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WP Tries And Convicts Blackwater “Sniper”

From those champions of due process at the Washington Post:

How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards

Witnesses Call Shooting From Justice Ministry Unprovoked, But State Dept. Cleared Its Security Team After a Brief Probe

By Steve Fainaru
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A01

BAGHDAD — Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague’s side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings — including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander — and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as “an act of terrorism” and said Blackwater “caused the incident.” The media network concluded that the guards were killed “without any provocation.”

The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team’s actions “fell within approved rules governing the use of force,” according to an official from the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad’s Green Zone, to investigate.

The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire. The shooting occurred more than seven months before the Sept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at another Baghdad traffic circle.

The Feb. 7 shootings convulsed the Iraqi Media Network, one of the prominent symbols of the new Iraq, in anger and recrimination.

U.S. officials and the security company, now known as Blackwater Worldwide, offered no compensation or apology to the victims’ families, according to relatives of the guards and officials of the network, whose programming reaches 22 million Iraqis.

“It’s really surprising that Blackwater is still out there killing people,” Mohammed Jasim, the Iraqi Media Network’s deputy director, said in an interview. “This company came to Iraq and was supposed to provide security. They didn’t learn from their mistakes. They continued and continued. They continued killing.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne E. Tyrrell, said the company’s guards came under “precision small-arms fire” and fired back with “well-aimed shots.” The company was unable to comment further because of operational security and contractual obligations, she said. “This was absolutely a provoked incident,” Tyrrell said.

U.S. officials were “overwhelmingly convinced” that the Blackwater guards acted appropriately, based on information they had provided, according to the diplomatic security official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission is investigating private security matters, including previous Blackwater shootings. Shortly after the Feb. 7 incident, the official said, the U.S. Embassy briefed an Iraqi government official and invited him to discuss the matter further, but the embassy never heard from him again…

To say Blackwater was the only source of information for this investigation is completely false,” the security official added. U.S. officials declined to say who else was contacted as part of the probe or to provide any details about the assertions of Blackwater guards that they came under fire…

The Iraqi Media Network sought to sue Blackwater in an Iraqi court, according to Faisal Rahdi, the network’s legal adviser. A judge rejected the petition, he said, citing a 2004 law signed by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator for the now-defunct U.S. occupation authority. That law, which the Iraqi government has moved to overturn, granted contractors immunity from the Iraqi legal process…

The Feb. 7 incident was one of at least 10 fatal shootings involving Blackwater since June 2005, including three that led to confrontations between the security company and the Iraqi government in the months before the pivotal Sept. 16 incident at Nisoor Square…

The network gave the families of each of the victims 1 million dinars, or about $812, to assist with burial. The network then hired one member from each family to make up for the lost income.

The diplomatic security official said the U.S. government offered no compensation because the investigation concluded that the Blackwater guards fired in self-defense. “It is the State Department policy to offer ex gratia condolence payments when innocent civilians have been hurt,” he said. “In this case, the investigation determined that the security detail had been fired upon, and therefore the issue of payments did not arise.”

Rahdi, the legal adviser, said the company had hoped to recover more money for the families by suing Blackwater. But he said CPA Order 17, the law granting contractors immunity, made it impossible… 

Jasim said he is still hopeful that Blackwater or the U.S. government will provide assistance.

“Those three people were killed in cold blood,” he said. “They have families to support. They should at least forward a letter of apology so we can give that to their relatives. That would give them some relief.”

Of course the Washington Post doesn’t deign to suggest a motive for the killing of these three men.

Though it is pretty clear what the motives are on the other side. (Like the Haditha relatives, they want “blood money” and lots of it.)

Of course the reporter for The Post just assumes that Blackwater employees are bloodthirsty murderers who kill for pleasure.

Apparently our watchdog media has adopted the Daily Kos attitude towards the contractors in Iraq.

Which, while appalling, should be no surprise given that they all serve the same masters.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, November 8th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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