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.”

Blackwater Guards May Be Unlawful Combatants

October 16, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Posted in blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Bush administration lawyers are actually considering if Blackwater security guards may not actually end up being unlawful combatants. Steve Benen quotes from this LA Times report which has some very interesting nuggets:

For a guard who is only allowed to use defensive force, killing civilians violates the law of war, said Michael N. Schmitt, a professor of international law at the Naval War College and a former Air Force lawyer. “It is a war crime to kill civilians unlawfully in an armed conflict,” he said.

If the contractors were the aggressors in an incident, they could be deemed to be unlawfully using offensive force, said Scott Silliman, a retired Air Force lawyer and now a professor at Duke University. He said they could claim self-defense only if they had been fired on.

“The only force they can use is defensive force,” Silliman said. “But we may be seeing some instances where contractors are using offensive force, which in my judgment would be unlawful.”

And

“We are going to be hard-pressed to draw a distinction between the guys in Blackwater carrying automatic weapons and the bad guys setting bombs along the side of the road,” said Hutson, now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.

U.S. officials have described many of the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates it holds at Guantanamo Bay as unlawful combatants either for taking part in hostilities against the United States or by supporting the hostilities while not part of a nation’s military.

By that standard, some of the private guards in Iraq and Afghanistan also could be seen as unlawful combatants, particularly if they have taken offensive action against unarmed civilians, experts said.

“If we hire people and direct them to perform activities that are direct participation in hostilities, then at least by the Guantanamo standard, that is a war crime,” Schmitt said.

The 2004 immunity measure prevents Iraq from prosecuting private guards under Iraqi law. But some international law experts think Iraq could use international treaties to try contractors for killing civilians.

Let’s see,

Extra-national non-military guys with guns? Check.
Killing civilians? Check.
No state-sponsored uniform? Check.

Shouldn’t Blackwater guards be in the same cells as all those guys languishing in Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray?

On Blackwater, Real Justice Would Be…

October 14, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Posted in blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq | Leave a comment

to expel the company from Iraq, to cancel all taxpayer funded contracts with the company, to file lawsuits that end up crippling the company into bankruptcy, to charge the guards who fired on civilians in Iraq with murder, and to try them for their crimes. That is justice for such a company.

Under the Bush administration, we won’t get justice, but maybe we’ll at least get them expelled from Iraq. It seems the Bush administration has run out of options, and they will indeed acquiesce to Iraqi non-negotiable demands:

The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action. Point No. 2 in the report says: “The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws.”

Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.

“I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The government has given six months for its expulsion and it’s left to the U.S. Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company,” he told AP.

A Good Step Forward on Blackwater (UPDATED)

October 11, 2007 at 10:39 am | Posted in blackwater, Iraq | 3 Comments

Hit them where it hurts the most, their pocketbooks, of course! This is a company that should not be profiting from the deaths of those they kill. This company deserves the worst we can give them. I hope this suit goes through and ultimately bankrupts this company, banish it to infamous history.

UPDATED:

It seems even the soldiers on the ground who were first to the scene agreed with the Iraqis and, well, with every sane person on the planet, that Blackwater guards fired onto civilians without just cause.

Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

“It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers’ report — based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police — concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the shootings as a “criminal event.” Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

The soldiers’ accounts contradict Blackwater’s assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.

Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. “I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon,” said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.

In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Sept. 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a “massacre” and “senseless slaughter” that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.

Attorneys for Talib Mutlaq Deewan, who was injured in the shootings, and the families of Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass and Oday Ismail Ibraheem, who were killed, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking for unspecified damages to compensate for alleged war crimes, illegal killings, wrongful death, emotional distress and negligence. The lawsuit names Blackwater USA, the Prince Group and Blackwater founder and chief executive Erik Prince as defendants.

“Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life,” the 17-page complaint says.

Bring them down. They must pay for their murders.

Blackwater Used Grenade Launcher Against Civilians

October 5, 2007 at 3:47 am | Posted in American politics, blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq, Military, secret combinations, violence, War, War on Terror | Leave a comment

Not looking very good at all for Blackwater. Not only does the United States military corroborate what Iraqi civilians at the scene say but apparently Blackwater, feeling that mere machine guns weren’t deadly enough, used a grenade launcher to kill civilians.

The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.

“It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” said the U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains the subject of several investigations. “The civilians that were fired upon, they didn’t have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP or any of the local security forces fired back at them,” he added, using a military abbreviation for the Iraqi police. The Blackwater guards appeared to have fired grenade launchers in addition to machine guns, the official said.

