Iraq orders Blackwater out of the country

Just_A_Mom

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I guess this is what happens when we hire private contractors (read: mercenaries) to fight a war for us..............

Iraq orders Blackwater out of the country

By Robert H. Reid - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Sep 17, 2007 21:47:08 EDT



BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government announced Monday it was ordering Blackwater USA, the security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, to leave the country after what it said was the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy.

The order by the Interior Ministry, if carried out, would deal a severe blow to U.S. government operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats, engineers, reconstruction officials and others of their security protection.

The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.

Sunday’s shooting was the latest in a series of incidents in which Blackwater and other foreign contractors have been accused of shooting to death Iraqi citizens. None has faced charges or prosecution.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki late Monday and the two agreed to conduct a “fair and transparent investigation” and hold any wrongdoers accountable, said Yassin Majid, an adviser to the prime minister. Rice was expected to visit the Mideast on Tuesday.

Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Rice “told the prime minister that we were investigating this incident and wanted to gain a full understanding of what happened.”

“She reiterated that the United States does everything it can to avoid such loss of life, in contrast to the enemies of the Iraqi people who deliberately target civilians,” Casey said.

Majid made no mention of the order to expel Blackwater, and it was unlikely the United States would agree to abandon a security company that plays such a critical role in American operations in Iraq.

The U.S. clearly hoped the Iraqis would be satisfied with an investigation, a finding of responsibility and compensation to the victims’ families — and not insist on expelling a company that the Americans cannot operate here without.

Details of Sunday’s incident were unclear.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in western Baghdad.

“We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities,” Khalaf said.

He said witness reports pointed to Blackwater involvement but added that the shooting was still under investigation. One witness, Hussein Abdul-Abbas, said the explosion was followed by about 20 minutes of heavy gunfire and “everybody in the street started to flee immediately.”

U.S. officials said the motorcade was traveling through Nisoor Square on the way back to the Green Zone when the car bomb exploded, followed by volleys of small-arms fire that disabled one of the vehicles but caused no American casualties.

Blackwater said the company had not been formally notified of any expulsion.

“Blackwater’s independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday,” spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said in a statement late Monday.

“The ‘civilians’ reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire,” she said. “Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life.”

American officials refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with the order. It also was unclear whether the contractors involved in the shooting were still in Iraq.

The incident drew attention to one of the controversial American practices of the war — the use of heavily armed private security contractors who Iraqis complain operate beyond the control of U.S. military and Iraqi law.

The events in Mansour also illustrate the challenge of trying to protect U.S. officials in a city where car bombs can explode at any time, and where gunmen blend in with the civilian population.

“The Blackwater guys are not fools. If they were gunning down people, it was because they felt it was the beginning of an ambush,” said Robert Young Pelton, an independent military analyst and author of the book “Licensed to Kill.”

“They’re famous for being very aggressive. They use their machine guns like car horns. But it’s not the goal to kill people.”

In one of the most horrific attacks of the war, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and killed in Fallujah in 2004 and their charred bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

But Iraqis have long complained about high-profile, heavily armed security vehicles careering through the streets, with guards pointing weapons at civilians and sometimes firing warning shots at anyone deemed too close. And Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the foreign guards.

Al-Maliki late Sunday condemned the shooting by a “foreign security company” and called it a “crime.”

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani described the shooting as “a crime about which we cannot be silent.”

“Everyone should understand that whoever wants good relations with Iraq should respect Iraqis,” al-Bolani told Al-Arabiya television. “We are implementing the law and abide by laws, and others should respect these laws and respect the sovereignty and independence of Iraqis in their country.”

Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi told Iraqi television that “those criminals” responsible for deaths “should be punished” and that the government would demand compensation for the victims’ families.

Despite threats of prosecution, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Alhurra television that contractors cannot be prosecuted by Iraqi courts because “some of them have immunity.”

In April, the Defense Department said about 129,000 contractors of many nationalities were operating in Iraq — nearly as many as the entire U.S. military force before this year’s troop buildup.

About 4,600 contractors are in combat roles, such as protecting supply convoys along Iraq’s dangerous, bomb-laden highways.

Blackwater, a secretive North Carolina-based company run by a former Navy SEAL, is among the biggest and best known security firms, with an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq and at least $800 million in government contracts.

In May 2007, a Blackwater employee shot and killed a civilian who was thought to be driving too close to a company security detail.

