Blackwater Gassed American Military!

January 10, 2008 at 9:37 am | Posted in blackwater | 2 Comments

Boy, I wonder what else we will learn, what else will be disclosed. It seems in 2005, Blackwater released gas upon Iraqis and Americans, a chemical that the US military has very very strict rules on when it can be used.

The helicopter was hovering over a Baghdad checkpoint into the Green Zone, one typically crowded with cars, Iraqi civilians and United States military personnel.

Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.

“This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. “It’s not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness.”

Blackwater is, of course, now trying to cover their asses:

Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, said the CS gas had been released by mistake.

“Blackwater teams in the air and on the ground were preparing a secure route near a checkpoint to provide passage for a motorcade,” Ms. Tyrrell said in an e-mail message. “It seems a CS gas canister was mistaken for a smoke canister and released near an intersection and checkpoint.”

She said that the episode was reported to the United States Embassy in Baghdad, and that the embassy’s chief security officer and the Department of Defense conducted a full investigation. The troops exposed to the gas also said they reported it to their superiors. But military officials in Washington and Baghdad said they could not confirm that an investigation had been conducted. Officials at the State Department, which contracted with Blackwater to provide diplomatic security, also could not confirm that an investigation had taken place.

But as usual with such incidents, they were wrong. And of course, the State Department, under Condoleezza Rice didn’t ban chemical weapons for Blackwater security guards:

Blackwater says it was permitted to carry CS gas under its contract at the time with the State Department. According to a State Department official, the contract did not specifically authorize Blackwater personnel to carry or use CS, but it did not prohibit it.

They are also illegal:

The military, however, tightly controls use of riot control agents in war zones. They are banned by an international convention on chemical weapons endorsed by the United States, although a 1975 presidential order allows their use by the United States military in war zones under limited defensive circumstances and only with the approval of the president or a senior officer designated by the president.

And of course, like the murder of the 17 Iraqis last September, in this incident, there was no provocation:

Officers and soldiers who were hit by the CS gas, some of whom asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident, have described it with frustration. They said no weapons were being fired or any other violence that might have justified Blackwater’s response.

I’ll close with the testimonies of two military personnel who witnessed the incident.

In a personal journal posted online the day of the incident, Captain Clark provided a detailed description of what happened and included photos.

While standing at the checkpoint, he wrote, he saw a Blackwater helicopter overhead.

“We noticed that one of them was hovering right over the intersection in front of our checkpoint,” he wrote. “There was a small amount of white smoke coming up from the intersection. I grabbed my radio and asked one of the guard towers what the smoke was. He answered that it looked like one of the helicopters dropped a smoke grenade on the cars in the intersection. I asked him why were they doing that, was there something going on in the intersection that would cause them to do this. He said, nope, couldn’t see anything. Then I said, well what kind of smoke is it?

“Before he could say anything, I got my answer. My eyes started watering, my nose started burning and my face started to heat up. CS! I heard the lieutenant say, “Sir that’s not smoke, it’s CS gas.”

After reporting the incident to his superiors, Captain Clark wrote, a convoy that the helicopter was protecting showed up. Because the gas caused a “complete traffic jam in front of our checkpoint,” the captain wrote, “armored cars in the convoy made a U-turn — and threw another CS grenade.”

“It just seemed incredibly stupid,” he wrote. “The only thing we could figure out was for some reason, one of them figured that CS would somehow clear traffic. Why someone would think a substance that makes your eyes water, nose burn and face hurt would make a driver do anything other than stop is beyond me.”

Army Staff Sgt. Kenny Mattingly also was puzzled. “We saw the Little Bird (Blackwater helicopter) come and hover right in front of the gate, and I saw one of the guys dropping a canister,” Sergeant Mattingly said in an interview. “There was no reason for dropping the CS gas. We didn’t hear any gunfire or anything. There was no incident under way.”

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2 Comments »

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  1. […] Blackwater Gassed American Military! […]

  2. I’m sure they had only the best of intentions.


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