Because of the enormous pressure placed on the U.S. government by the heroic surviving victims and witnesses to the Blackwater massacre at Baghdad’s Nusoor Square, a federal jury convicted four Blackwater contractors on Oct. 23 in Washington, D.C. One was found guilty of murder and three of manslaughter, as well as several weapons charges.
Seventeen civilians were killed, including two children, on Sept. 16, 2007. Twenty more were injured.
The four killers were underlings in the criminal U.S. war machine, whose executive officers included the top war criminals of the George W. Bush administration and the Blackwater bosses.
“Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children,” said Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.
“It was horror. People running out of their cars were being shot at. … Anything that moved in Nusoor Square was shot. Women, children, young people, they shot everyone,” said witness Hasan Jaber, who himself was shot three times. (CNN, Oct. 23)
“Holding individuals responsible is not enough,” noted Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented Iraqi victims of the killings in a human-rights case against Blackwater that settled in 2010.
“Private military contractors … have engaged in a variety of war crimes and atrocities during the [2003 Iraq] invasion and occupation while reaping billions of dollars in profits from the war. To this day, the U.S. government continues to award Blackwater and its successor entities millions of dollars each year in contracts, essentially rewarding war crimes,” Azmy said. (atimes.com, Oct. 23)
None of Blackwater’s executives were charged with any crimes around this massacre, even though they tried to cover it up. Blackwater Worldwide repaired and repainted its trucks immediately after the Nusoor Square shooting. “The repairs essentially destroyed evidence that Justice Department investigators hoped to examine in a criminal case that has drawn worldwide attention.” (Harpers Blog, Jan. 19, 2008)
Blackwater execs, Bush leaders walk free
Letting Blackwater executives walk free is in stark contrast to the prosecution of heroes like U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who face decades in prison for exposing U.S. war crimes.
For its “services,” Blackwater has received some $2 billion in U.S. government contracts for providing armed personnel to the Pentagon, the State Department and, secretly, to the CIA.
Other U.S. mercenary companies, like CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved with the torture of prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Numerous reports indicate these private firms also worked with the CIA in its infamous “rendition” torture campaign.
Why is Wall Street employing its own private armies when it has the most powerful war machine in the world at its disposal — the U.S. military? To supplement U.S. recruits, reduce the number of U.S. troops killed in action and provide more tax dollars for private profit, the Pentagon hires companies like Blackwater.
U.S. imperialism has poured billions upon billions of dollars from the people’s treasury to pay these hired killers like those from Blackwater to conduct torture and murder, much of it in secret, to further protect the vast flow of wealth into its coffers.
Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, told a reporter that the new “promised land” is Africa, where he is “investing in firms providing services to the oil and gas industry, in places where he thinks his expertise in providing logistics and security can give him a competitive edge.” (economist.com, Nov. 23, 2013)
The conviction of the Blackwater contractors is a step in the right direction. But why stop there? The Blackwater executives also deserve punishment. And it was the political leaders in the Bush administration who plotted the plunder of Iraq; sold it to the rest of the U.S. ruling class by promising an easy, quick and cheap victory; and sold it to the world with the Big Lie that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction.”
Massacres like the one at Nusoor Square will not stop until all these mercenaries and those who stand behind them are brought to justice before the people of the world.