This is, as Rachel Maddow might say, an underreported story. The storyof the indictments of the five Blackwater employees for killing civilians in Iraq should be big news, but it has been overshadowed by the arrest of Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojavitch.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died while we were occupying their country and “protecting ” them and they all can’t be prosecuted. However small, I think this is a step in the right direction. Now Blackwater the Company, and those at the Departments of State and Defense who were responsible for hiring civilian contractors to do the job our soldiers should have been doing need to join these five on trial.
The New York Times reported the story on December 8. Jeremy Scahill wrote the same day for The Nation.
For more than five years, the Bush administration’s mercenary force of choice, Blackwater Worldwide, has operated on a US government contract in Iraq in a climate that has wed immunity with impunity. Today the Justice Department took the first concrete step to hold accountable the individuals responsible for the single greatest massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of an armed private force deployed in Iraq by the US government.
The Nisour Square killings propelled Blackwater to international infamy and sparked demands from the US-installed Iraqi government for Blackwater to be expelled from the country. The Bush administration rejected those calls and in April renewed Blackwater’s Iraq contract for another year. Blackwater, the largest US security contractor in Iraq, has worked on a US government contract since August 28, 2003, when it was hired on an initial $27.7 million no-bid contract to protect the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer. To date, Blackwater has been paid over a billion dollars for its “security” work for the State Department.
No oversight, no accountability (until now) and all that money. No wonder the Iraqis wanted to be able to prosecute contractors.
And in case you want to hear him as well as read him, Amy Goodman interviewed Jeremy Scahill for one of her shows.