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Author Topic: A Whitewash For Blackwater?  (Read 4068 times)

fiveofnine

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A Whitewash For Blackwater?
« on: December 09, 2008, 09:28:29 am »
A Whitewash For Blackwater?

By Eugene Robinson

The federal manslaughter indictment of five Blackwater Worldwide security guards in the horrific massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad may look like an exercise in accountability, but it's probably the exact opposite -- a whitewash that absolves the government and corporate officials who should bear ultimate responsibility.

If what Justice Department prosecutors allege is true, the five guards -- Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough -- should have to answer for what happened on Sept. 16, 2007. The men, working under Blackwater's contract to protect State Department personnel in Iraq, are charged with spraying a busy intersection with machine-gun fire and grenades, killing at least 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 others. One man, prosecutors said yesterday, was shot in the chest with his hands raised in submission.

The indictment, charging voluntary manslaughter and weapons violations, demonstrates that those who engage "in unprovoked attacks will be held accountable," Assistant Attorney General Patrick Rowan claimed.

But it demonstrates nothing of the sort. As with the torture and humiliation of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, our government is deflecting all scrutiny from the corporate higher-ups who employed the guards -- to say nothing of the policymakers whose decisions made the shootings possible, if not inevitable.

Prosecutors did not file charges against the North Carolina-based Blackwater firm -- the biggest U.S. security contractor in Iraq -- or any of the company's executives. The whole tragic incident is being blamed on the guards who, prosecutors say, made Baghdad's Nisoor Square a virtual free-fire zone.

The Blackwater guards were nervous because of a car bombing elsewhere in the city that day. The company says the Blackwater convoy came under attack by insurgents, prompting the guards to fire in self-defense. "Tragically, people did die," defense attorney Paul Cassell told reporters.

There is a huge difference between self-defense and the kind of indiscriminate fusillade that the Blackwater team allegedly unleashed. Proper training and supervision -- which was the Blackwater firm's responsibility -- would have made it more likely for the guards to make the right split-second decisions amid the chaos of Nisoor Square. Rather than give Blackwater a free pass, the Justice Department ought to investigate the preparation these men were given before being sent onto Baghdad's dangerous streets.

Blackwater no doubt has rules and regulations about when and where its people can discharge their weapons. But were those rules enforced? Did the guards who were indicted yesterday have any reason to believe they would be punished for the rampage? Or were the shootings considered acceptable inside the Blackwater bunker? Company executives should have to answer these and other questions -- under oath.

But a real attempt to establish blame for this massacre should go beyond Blackwater. It was the Bush administration that decided to police the occupation of Iraq largely with private rather than regular troops.

There are an estimated 30,000 security "contractors" in Iraq, many of them there to protect U.S. State Department personnel. The presence of these heavily armed private soldiers has become a sore point between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Until now, the mercenaries -- they object to that label, but it fits -- have been immune from prosecution by the Iraqi courts for any alleged crimes. This will change on Jan. 1, when the new U.S.-Iraqi security pact places them under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law. Blackwater and other firms are likely to have a harder time retaining and recruiting personnel, given the possibility of spending time in an Iraqi prison. Yet it is presumed that more private soldiers, rather than fewer, will be needed as the United States reduces troop levels.

Barack Obama has criticized the Bush administration's decision to outsource so many essentially military tasks in Iraq and elsewhere. The officials who made that decision, however, are not being held accountable -- not yet, at least. We deserve, at a minimum, a thorough investigation of what security contractors have done in the name of the United States.

Putting national security in the hands of private companies and private soldiers was bad practice from the start, and incidents such as what happened at Nisoor Square are the foreseeable result. The five Blackwater guards may have fired the weapons, but they were locked and loaded in Washington.