Last Christmas Eve, an inebriated Blackwater employee shot and killed a security guard for an Iraqi vice president, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials. The contractor made his way to the U.S. Embassy where Blackwater officials arranged to have him flown home to the United States, according U.S. officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The contractor has been fired and Blackwater is cooperating with federal investigators, company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell has said.
———
AP correspondents Deborah Hastings in New York, Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
 

USNA69

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In April, the Defense Department said about 129,000 contractors of many nationalities were operating in Iraq — nearly as many as the entire U.S. military force before this year’s troop buildup.

About 4,600 contractors are in combat roles, such as protecting supply convoys along Iraq’s dangerous, bomb-laden highways.
Bound to happen.
 

Antoinette

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The Iraqi officials are very quick to blame - even before all the facts are in.
 

nosmileysforme

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"The Iraqi officials are very quick to blame - even before all the facts are in."

That's politics for you.
 

Zaphod

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The Iraqi officials are very quick to blame - even before all the facts are in.
They must be taking lessons from John Murtha and the rest of that cesspit we have for a Congress. :mad:

At any rate, this means nothing. The need still exists, and there are tons of other companies out there providing services that will simply pick up the slack, probably when the BW boys move over from BW.

according U.S. officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
But they do it anyway. :mad:

I wonder what else they do that they are not authorized to do? :rolleyes:
 
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Just_A_Mom

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Iraqi PM Disputes Blackwater Version

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:18 a.m. ET Sept 19, 2007

BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday disputed Blackwater USA's version of a weekend shooting that left at least 11 people dead and declared he would not tolerate "the killing of our citizens in cold blood."
Land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials outside the fortified Green Zone remained suspended for a second day after Iraqi authorities ordered Blackwater to stop working as an investigation continues into the Sunday incident.
The Moyock, N.C.-based firm is the main provider of bodyguards and armed escorts for American government civilian employees in Iraq.
Americans and Iraqis have offered widely differing accounts of the Sunday incident, with Blackwater insisting that its guards returned fire against armed insurgents who were threatening American diplomats.
But The New York Times reported late Tuesday that a preliminary review by Iraq's Ministry of Interior found that Blackwater security guards fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman's call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.
According to the story on the Times' Web site, the report said that Blackwater helicopters also had fired _ a finding the company denies. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense said that 20 Iraqis were killed, considerably higher than the 11 dead reported before.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the Sunday shooting was "the seventh of its kind" involving Blackwater "and these violations should be dealt with."
"We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood," al-Maliki said. "The work of this company has been stopped in order to know the reasons."
Al-Maliki said Blackwater's version of the events "is not accurate" and that U.S. diplomats could use the services of other security companies.
"Our information is that there was a violation,'" he said. "We moved to form a committee to reveal to the world whether those killed were armed or innocent."
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said in a statement late Monday that "Blackwater's independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday."
"The `civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire," she said. "Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life."
The Interior Ministry said Monday that it had permanently revoked Blackwater's license and would order its 1,000 personnel to leave the country. The following day the government rolled back, suggesting the firm's operations were only suspended pending completion of a joint U.S.-Iraqi investigation.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, en route to the Middle East, said Tuesday night that it was too soon to tell what effect the ban will have on U.S. operations in Iraq. Rice said she has expressed regret at the loss of life to the Iraqi prime minister.
"I committed to him that we were as interested as the Iraqi government in having a full investigation into what happened ... and to working with the Iraqi government to try and make certain that this sort of thing doesn't happen," Rice said.
Iraqis have long resented the presence of the estimated 48,000 private security contractors _ including about 1,000 Blackwater employees _ considering them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over civilians in their own country.
Blackwater, whose convoys of SUVs careen through the streets with weapons displayed, has been singled out for much of the criticism.
"Blackwater has a reputation. If you want over-over-the-top, gun-toting security with high profile and all the bells and whistles, Blackwater are the people you are going to go with," said James Sammons, a former Australian Special Air Service commander who now works for British-based AKE Group that also provides security in Iraq.
He said any civilian killings by security contractors tarnish the reputations of all of them.
"We get lumped in with that and it makes the job harder for the rest of us," said Sammons, who is AKE's Asia-Pacific regional director, based in Sydney, Australia.
The Iraqi Cabinet decided Tuesday to review the status of all foreign security companies. Still, it was unclear how the dispute would play out, given the government's need to appear resolute in defending national sovereignty while maintaining its relationship with Washington at a time when U.S. public support for the mission is faltering.
Nevertheless, some Iraqi officials said privately it would be difficult to order Blackwater out of the country because the Americans rely so heavily on the company for their security.
"It will be difficult for the Iraqi government to make them leave the country because they protect the embassy," said one aide to al-Maliki. "Maybe they will make a commitment that they study their moves" or agree to change the name of the company.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is so sensitive.
Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that the government ban all 48,000 foreign security contractors.
Al-Sadr's office in Najaf said the government should nullify contracts of all foreign security companies, branding them "criminal and intelligence firms."
"This aggression would not have happened had it not been for the presence of the occupiers who brought these companies, most of whose members are criminals and ex-convicts in American and Western prisons," the firebrand cleric said in a statement.
Al-Sadr insisted the government prosecute those involved and ensure that families of the victims receive compensation but did not threaten to unleash his Mahdi Army militia in retaliation for the killings.
Blackwater is among three private security firms employed by the State Department to protect employees in Iraq, and expelling it would create huge problems for U.S. government operations in this country.
A 2004 regulation issued by the U.S. occupation authority granted security contractors full immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. Unlike American military personnel, the civilian contractors are also not subject to U.S. military law either.
Hassan al-Rubaie, a member of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, said an investigative committee has been formed to consider lifting the contractors' immunity.
Blackwater and other foreign contractors accused of killing Iraqi citizens have gone without facing charges or prosecution in the past. But the latest incident drew a much stronger reaction by the Iraqi government.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed the day before in an attack in the south of the capital. The death raised to at least 3,787 members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an AP count.
The latest - undoubtedly the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, all US Civilians and Diplomats are now restricted to the Green Zone.
If Blackwater is expelled they would not be easily or quickly replaceable. There are a lot of contractors but they are the biggest that provide "security" and are basically contracted soldiers (mercenaries) who are not fighting for their country but fighting for the almighty dollar - and big ones too.
The "problem" with using them is they are not US Military - they don't have to follow the rules of engagement or the Geneva Convention (not the the insurgents do). In any case, the potential for them to be a loose cannon is much greater than if the Military was doing this job.
 

