Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mass Murderers and Their Enablers

A just-released congressional report says that Blackwater "security" personnel have consistently acted with "reckless disregard for human life" -- and that the State Department has helped the company cover up their unfettered shoot-'em-ups:

Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.

In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.

But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

Not exactly surprising, given the above, that Republican leaders in the House are pressuring Henry Waxman (Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee) to delay hearings into Blackwater's conduct in Iraq until said State Department can put together its own whitewash report on the latest Blackwater killings, on Sept. 16 in Baghdad:
"We are just as interested in discovering what occurred during the most recent Blackwater incident, but for that to happen, we need to have all the facts available, which includes the outcome of the ongoing investigations by the Department of State," the lawmakers wrote. "We feel it would be irresponsible for the committee to rush to judgment until all the facts are considered."

Heavens, no. We wouldn't want to rush to judgment after two years and 200 shooting incidents. Better to do the responsible thing, as Spencer Ackerman describes:
After an infamous December incident wherein a drunken Blackwater contractor shot and killed a bodyguard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, one U.S. embassy official wrote to another:
Will you be following in up Blackwater [sic] to do all possible to ensure that a sizable compensation is forthcoming? If we are to avoid this whole thing becoming even worse, I think a prompt pledge and apology -- even if they want to claim it was accidental -- would be the best way to assure the Iraqis don't take steps, such as telling Blackwater that they are no longer allowed to work in Iraq.

But not too sizable -- Iraqis might take advantage and get themselves killed to enrich their families:
When embassy officials proposed the price for the guard's life be pegged at either $100,000 or $250,000, a State diplomatic-security official countered with $15,000. The figure needed to be lower, the diplomatic-security official contended, so Iraqis wouldn't "try to get killed to set up their family financially." Two days after the shooting, Blackwater and State agreed that the guard's family should receive $15,000.

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