Monday, December 08, 2008

Blackwater Killers to Face Charges

image by Latuff2, click to see more clearly

I expected the lies, the irresponsibility and rationalizations from Blackwater for the reprehensible actions of the employees referred to in the story below, but I never expected them to stand trial. I won't lie - they sound very, very guilty - but I hope this case is treated like any allegation of an unprovoked mass killing would be treated in the U.S. The Iraqi government wants Blackwater to leave Iraq. Right-thinking Americans with any understanding of the rule of law are disgusted by the idea of gun-toting mercenaries (sorry - "independent contractors") in the country, and repeat incidents like this cannot be overlooked. Somebody hold this company responsible for aiding and abetting employees who act like terrorists.

However, it should be noted that while Blackwater says that they are "disappointed" that one of their employees plead guilty, they stress that this is because the employee gave false information to the company regarding the incident in the intervening months (though you'll notice the press release does not indicate there was an internal investigation). The first story pulls this unfairly out of context.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Blackwater Worldwide security guards opened machine gun fire on innocent, surrendering Iraqis and launched a grenade into a girls' school during a gruesome Baghdad shooting last year, prosecutors said Monday in announcing manslaughter charges against five guards.

A sixth guard involved in the attack cut a plea deal with prosecutors, turned on his former colleagues, and admitting killing at least one Iraqi in the 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. Seventeen Iraqis were killed in the assault, which roiled U.S. diplomacy with Iraq and fueled anti-American sentiment abroad.

The five guards surrendered Monday and were due to ask a federal judge in Utah for bail.

"None of the victims of this shooting was armed. None of them was an insurgent," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said. "Many were shot while inside civilian vehicles that were attempting the flee from the convoy. One victim was shot in the chest while standing in the street with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a nearby girls' school."

The guards were charged with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. They are also charged with using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum prison sentence.

The shootings happened in a crowded square where prosecutors say civilians were going about their lives, running errands. Following a car bombing elsewhere in the city, the heavily armed Blackwater convoy sought to shut down the intersection. Prosecutors said the convoy, known by the call sign Raven 23, violated an order not to leave the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

"The tragic events in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16 of last year were shocking and a violation of basic human rights," FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini said.

Witnesses said the contractors opened fire unprovoked. Women and children were among the victims and the shooting left the square littered with blown-out cars. Blackwater, the largest security contractor in Iraq, says its guards were ambushed and believed a slowly moving white Kia sedan might have been a car bomb.

"We think it's pure and simple a case of self-defense," defense attorney Paul Cassell said Monday as the guards were being booked. "Tragically people did die."

Prosecutors said the Blackwater guards never even ordered the car to stop before opening fire. In his plea agreement with prosecutors, former guard Jeremy Ridgeway, of California, admitted there was no indication the Kia was a car bomb.

continued at Breitbart

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