Zaphod

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Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday disputed Blackwater USA's version of a weekend shooting that left at least 11 people dead and declared he would not tolerate "the killing of our citizens in cold blood."
Oh? Where were you when Saddam was running the place? :rolleyes:

Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed the day before in an attack in the south of the capital. The death raised to at least 3,787 members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an AP count.
"At least"?

"an AP count"?

:confused:

What, you mean the media doesn't know for sure, despite their insistance on keeping the AMERICAN body count but ignoring the ENEMY count? :rolleyes:

More stupidity and bluster from politicians and the media. :mad:


The "problem" with using them is they are not US Military - they don't have to follow the rules of engagement or the Geneva Convention (not the the insurgents do). In any case, the potential for them to be a loose cannon is much greater than if the Military was doing this job.
I think you may be taking too much for granted. I highly doubt that the United States Military (and certainly not those paragons of peace-at-any-price-including-American-humiliation over at the State Department) would contract BW or any other similar firm without the contract clearly stipulating rules of engagement that are probably closer in line with the military than you might think.

I can't think of too many attrocities caused by these groups, and the instances where they have gone too far have been dealt with.

Once again, why are so many people so willing to believe that everyone but the Americans are telling the truth?
 
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Just_A_Mom

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1. The AP always says "at least" because the number is fluid. It can change from minute to minute - always going up, never down.

2. While the US GOVERNMENT contracts Blackwater, I dont think it is the military. These guys don't have to follow the military chain of command nor are they subject to any courts-martial. If they do bad things our government simply evacuates them.

3. "Something" must have happened - or else why would Condi offer a personal apology. She doesn't apologize when our troops are killing off insurgents.

4. These guys are doing the job of an American soldier but getting paid big bucks for doing it. I know the Army is short on numbers but at the same time my tax dollars are paying for mercenaries to help fight this war.
 

Luigi59

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Blackwater employees are not mercenaries.

They are not fighting the war, they are not being employed by a foreign govt to fight a war. They are simply "outsourced" security to US and Iraqi diplomats, as well as other areas where the US military does not want to, or cannot.
 

Zaphod

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1. The AP always says "at least" because the number is fluid. It can change from minute to minute - always going up, never down.
This the same AP that's prohibited from using the word "terrorist"? :rolleyes:

2. While the US GOVERNMENT contracts Blackwater, I dont think it is the military. These guys don't have to follow the military chain of command nor are they subject to any courts-martial. If they do bad things our government simply evacuates them.
I'm not so sure. While it is true that they do not fall under the UCMJ, they hardly have carte blanche to shoot the place up.