Washington Post
December 9, 2008
Pg. 19
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    PvtPyle

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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #1 on: December 09, 2008, 10:56:54 am »
    Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Maybe this "person" should take themselves out for a few weeks with a Blackwater patrol in an area that is still hot and see how they like it. :vomit :vomit :vomit Until they have been there, their opinions are just that. And as my Mammy used to tell me, opinions are like (*)'s. Everybodys got one, and most everyone elses stinks.

    This is just more anti-war and liberal spew. I dont like PMC's much myself (mostly out of jelousy....they get paid lots of money to live the rock and roll lifestyle) but they are doing a job that others will not. And given the level of training that most of these guys have there is no way I would begrudge them for making bank off of their rarified skills. The Army sure as hell wont pay them what they are worth. So let State pay them thru their contracts. Good on them.
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    Thernlund

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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 11:22:56 am »
    As I said here...

    https://wethearmed.com/index.php/topic,1358.0.html

    ...if they committed a crime they should pay for it.  They're not soldiers anymore, and as such they operate under different rules (or should).

    I hope they didn't do those things they are being accused of.  One entered a guilty plea and allocuted.  Is he telling the truth?  I think it is unlikely that we'll ever really know either way.  <shrug>  But it would seem that someone is mis-remembering.

    That said... yeah, good for them for making use of their skills.  One should absolutely capitalize on their marketable skillset.  I know I would (and I do).  But that's neither here nor there.  It has nothing to do with whether or not they commited a crime.

    Finally, the above article is slanted.  But hey... do you expect any better from the MSM?  It's all pretty much liberal spew to be taken with many grains of salt.


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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #3 on: December 09, 2008, 04:23:10 pm »
    From the few details that have come out, I can sort of understand the reasons why the guards reacted the way they did. They left to respond to a bomb that had gone off. A car got close to their truck and they shot into it and then shot everywhere. Blackwater says that they were fired on first. Of course the iraqis interviewed said it was an unprovoked attack. Reminds me of that movie with Samuel Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones where US Marines were accused of killing women and children, then it turned out that the women and children were shooting and killing marines, and their weapons were taken away before investigators arrived.

    Anyway, I think its erroneous for the prosecutors to say one guy could not be considered a threat, when a similar incident a few years ago where a guy crashed his car into a contractor's truck and then blew it up. You don't need to show a gun in order to be a threat to someone.

    Of course maybe these guys DID overreact, or go on a rampage. Hopefully the facts will come out.
    These quotes are from the Salt lake Tribune, btw.

     "As the convoy began to pull around the traffic, investigators believe, a white Kia sedan pulled close to one of the contractor's trucks. Prosecutors say there is no way the driver of the Kia should have been mistaken for a threat, but one of the contractors nonetheless fired his assault rifle into the sedan, killing its driver and passenger."

    "Carol Thomas Young did not know Ball or any of the other defendants. She does not know what happened in Nisoor Square. But perhaps more than anyone in the courtroom, Young understands the life and death decisions that security contractors in Iraq are forced to make.

    It has been three and a half years since Young's son, 27-year-old security contractor Brandon Thomas, was killed in Baghdad when a suicide car bomber plowed into his truck in a crowded Baghdad intersection. And not a week goes by in which Young doesn't question whether her son's life might have been spared if different decisions had been made on that day."

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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #4 on: December 09, 2008, 05:21:44 pm »
    I'll be the nay sayer and say that I'm not a big fan of contractors.  I think its a sign of a weak government that has to relay on mercenaries.  Citizen soldiers are the foundation of our country.  They fight for patriotism and to protect their homeland and freedom.  Contractors fight for money and their allegiance is money.  If the citizens themselves are not fighting, then they sacrifice nothing and the war will mean nothing to them.  Machiavelli thought that a free republic shouldn't use mercenaries as did Edward Gibbon who wrote "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."  He lists the over reliance on mercenaries as one of the causes of the Empire's fall. 

