Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Blood, Tears and Blackwater

Imagine you are watching a terrible action movie where a renegade brigade of outlaws carry out an attack in broad daylight, killing over 17 civilians in the process. As terrible as that sounds for a scene in a movie, it's even more horrifying that it really happened on Sept. 16 of this year. What's even more terrifying is that those responsible might now be offered immunity from prosecution.

Blackwater is a private military contractor and is currently the largest private security firm to the U.S. State Department. Blackwater received a no-bid contract to protect the U.S. Embassy in Iraq (the largest embassy in the world), and several more no-bid contracts to protect diplomats, politicians, and even the soldiers themselves. It seems rather backwards that we are hiring private militias to protect the struggling democracy in Iraq; especially because I was under the impression that that's what our troops were doing.

Blackwater charges the government $445,000 per year for each employee in Iraq. That's six times the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier. If you want to learn more about Blackwater and all the private companies currently exploiting U.S. dollars in Iraq, watch Robert Greenwald's film, "Iraq for Sale." The film covers several other incidents that left a stain on Blackwater and America's reputations. But for now, let's get back to what took place on Sept. 16.

Survivors of the incident report that there was a traffic jam on a busy Baghdad street when suddenly, out of nowhere, Blackwater militia appeared and started throwing water bottles and flares. Within seconds, it is reported that Blackwater militia officers started opening fire on the traffic jam. Blackwater continued to shoot even at those civilians who were trying to get away. Chaos filled the streets as tears flowed and a simple traffic jam soon became a bloodbath leaving men, women, and children dead. All of this information was gathered and confirmed by the investigators, U.S. soldiers, and Marines.

Our soldiers and Marines had to pick up the pieces and put together what happened. They found no sign that Blackwater was ever fired upon and that Blackwater was firing upon cars and civilians who were attempting to flee the scene. 17 civilians were killed and 27 were wounded; numbers that barely phase Americans when we realize that an estimated 80,000 Iraqi civilians and 3,845 American soldiers have been killed since the war began. Unfortunately, Blackwater is "above the law" because of the Transitional Administrative Law in Iraq. It gives Blackwater and the U.S. Military immunity. If a soldier commits a crime in Iraq, however, he will be punished in a United States Court of Law. Blackwater militias have never been taken to trial by the government but they have faced lawsuits from the families of their employees killed in Iraq. The Transitional Administrative Law is about to be tested as those responsible for the attacks of Sept.16 may be held accountable in America. Even with the ongoing inquiry into the events, unclear laws and untested boundaries create a muddy path for the United States government to go down. That path will eventually lead the government back into some very bleak and very black water.

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