3. "Something" must have happened - or else why would Condi offer a personal apology. She doesn't apologize when our troops are killing off insurgents.
She does when they miss and kill innocents.

Again, why is everyone so quick to believe the Iraqi government (you know, the same one that has "failed" to reach any "significant progress" on the "milestones" set by OUR Congress, and as such must go, according to geo-political experts like Harry Reid) instead of giving the AMERICANS the benefit of the doubt.

Hasn't the enemy fired from behind innocents before, PRECISELY to perpetrate this kind of reaction from the Blame-America-First crowd?

4. These guys are doing the job of an American soldier but getting paid big bucks for doing it. I know the Army is short on numbers but at the same time my tax dollars are paying for mercenaries to help fight this war.
First off, they aren't mercenaries. They are not up for sale to the highest bidder and they ARE LOYAL to OUR side (much moreso than some of our alleged allies, I might add). As such, the term "mercenary", which is thrown around so cavalierly by those who want to put these guys down, is not applicable here.

While I agree that it would be best for us to have the forces to negate the need for these guys, the fact is that their expertise is in demand, they come from the best units in the military, and they are getting paid what they're worth. It's called Capitalism.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the esteemed Congress, rather than voting themselves payraises to sit on their fat asses all day pontificating for C-SPAN, would instead vote a 45% increase in pay for our troops? Where would we get the funds? Well, Her Royal Majesty the Senator from New York just got $7 million dollars to build a worthless museum to the Woodstock hippies, so it's not like there isn't tons of money laying around to be spent on GOOD stuff. Let's look for it and give our guys a well-deserved raise, and see the numbers of enlistments and retains go up.
 

TacticalNuke

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Keep in mind Blackwater has not been expelled from the country, nor have they been prohibited from operating, the latest I heard.
 

nosmileysforme

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I can't help but wonder what would happen if the esteemed Congress, rather than voting themselves payraises to sit on their fat asses all day pontificating for C-SPAN, would instead vote a 45% increase in pay for our troops?
Well, considering the fracas over a 0.5% additional raise proposed by the House Armed Services Committee beyond the 3.0% proposed by the Bush administration, I would guess Bush would veto any such proposal.


White House: 3.5 percent pay hike unnecessary
Rick Maze, Army Times - May 16, 2007

Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.

The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

See the full Statement of Administration Policy, or SAP (pdf) >>

Here is the relevant excerpt “strongly” opposing the pay raise:

Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President’s proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is unnecessary. When combined with the overall military benefit package, the President’s proposal provides a good quality of life for servicemembers and their families. While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the three percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that. The cost of increasing the FY 2008 military pay raise by an additional 0.5 percent is $265 million in FY 2008 and $7.3 billion from FY 2008 to FY 2013.

Here the Administration opposes an additional $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers:

Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance: The Administration opposes section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the DoD Military Retirement Fund. The current benefit programs for survivors, DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Department of Veterans Affairs’ Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), provide sufficient benefits and avoid duplication of two complementary federal benefits programs established for the same purpose — providing a lifetime annuity for the survivor of an active, retired or former servicemember. This offset policy is consistent with private sector benefits. The provision is estimated to cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through FY 2013. It appears to be the first step toward eliminating the offset between SBP and DIC; full elimination of this offset would cost the Military Retirement Fund between $6 and $8 billion over 10 years.
 

USNA69

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Smiley is correct. The present Bush administration is, and has been, notorious for not supporting out men and women in uniform.

There is absolutely no control over civilian "contractors" in Iraq. I remember grimacing when Rumsfield pushed through the law that contractors would not be subject to Iraqi law. They are also not subject to UCMJ. I think today if a Blackwater contractor killed someone in cold blood, it would literally take an act of Congress to prosecute him. Most contractors work for DOD which has a few minimal checks and balances. Blackwater works for State Dept which has none. While the rest of the effort is to win the hearts and minds, Blackwater is totally contradictory to that effort.

We don't have a clue how many and from what countries these security personnel come from. Every construction contractor, foreign and US both, probably hire their own. There is no standardization.

Mercenaries. Sure. There are many from foreign countries. And they are working for money. Money that is factors more than the soldier working alongside more makes. This is the real issue to me. Wasted money that could be spent beefing up and giving proper benefits to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

Think that with every troop drawdown their will be a corresponding civilian contract let? It kept us from showing escalation. Perhaps it can now help us show withdrawal.
 
