Via Libby, Cernig reports that Iraq has a video that government officials say makes it clear that last week's attack by Blackwater security guards that killed up to 20 Iraqi civilians was unprovoked. Cernig quotes from the opening of an AP article about Condoleezza Rice's first meeting with Nouri al-Maliki after the shootings [bolds are Cernig's]:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Saturday with Iraq's prime minister in their first face-to-face talks since a Baghdad shootout involving guards from a U.S. company protecting American diplomats.
Rice and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were among numerous top diplomats and officials from Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, which the United States accuses of destabilizing Iraq, gathering at the United Nations with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to discuss Iraq's future.
Neither spoke to reporters as they entered the room for the meeting, which came as a senior Iraqi official in Baghdad said Iraqi investigators have a videotape that shows employees of Blackwater USA opening fire against civilians without provocation on Sept. 16.
Today, CNN reports that the Iraqi government is filing criminal charges against the Blackwater staff responsible for the attack -- although how they will be able to do that is anyone's guess, given that all U.S. military-related personnel in Iraq, including civilian contractors, are immunized from prosecution, regardless of what they do, courtesy of Jerry Bremer.
More about the video here.
David DeVoss is a news service journalist who spent six months in Iraq working with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He says Iraq's "Dirty Harrys" are "doing more harm than good."
Blackwater. The name says it all, conjuring images of imminent danger, hidden predators and night terror. From the moment Blackwater USA arrived in Iraq to protect L. Paul Bremer III's Coalition Provisional Authority until last week, when its guards killed 11 Iraqis and wounded 13 more while escorting a diplomatic convoy through Baghdad, the North Carolina-based private security company has been known for its swaggering image and "Dirty Harry" demeanor.
All the U.S. private security armies in Iraq may be cut from the same khaki cloth, but each has its own personality. When I arrived in the country in September 2004 as a senior information officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, bodyguards with Kroll Inc., whose credo is "in risk there is opportunity," met me at the airport. They were British and Irish veterans of Belfast's "Troubles" and viewed terrorists with a world-weary stoicism.
Our convoy had pulled onto the airport highway and was heading for the Green Zone when three black Chevy Suburbans flashed past. The rear door of the trailing vehicle was open, and inside sat a man dressed in black cradling a large-caliber machine gun. Bandoleers crisscrossed his chest, several handguns and a large knife dangled from his weapons harness and an enormous handlebar mustache covered most of his face.
The look was designed to inspire dread, but it was carried to such cartoonish extremes that the man resembled Yosemite Sam more than the Terminator. "That's Blackwater," said the Kroll driver disdainfully. "You'll see a lot of them while you're here."
Bodyguards protecting U.S. civilian contractors have one main goal: bring 'em back alive. Innocent Iraqis who get in their way do so at their peril.
In 2005, when Kroll lost the USAID security contract to DynCorp International, a Virginia-based military contractor with $2.3 billion in annual revenues, the tactics of protection outside the Green Zone became more like military maneuvers. During a March visit to the Baghdad South Power Plant, our three-car convoy was joined by an OH-6A "Little Bird" helicopter that swooped low over the vehicles whenever we neared an intersection. To avoid congestion, we bounced over traffic medians, ran through a police checkpoint and used an offramp to enter the Doura Expressway, which rings eastern and southern Baghdad. As we sped down the wrong side of the freeway, a DynCorp guard tethered to the helicopter warned approaching traffic to get out of the way by throwing plastic water bottles at cars.
The return trip was much the same, save for the Iraqi one of our cars clipped when he walked into the road from between two parked cars.
Back inside the Green Zone, I told several colleagues about not stopping after hitting a pedestrian and then asked if I should report DynCorp's behavior to the U.S. Embassy. "You got back safely, didn't you?" came the response. "So what's your problem?"
Can you imagine what could happen if these guys were let loose on an American city? Oh wait. We don't have to imagine:
[Blackwater was] actually used in New Orleans after Katrina. Now the Iraqis are asking questions we Americans should be asking - what the fuck are they up to.
The same thing could happen here in the US of A. Just the kind of mercenary force the likes of Dick Cheney and the neocons would need to fulfil[l] their dream of an American police state.
Maybe it already has:
As I recall, Blackwater was instrumental in disarming the residents [of NOLA] and I can't fail to remember those guys that were mysteriously killed on a bridge. I don't believe we've ever really received a satisfactory explanation for what happened there.