This incident really is far worse than Abu Ghraib. I hope our governmental leaders understand this. Hey Romney, when are you going to fire that Blackwater VP from your policy board? When are you going to speak out against launching grenades at civilians?

Dang, I never thought I would have to make that kind of argument before…

“Why is the Blood of Iraqis So Free For Everyone To Spill?”

October 4, 2007 at 9:15 am | Posted in American politics, blackwater, conservatives, corruption, Iraq, secret combinations, violence, War, War on Terror | 3 Comments

That is the question the father of one of the victims in Blackwater’s murderous rampage two weeks ago asks.

The carnage has sparked outrage and demands to reform the private contractor industry. Almost three weeks later, the collective memory of Iraqis at the scene is raw.

“It was catastrophic. So many innocent people were killed,” recalled Zina Fadhil, 21, a pharmacist. That day, she huddled in fear inside her store about 100 yards from the square as Blackwater helicopters hovered above. Like other eyewitnesses, she said she saw Blackwater guards firing down from the helicopters, an allegation the security firm denies.

“I am a peaceful person, but I wished I could have shot those people in the helicopters,” Fadhil continued, her soft voice rising.

Not one of the victims or family members interviewed had been aware that Blackwater was immune to prosecution in Iraq under an order by U.S. administrators after the 2003 invasion.

“Why is the blood of Iraqis so free for everyone to spill?” asked Sahib Nasr, the father of one of the victims.

Shoot first, ask questions later? Is that really how we want the world to perceive us, America?

Kadhum, the doctor, and her son Haitham, who were in the flow of cars the officers were trying to stop, didn’t react quickly enough. A Blackwater guard fired, striking Haitham as he sat in the driver’s seat, three witnesses said.

“The bullet went through the windshield and split his head open,” recalled traffic police officer Sarhan Thiab. “His mother was holding him, screaming for help.”

The car, which had an automatic transmission, kept rolling. Another officer, Ali Khalaf, tried to stop the vehicle as another spray of bullets killed Kadhum.

Thiab fled first, then Khalaf, followed by bullets that struck a traffic light pole, a billboard and their police guard post. Then the Blackwater guards escalated their firepower, engulfing the sedan in flames.

In sworn statements to State Department investigators reported by ABC News, four Blackwater guards said they fired upon the sedan because it was traveling at high speed and would not stop. Khalaf and other eyewitnesses said it was moving slowly and posed no threat.

Imagine if that was your mother and brother. If you cannot handle that being done to your family, how can you tolerate that being done to other people’s families?

On Monday, inside his spacious cream-colored house in Baghdad’s Khadisiya neighborhood, Firoz Fadhil Abbas questioned whether anyone would be held accountable for the shootings.

He has met several times with U.S. military investigators, and every time they apologized for his brother’s death, he said. But such words have done little to ease the clan’s loss.

“It looks like everything is back to normal. The company is back in operation,” Abbas said. “And we’ve lost the head of our family. There’s no justice here.”

Mohammed Osama Fadhil, Osama’s 14-year-old son, quietly listened to the conversation. Seated near him was his brother, Ahmed, a solemn 7-year-old. Finally, Mohammed spoke, focusing on Blackwater.

“They killed many others before,” he said. “Have they done anything to help those people, so that we can expect something?”

This is a clear case of murder, whether accidental or purposeful, those civilian guards fired on civilians and killed at least fourteen. For no excuse good enough to warrant the actions they took. And they are really above the law. They are not bound to Iraqi law. They are not bound to the military code. They are not bound by American law either. The Bush administration ensured that these mercenary guards are above the law.

Is this what you really want, America? If not, then make it known to Congress, the only power left to subdue this out of control executive. This is evil stuff. This is not the characteristics of a Christian nation, or any nation professing a belief in some sort of higher being. These are not the standards we were founded upon. These are not the standards our forefathers died for. Why do we accept them now?

Will Blackwater Pay For Its Murderous Crime?

October 3, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Posted in blackwater, condoleezza rice, Iraq | 2 Comments

If you read the account of what happened it is quite damning to Blackwater. The question now remains, will anyone actually make them pay for their murderous crime? Or will the State Department let them go free? After all, Ms. Rice, they are your employees. You pay their salaries. Will you let their crimes go or will you ensure they are punished?

“Shut Up or I’ll Shoot You!”

September 30, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Posted in blackwater, corruption, Iraq, secret combinations | 3 Comments

This is Blackwater, where guards who are above the law yell out to people “Shut Up or I’ll Shoot You”.