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Luigi59

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They are also not subject to UCMJ. I think today if a Blackwater contractor killed someone in cold blood, it would literally take an act of Congress to prosecute him. Most contractors work for DOD which has a few minimal checks and balances. Blackwater works for State Dept which has none.
And as bodyguards employed by the State Department, they all enjoy diplomatic immunity.
 

Just_A_Mom

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Keep in mind Blackwater has not been expelled from the country, nor have they been prohibited from operating, the latest I heard.
They have been temporarily removed from providing security to US Diplomats and civilians in Baghdad until this is "resolved".
This is why US Diplomats and cilivians are not allowed outside the Green Zone.
 

Just_A_Mom

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Blackwater employees are not mercenaries.

They are not fighting the war, they are not being employed by a foreign govt to fight a war. They are simply "outsourced" security to US and Iraqi diplomats, as well as other areas where the US military does not want to, or cannot.
Depends on your definition of Mercenary.

Blackwater employees are indeed paid very well. They include not only US Citizens but foreign nationals. So, the US State Department has contracted with Foreign Nationals to provide security to US Diplomats (shouldn't this be the job of the Marines????) and they have unlimited permission to use offensive weapons.

Sounds like mercenaries to me.
 

Just_A_Mom

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And as bodyguards employed by the State Department, they all enjoy diplomatic immunity.
Not only that but according to the Coalition agreement they are also not prosecutable under Iraqi law. Hence, they are accountable to no one. Unless you count Condi and W.

Look, this incident is not the first one. There have been others - this is different because it happened in broad daylight in front of credible witnesses.
An Iraqi lawyer shot in the back trying to flee might be a credible witness.

Also, USNA69 is correct - they are doing nothing to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Our soldiers on the ground are doing everything they can to win the hearts and minds and unless we can do that this war is in vain.
 

Luigi59

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Look, this incident is not the first one. There have been others - this is different because it happened in broad daylight in front of credible witnesses.
An Iraqi lawyer shot in the back trying to flee might be a credible witness.

....they are doing nothing to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Our soldiers on the ground are doing everything they can to win the hearts and minds and unless we can do that this war is in vain.
The rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, then the murder of her entire family by US Marines, didn't win any hearts and minds either.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6930845.stm

Nor did the shooting of an unarmed Iraqi cowherd in the back of the head by a US Army soldier.
http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Aug/06/ln/ln07a.html

Blackwater employees AND US military personel have been accused (some convicted) of atrocities against Iraqi civilians.

I'm not excusing Blackwater in anything, nor comparing their crimes with crimes committed by US service members.

Just stating that crimes against civilans and children are crimes no matter who is committing them.

Both seem to rogue isolated incidents rather than a policy or directive by either organization, Blackwater or the US military.

The military seemed to react to these crimes, punishing the guilty.

Let's hope that (if proved to be true) the Blackwater crimes are also pursued to the same extent.
 

Zaphod

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Well, considering the fracas over a 0.5% additional raise proposed by the House Armed Services Committee beyond the 3.0% proposed by the Bush administration, I would guess Bush would veto any such proposal.
Pathetic, isn't it? :mad: :frown:


I agree with Luigi's last post, although I will admit that USNA69's post, if entirely accurate, is disturbing. While I would not expect the contractors to be held to Iraqi Law (just as our troops are not), I would hope that some kind of control WOULD exist. Until I have proof otherwise, I am not going to conclude that they were given a complete license to kill.

Just a thought, though. If they DO have a true license to kill, then I think their restraint has been admirable. I guarantee you that if they had gone off on wild shooting sprees, we would have heard about it.

As for hearts and minds, I thought that's what we had the State Department for? :rolleyes:
 
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Just_A_Mom

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The saga continues...........

