Sat, 13 Oct 2007 20:57:46
By Ismail Salami, Press TV, Tehran
The recent reports of the Blackwater shooting last month questioned the statements by Blackwater murderous mercenary thugs that they were responding to armed insurgents when 17 Iraqis were massacred in cold blood on September 16 at a Baghdad intersection.
The three rooftop Kurdish witnesses said they had not seen any gunfire, which could have possibly provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. Forensic evidence indicated gunfire came only from the guns normally used by security guards and American military.
A senior US military had earlier told the Washington Post that Blackwater guards were escorting a US State Department official and that they were apparently unprovoked when they opened fire on Iraqi civilians.
Speaking to The New York Times, the witnesses came to cast doubt on an account by US State Department that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting. Blackwater and the US State Department have declined to clarify the ambiguities of the case.
On September 16, an armed State Department convoy guarded by Blackwater USA was moving near Nisour Square in the Mansour neighborhood in Baghdad. In the meantime, an Iraqi vehicle entered the square. The Blackwater operatives, protecting a senior State Department official, opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver. Then they launched a grenade at the car. Inside the car was a young Iraqi family -- man, woman and infant. To the horror of the witnesses, the bodies of the mother and child were melded together by the flames.
Then, the Blackwater mercenaries started a shooting spree. Gunfire raged through the crowds and lifeless bodies of men, women and children dropped on the streets. It was a terrifying scene. A ten-year-old boy jumped out of a bus to escape the clutches of death. People were crawling on the streets in fear of their lives.
The Iraqi government took a severe swipe at the Blackwater mercenaries and demanded that they be shipped out of the country.
"We will not allow Iraqis to be killed in cold blood," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. "There is a sense of tension and anger among all Iraqis, including the government, over this crime."
There are reportedly over 100,000 such 'contractors' operating in Iraq, of which Blackwater accounts for 6,000.
The merchants of death decline to admit to their murderous profession. Erik Prince, the founder of Backwater USA, said in an interview, “It's just not accurate to call us mercenaries because you have Americans working for the American government. That in no way meets the definition of a mercenary. So I think “mercenary” is a slanderous term, kind of an inflammatory word [used] to malign us. Taking US military or law-enforcement veterans, and putting them back to work and using the skills that they have acquired over the years to teach other US active-duty military, law enforcement units, [is] just filling the gaps that exist in the US military.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, Erik Prince was called to Capitol Hill to defend his company. He sent his lawyer instead. Blackwater has been involved in 195 shootings in Iraq since 2005, “in the majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded.” Blackwater is known for its homicidal activities. 195 shootings have been reported since 2005 and Blackwater contractors fired first in 163 cases.
A war profiteer, Prince hires soldiers of fortune to conduct operations, which used to be performed by uniformed US military personnel. It may be naively imagined that the Bush administration can weather criticism for its crimes committed not by its military but by a band of mercenaries who serve the same master.
The 'war on terrorism' got the ball rolling for the firm. However, political connections were more instrumental. Erik Prince is a former SEAL who is extremely involved in Republican Party politics. Since 1998, he has funneled about $200,000 to GOP committees and candidates, including President Bush.
Some senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration's top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Robert Young Pelton, author of 'Licensed to Kill', says that an early Blackwater contract-a secret no-bid $5.4 million deal with the CIA-came in 2002 after Prince placed a call to Buzzy Krongard, who was then the CIA's executive director.
Blackwater is recruiting Jose Rodriguez, the CIA's superspy as director of the National Clandestine Service. Rodriguez has some former agency friends at Blackwater, notably Rick Prado, with whom he served in Latin America and who is now Blackwater's Vice President of Special Programs.
Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Blackwater's annual federal contract revenue has grown from less than $1 million to almost $600 million. The private security firm Blackwater should be sued for war crimes and slaughtering Iraqi citizens.
Blackwater is not merely a security firm; it is the US occupation mercenary company, which started its role in the summer of 2003, after receiving a $27 million no-bid contract to provide security for Ambassador Paul Bremer, the original head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Blackwater is not merely a criminal company of the US occupation but an agent in service of the US administration to conduce to chaos and crisis in war-torn Iraq. The weapons that turned out to be in the hands of the PKK, the Kurdish militant group were smuggled into Iraq by Blackwater. PKK is designated a 'foreign terrorist organization' by international community.
It seems that the US is adamant on remaining militarily engaged in the Middle East rather than opting for a less interventionist foreign policy.
Now the question is: why does the US administration wish to conduce to crisis in the war-ravaged country? The simple answer is: to use crisis as an excuse to stay on in the country. As long as there is crisis, there is justification for longer military presence. Blackwater creates crisis in Iraq and thus guarantees longer US military presence.
Ismail Salami is the author of 'Iran, Cradle of Civilization' and dozens of articles on Middle East issues.