The convoy then continued around the traffic circle, according to a confidential Iraqi police diagram obtained by NEWSWEEK and provided to American investigators. According to the accompanying incident report, the Blackwater guards opened fire on an Iraqi Army checkpoint on a nearby road leading away from the square. The convoy also apparently sideswiped at least one Iraqi civilian vehicle in the circle. Samir Hobi, 40, says he got out of his car and complained to the Blackwater guards about the damage. He says one of the guards shouted back: “Shut up or I’ll shoot you.”

This comes from a piece in Newsweek describing the events of that fateful day when Blackwater fired without provocation onto the civilian population, killing at least 11 innocent Iraqis.

Diab says that he stopped oncoming traffic to allow the Blackwater vehicles to pass. As the convoy pulled into the circle, according to Diab, the Blackwater guards began throwing bottles of water from their vehicles—a signal to stay back. Yet shortly after the convoy slowed to a stop in the circle, he says, the Blackwater guards “started shooting randomly.” One of the bullets hit the driver of a white Kia that had stopped near the roundabout. (Blackwater guards have said they felt threatened because they believed the car was continuing to move toward them.) Diab says that he and another policeman, Ali Kalaf Salman, rushed to the car and tried to pull open the doors. As they did, the Blackwater guards intensified their fire.

The Blackwater men said in their written statements that they believed a policeman was “pushing” one of the vehicles—which the guards suspected to be a car bomb—toward the circle, which prompted them to fire. When asked whether he was pushing the Kia, Salman, the undercover police office, laughs. “When you see someone get shot, you try to help them,” he says. Salman says he was carrying a 9mm Glock, but kept it holstered throughout the shooting. ABC reported that Blackwater guards also said they saw one person pull out what appeared to be a trigger device for a bomb. But the Iraqi policemen suggest that perhaps the edgy Blackwater guards mistook everyday items for lethal weapons. “I pulled my radio out to call an ambulance, and they shot at me,” says Diab.

When the traffic police arrived at the white Kia, a woman in the car “was crying and holding her son,” says Salman. As the shooting intensified, the two policemen said they were forced to flee on foot across the square. They say they looked on as the guards fired at the Kia from all directions. “Whenever they saw movement inside the vehicle, they started shooting,” says Salman. Eventually, the men said, the Blackwater guards launched larger projectiles—perhaps rifle-fired grenades—at the white Kia, setting it on fire. The video obtained by NEWSWEEK shows a large-caliber shell casing at the scene.

For a trigger-happy, highly nervous group, this makes much sense. You see a vehicle you feel nervous about. Shoot first, ask questions later. You see someone go towards that vehicle and it looks to you like they are pushing the car closer to you, shoot first, ask questions later. Who cares for the dead, right?

Remember, America, you pay their salaries with your taxes. Is this the kind of organization you want representing you? Are their actions not terrorist in nature? Who shoots at civilians without provocation? Who is above the law? American tax-payer funded organizations? That’s what you’ve got. People who say “shut up or I’ll shoot you.” Seems to me this is a highly dangerous organization to keep loose like this…you never know when they might turn their guns on you.

Mitt Romney and Blackwater, Bestest of Buds

September 22, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Posted in American politics, blackwater, corruption, Iraq, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, secret combinations, violence, War | Leave a comment

well well well, the plot thickens. Blackwater, America’s terrorist organization (what else would you call a group of armed men who go around killing civilians for no reason at all: worse still, they are state sponsored—paid for by the American taxpayer— and they have the protection of that state to willfully use violence at their discretion with full immunity), has strong ties to Mitt Romney’s campaign. Blackwater’s vice chair Cofer Black sits on Romney’s senior advisors on counter-terrorism and national security. As such, Romney’s campaign has been painfully silent on the murder of Iraqis at the hands of Blackwater employees.

What principle do you stand on, Mr. Romney?

Video Shows Blackwater Fired First

September 22, 2007 at 3:57 pm | Posted in blackwater, condoleezza rice, corruption, Iraq, secret combinations, Terrorism, War | 5 Comments

Well, this won’t go over well for those who back Blackwater, but Blackwater employees fired first in last week’s incident according to a video.

Time to fire a lot of people Ms. Rice. Time to hold them accountable and charge them with the murders they committed. Remember, they were working for the United States of America while they killed these civilians. If they are immune from prosecution, what does that say about the standards of this country?

This is normally called terrorism when done by our “enemies.”

Typical

September 22, 2007 at 7:37 am | Posted in blackwater, Iraq | 3 Comments

Blackwater shoots up innocent civilians and the State Department forces Iraq into continuing to allow it to work unfettered in the country, but what will most likely bring Blackwater down is arms smuggling. My goodness. Hey Condi, this isn’t helping that legacy of yours.

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