    That said, I don't think its right to second guess someone's actions in the warzone like that.  It's easy to sit back in our comfy chairs and say "That wasn't right!"  But we weren't there and don't know what threats they faced.  If they were defending themselves, then so be it, but if they were being overly bloodthirsty, then they deserve to be punished. 
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #5 on: December 09, 2008, 05:25:33 pm »
    I thought the cornerstone of our legal system was "innocent until PROVEN guilty."

    Granted, that didn't work for me in the cases of Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, or that dude Dean Cain portrayed in a made for TV movie who snuffed his wife and unborn kid... but I'm trying to draw lines here, people!
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #6 on: December 09, 2008, 06:36:47 pm »
    I thought the cornerstone of our legal system was "innocent until PROVEN guilty."

    Aye.  But unfortunately, innocent in the eyes of the law does not always equate to innocent in the eyes of the public, and vice-versa.


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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #7 on: December 09, 2008, 06:39:09 pm »
    Aye.  But unfortunately, innocent in the eyes of the law does not always equate to innocent in the eyes of the public, and vice-versa.


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    I was disgusted with Keith Olberman last night when he spoke of the Blackwater charges.
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 06:41:24 pm »
    I was disgusted with Keith Olberman last night when he spoke of the Blackwater charges.

    I'm disgusted with Keith Olbermann for existing.


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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #9 on: December 09, 2008, 07:09:38 pm »
    "Mercenaries". 

    These guys are Americans protecting US State Deparment employees and facilities.  Instead of hiring direct, the State Department contracted with Blackwater.  Go to any military base and you're likely to see private security guards doing force protection.  It's the same thing.  They're rarely civilian employees of the DOD.  They're almost always contractors.

    A more accurate use of the term "mercenary" would use to describe the thousands of foreign guards, like the Ugandans that protect the Green Zone, or when Americans escort Iraqi and Afghani politicians and big-wigs around.  Personally, I'd much rather a private contractor who volunteers to be there and is being well compensated for his trouble guarding foreign VIPs than have American military personnel waste their time doing it.

    As for the incident in question, I don't know.  I've met a lot of good guys in the contracting world.  I've met a few not-so-good guys, too.  Since I wasn't there, I'm going to refrain from judgement one way or the other and let the courts hash things out.  Pity the media talking heads can't do the same.
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    PvtPyle

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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #10 on: December 09, 2008, 07:28:42 pm »
    It is a damned good thing the media wasn't in Somalia during the BHD incident. What with the skinnies hiding in crowds, engaging our guys and little birds running gun runs down the streets of Mogadisu. It is unknown how many "innocent" Somali's were killed in that incident but the conservative estimates are 5-7,000.

    Providing that the stories are true from the PMC side, you expect me to feel sorry for a bunch of Haji's that hung out and provided concealment for insurgents and got then got shot up for it? Even if that IS what happened I don't think they should get jammed up. You stand up with the terrorists, don't be suprised when you get mowed down with them.
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #11 on: December 09, 2008, 07:32:49 pm »
    Do we know that the locals concealed terrorists/insurgents in this case?


    -T.


    EDIT:  I note that you said "Providing that the stories are true from the PMC side...".  Indeed.  IF they were attacked first, they were certainly within their right to defend.  Do what you have to do to get the hell out of there in one piece, eh?  But if they only spotted what they believed to be terrorists/insurgents, well, they should have called it in to the military and left the area.  PMCs shouldn't be out there "hunting".

