had plenty of incriminating evidences to suspect something was fundamentally wrong with Blackwater. Now we have the hard evidences. Just as with the U.S. Military, we have a Christian mercenary force, employed by the U.S. government that saw the Iraqi battlefields as their personal Crusade to go and kill. In that process, motivated by their Christian faith and Crusading zeal, every crime from committing gruesome murders, slaughtering Iraqi civilians for sport and fun, smuggling unauthorized deadly weapons to destroying incriminating evidence came easy. Will the U.S. Congress have the moral strength to incriminate all those that were a party to war crimes?

- Asian Tribune -

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