'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More on Blackwater 

From today's New York Times:

Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report to a Congressional committee said today.

The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets.

In one incident, the State Department and Blackwater agreed to pay $15,000 to the family of a man killed by “a drunken Blackwater contractor,” the report said. As a State Department official wrote, “We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission."

It is important to note several things about this. First, the report was primarily based upon internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents. As usual, the experiences of the Iraqis themselves were treated as irrelevant, another instance of erasing the personal experiences of the victims themselves.

Accordingly, the report did not describe episodes like this one described by Laila Fadel of McClatchy last week:

The following Sunday, Blackwater guards opened fire as the State Department convoy they were escorting crossed in front of stopped traffic at the al Nisour traffic circle.

While U.S. officials have offered no explanation of what occurred that day, witnesses and Iraqi investigators agree that the guards' first target was a white car that either hadn't quite stopped or was trying to nudge its way to the front of traffic.

In the car were a man whose name is uncertain; Mahasin Muhsin, a mother and doctor; and Muhsin's young son. The guards first shot the man, who was driving. As Muhsin screamed, a Blackwater guard shot her. The car exploded, and Muhsin and the child burned, witnesses said.

Afrah Sattar, 27, was on a bus approaching the square when she saw the guards fire on the white car. She and her mother, Ghania Hussein, were headed to the Certificate of Identification Office in Baghdad to pick up proof of Sattar's Iraqi citizenship for an upcoming trip to a religious shrine in Iran.

When she saw the gunmen turn toward the bus, Sattar looked at her mother in fear. "They're going to shoot at us, Mama," she said. Her mother hugged her close. Moments later, a bullet pierced her mother's skull and another struck her shoulder, Sattar recalled.

As her mother's body went limp, blood dripped onto Sattar's head, still cradled in her mother's arms.

"Mother, mother," she called out. No answer. She hugged her mother's body and kissed her lips and began to pray, "We belong to God and we return to God." The bus emptied, and Sattar sat alone at the back, with her mother's bleeding body.

"I'm lost now, I'm lost," she said days later in her simple two-bedroom home. Ten people lived there; now there are nine.

"They are killers," she said of the Blackwater guards. "I swear to God, not one bullet was shot at them. Why did they shoot us? My mother didn't carry a weapon."

Downstairs, her father, Sattar Ghafil Slom al Kaabi, 67, sat beneath a smiling picture of his wife and recalled their 40-year love story and how they raised eight children together. On the way to the holy city of Najaf to bury her, he'd stopped his car, with her coffin strapped to the top. He got out and stood beside the coffin. He wanted to be with her a little longer.

"I loved her more than anything," he said, his voice wavering. "Now that she is dead, I love her more."

Second, nothing is going to be done as a result of the hearings, nothing, even if Jane Hamsher is, quite admirably, blogging them live over at firedoglake. Just another political masturbatory opportunity for people to act as if something is being done, when it isn't, although, strictly speaking, that's a bit of an exaggeration, they will, after all, be used by Democrats for partisan purposes.

But, do something more, like cutting off funding for private military contractors like Blackwater? Forget about it. Don't you understand? Congressional Democrats are helpless until a Democrat becomes President. Fortunately, the Iraqis have this tendency to take matters into their own hands without waiting for the Democrats to help them.

Lastly, people may be much too sanguine about Blackwater and the political consequences of allowing the company to survive. After all, what is to prevent Blackwater operatives from being deployed domestically? Nothing. They were brought into New Orleans after Katrina, and Blackwater, as part of a consortium of military contractors, just obtained a contract with the Department of Homeland Security for global counter narcotics operations, potentially even within the US, and seeks others as well.

Jeremy Scahill described Blackwater as the Praetorian Guard of the Bush Administration's war on terror. We shouldn't ignore the possibility, however, that it could become a Praetorian Guard of a more familiar, disturbing political kind.

Labels: , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?