Iraq guard contracts raise worries
Blackwater disputes bring to surface tensions with State Department
By Sudarsan Raghavan and Thomas E. Ricks
The Washington Post
BAGHDAD - A confrontation between the U.S. military and the State Department is unfolding over the involvement of Blackwater USA in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square Sept. 16, bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions between the military and private security companies in Iraq, according to U.S. military and government officials.
In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department's authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," the official said.
"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term." The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which some U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis.
In last week's incident, Blackwater guards shot into a crush of cars, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 12. Blackwater officials insist their guards were ambushed, but witnesses have described the shooting as unprovoked. Iraq's Interior Ministry has already concluded that Blackwater was at fault.
Anger and concern
In interviews involving a dozen U.S. military and government officials, many expressed anger and concern over the shootings in Nisoor Square, in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Some worried it could undermine the military's efforts to stabilize Iraq this year with an offensive involving thousands of reinforcements.
"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a 'know-it-all' attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."
Most officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there are at least three ongoing investigations of Blackwater's role in the shootings. There are also sensitive discussions between various U.S. agencies and the Iraqi government over the future of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.
A State Department official asked why the military is shifting the question to State "since the DOD has more Blackwater contractors than we do, including people doing PSD [personal security detail] for them. . . . They've [Blackwater] basically got contracts with DOD that are larger than the contracts with State."
According to federal spending data compiled by the independent Web site FedSpending.org, however, the State Department's Blackwater contracts vastly exceed those of the Pentagon. Since 2004, State has paid Blackwater $833,673,316, compared with Defense Department contracts of $101,219,261.
A Blackwater spokeswoman did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
'There's an issue here'
Directly addressing the question of tension between Defense and State, the State Department official said: "The bottom line of this is that we recognize that there's an issue here. We don't think we need to be told by anyone else that the incident on September 16 raised a whole series of other issues with respect to how these kinds of contract services operate, and that's why we're both working with this joint commission with the Iraqis as well as [conducting an] internal investigation here to ensure we can address some of the underlying issues."
Scores of private security firms play a vital role in the U.S. military mission, from force protection to securing the perimeters of U.S. bases and guarding generals. They free up more U.S. soldiers for combat duty and to secure neighborhoods.
At the same time, the military has long been wary of private security guards, especially those who, in the military's view, don't follow the rules of engagement that govern soldiers. Often, private guards quickly drive away from the scene of an incident, leaving soldiers to clean up the mess, officials said.

"I personally was concerned about any of the civilians running around on the battlefield during my time there," said retired Army Col. Teddy Spain, who commanded a military police brigade in Baghdad. "My main concern was their lack of accountability when things went wrong."
In Iraq, Blackwater operations have been a source of controversy. In 2004, insurgents ambushed four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah and mutilated their bodies. U.S. Marines were ordered to invade the city to capture the assailants, triggering one of the war's most fierce battles. The firm mostly hires former Navy SEAL operatives.
"They are immature shooters, and have very quick trigger fingers. Their tendency is shoot first and ask questions later," said an Army lieutenant colonel serving in Iraq. Referring to the Sept. 16 shootings, the officer added: "None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes."
"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control," said a senior U.S. commander serving in Iraq. "They often act like 'cowboys' over here . . . not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."
"Many of us feel that when Blackwater and other groups conduct military missions, they should be subject to the same controls under which the Army operates," said Marc Lindemann, who served in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division and is now an officer in the New York National Guard and a state prosecutor.
A Pentagon source in Washington said, "We are really making State respond, conduct an investigation and come up with recommendations." The source described discussion in Washington as calm and professional but, referring to Iraq, said, "There is probably a bit more emotion going on in theater."
There have been private discussions in the past over whether the Defense Department should oversee the State Department's security contracts, according to the Pentagon source. Defense rules for licensing, oversight and incident reports when weapons are discharged are more stringent, the source said. The military is known to quickly and routinely investigate incidents involving its contractors.
'Turf battle'
But "it would be a turf battle," the source said. State would oppose it because "you are taking away a primary mission their regional security officer has -- you'd be breaking new ground." At the same time, "DOD is not volunteering to take them over."
"Given their record of recklessness," said the senior U.S. commander, "I'm not sure any senior military officer here would want responsibility for them."
An Army brigadier general said finding a way to prosecute security companies for violations was more crucial than regulating them. In Iraq, they were given immunity under a regulation, Order 17, crafted by Iraq's U.S. overseers after the 2003 invasion.
The Iraqi government has backed away from a threat to expel Blackwater, largely because of its role in protecting senior U.S. diplomats and civilian operatives. Officials said they would take action once the investigation by a 16-member U.S.-Iraqi commission is completed.
"I think the military culture fully accepts these days, rightly or wrongly, that we can't go to war anymore without these contractors," said one Iraq war veteran. "I do not expect calls for action from within the structure and have heard none. If action comes, it will be from Capitol Hill or pressure brought by the press."
"The deaths of contractors from Blackwater helped precipitate the debacle in Fallujah in 2004 and now the loss of Blackwater is causing disruptions in the war effort in 2007," said one military intelligence officer. "Why are we creating new vulnerabilities by relying on what are essentially mercenary forces?"
 
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