I read an article today regarding how a Blackwater sniper in Iraq apparently killed three Iraq government security guards.
Blackwater Worldwide is a private security firm- the new term for “mercenary army”- engaged by the U.S. Government to provide security for U.S. interests in Iraq. This includes guarding American diplomats. The incident in question involved a group of Blackwater guards protecting such a diplomat. One of the guards, a trained sniper, positioned himself in a secure and commanding position on the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry where the diplomat was in a meeting. Across the road was the compound of the Government-controlled Iraqi television network. The Blackwater sniper felt compelled at some point to shoot three guards who had been situated on a balcony of the television network building throughout the diplomat’s visit.
Friendly fire deaths are not an uncommon occurrence. But what disturbs me about this situation is two-fold. First, the American investigation into the incident sounds like a total farce. The only people interviewed were the Blackwater employees and a couple of American military personnel. None of the Iraqi security guards were interviewed. No onsite forensic investigation was performed. The conclusion was (unsurprisingly) that the Blackwater security guards responded accordingly to a perceived threat.
The second thing that disturbs me is that the Americans have had the Iraqi government create a law placing all U.S. government funded private security firms above all Iraqi law. This means that neither Blackwater nor the U.S. Government can be charged, not even in a civil suit for wrongful death. Blackwater, which is being paid about a billion dollars a year for security services, hasn’t even paid a small gratuity to the families of the men who were killed. They claim they have no obligation to do so.
I find this entire incident, at least as reported by the Washington Post, disgusting in the extreme. The killed Iraqi guards were employees of the Iraqi government operating in performance of their duties. They were not firing upon the Americans. But accidents happen: a gunshot or something like a gunshot might have been heard. A case of mistaken identity, and innocents get killed. But the Americans and Blackwater leave the impression that the Iraqi guards were at fault, damn evil foreigners that they are. A little kindness to the families of the Iraqi guards could go a long way towards making the Americans look less like despicable.