    I think that's what this circus is all about.  Were they "hunting".  I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that some innocents died.  Hey man... war is F'd up like that.  But did they just roll up on some folks, terrorists or not, and open fire unprovoked?  That'd be wrong.
    « Last Edit: December 09, 2008, 08:02:02 pm by Thernlund »
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #12 on: December 09, 2008, 08:01:09 pm »
    Big difference between mercenaries and contractors, folks. First off, the definition of mercenary is a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign military. The Blackwater guys are probably mostly Americans, if not all of them. That knocks out the foreign part, so they are not mercs. Also, NC is correct that most security duties on at least the AF bases I've been to, are done by either civilian DOD personnel or contractors. The Blackwater types may come from a different background, but they are essentially doing the same job. And finally, if fighting for money makes one a mercenary, then you can count about half of the US military as mercenaries, because many people go in not only to serve their country, but to get money for college or training for a future career. They're at least partially fighting for money, but I would be personally offended if someone labeled me or any other serviceman a mercenary because we get paid for what we do.
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #13 on: December 10, 2008, 10:06:40 pm »
    Yeah. Fighting for money is being a mercenary. Yes, many people join the US military for mercenary reasons. Fighting in an organization completely separate from the US military, for pay, is obviously mercenary work. It doesn't matter if they go shooting with you or own a lot of stuff with angry eagle heads sewn on it, Black Water operators are mercenaries, even if they post on WETA. The problem is people are treating "Mercenary" as a bad word, so people are inventing other terms for it and playing semantics games.
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #14 on: December 10, 2008, 11:27:52 pm »
    Many of the guys in the US Military are Mercs in their own way... ask them... why did you join?  College?  Howdy, Merc!   That's your price.  Tuition.
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #15 on: December 11, 2008, 10:35:14 am »
    I've operated under those exact conditions.  I know things aren't exactly clean cut and clear as a summer's day.  However, I do resent that the mercenaries (and that's what they are) get paid in a MONTH what I got paid my entire year over there.  That, I think, is what seperates us soldiers from them. Also, its just not a good sign for our military that we have to use mercenaries in the first place. It shows we're spread too thin and can't do our own jobs.

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    Thernlund

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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #16 on: December 11, 2008, 02:32:14 pm »
    Really? So, if they're protecting you and they see guys with AK's and RPG's on a roof top across the street you want them to wait for them to lob an RPG at you (their target) before they provide covering fire and drag you away to safety?

    Of course not.  That would be a threat wouldn't it?  Avoid the area.  If you can't for whatever reason or you're already in the area, open fire like right now.  A guy staring you down holding an RPG in a war zone is a threat.  ::)

    A doctor in a Kia with his mom?  Maybe.  We don't know.

    Now you can just chill out.  I'm not smacking Blackwater or any other person or organization, despite what you might think.  I'm saying that, in fact, I don't know what happened.  I'm saying that it is not impossible that there was a crime committed on Blackwater's part.  I'm saying that if there was, they should be held accountable.  If there was not, then they should be left alone.

    Will we ever know?  Probably not.  Ridgeway's confession is compelling, but he could be wrong (either maliciously or otherwise).  We... don't... know. 

    I understand that there are some pics someplace that show evidence of incoming 7.62 fire.  Alright.  But we don't know what that means either.  Is it impossible that the 7.62 fire was RETURN fire?  Is it impossible for an Iraqi to defend himself against a threat?  Is it impossible that Blackwater WAS the threat?  No on all counts.  None of those things are impossible, no mater how unlikely.

    All you guys who without solid proof would wave a hand and say that the Blackwater operators are innocent ARE JUST AS BAD as those who would wave a hand and call them guilty.  You hope they're innocent.  I hope they're innocent.  But I don't know the facts.  I wasn't there.  And neither were you.

    Look back through my posts.  I haven't second guessed them once.  No woulda, coulda, shoulda from me.  So get off my back for not automatically pronoucing them innocent.  I don't know if there are or not, nor do I pretend to know what happened.  >:(


    -T.
    « Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 04:26:50 pm by springmom »
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #17 on: December 11, 2008, 03:04:43 pm »
    Thernlund, that about sums up my pov there.  We shouldn't let our patriotism, or whatever to automatically think these Blackwater guys are innocent just because they were born in the USA. 
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    Re: A Whitewash For Blackwater?
    « Reply #18 on: December 11, 2008, 03:11:44 pm »
    My principle gripe with Blackwater is that they get to have more Class III's than I do.  I'm awash with jealousy.
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