Monday, October 08, 2007


Waxman's committee scrutinised one incident: the killing of one of the Iraqi vice-president's bodyguards by an allegedly drunk Blackwater contractor last Christmas Eve. Prince confirmed that Blackwater had whisked him out of Iraq and fired him, and said that he had been fined and billed for his return ticket.
According to the committee report, after the killing the state department charge d'affaires recommended that Blackwater make a "sizable payment" to the bodyguard's family. The official suggested $250,000, but the department’s diplomatic security service said this was too much and could cause Iraqis to "try to get killed". In the end, the state department and Blackwater are said to have agreed on a $15,000 payment.
A pattern is emerging from the Congressional investigation into Blackwater: the state department urging the company to pay what amounts to hush money to victims' families while facilitating the return of contractors involved in deadly incidents for which not a single one has faced prosecution.

The above is from Jeremy Scahill's "The Scandal of Blackwater: The only punishment doled out to US security men involved in deadly shootings is a jet home" (Guardian of London via Common Dreams). And remember, before we go further, Erik Prince testified to Congress last week that the security clearance was pulled but somehow, weeks later, the same mercenary ends up working on a DoD contract in Kuwait. Paul vonz Zielbauer -- with a Baghdad dateline -- reports in "Iraqi Inquiry Says Shooting Was Unprovoked" (New York Times):

A completed Iraqi government inquiry found that employees of the American security company Blackwater USA shot unprovoked at Iraqi civilians at a downtown traffic circle three weeks ago, an episode that killed 17 people and wounded more than 20 others, a government spokesman said Sunday.
The four-vehicle Blackwater convoy, which had stopped at Nisoor Square on Sept. 16 to seal off traffic for another convoy carrying State Department officials, "wasn't even hit by a stone," much less hostile gunfire when Blackwater guards began shooting at unarmed civilians, government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said.

In an update, James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) add:

Those conclusions contradict Blackwater's original statement on the shooting, which said that a convoy operated by the company’s guards "acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack." The Iraqi findings are also at odds with initial assertions by the State Department that the convoy had received small-arms fire.

Additional chuckles can be found later today when PBS' Washington Week (Washington Weak) posts it's lastest episode (broadcast over the weekend) and US News and World Report's Linda Robinson provides 'background' on Blackwater throwing water bottles at civilians, shooting at civilians, etc. as if it were the most innocent and normal way to travel down city streets (one can imagine the hollering if someone traveled down the street in front of her home that way) and no one present for the roundtable raises an eye brow. It's accepted as perfectly normal although there is some displeasure over the news that though Blackwater is required to notify the US military of all convoys, they seldom do. That bothers them, Blackwater playing Thugs of the Road? Not a bit.

Meanwhile Warren P. Strobel's "Even sprinkler systems fail at U.S. embassy in Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers) from Saturday notes:

The latest problem with the trouble-plagued new U.S. embassy complex in Iraq is that the sprinkler systems meant to contain a fire do not work, according to officials in Congress and the State Department.
The previously undisclosed problem in the $592 million project was discovered several weeks ago when the fire-safety systems were tested and pipe joints burst, State Department representatives recently informed Congress.
The embassy complex, being built by First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co., has been marred by repeated problems. In May, when kitchen facilities at a guard camp that is part of the embassy complex were tested, the electrical system malfunctioned and wires melted. A subsequent inquiry showed that First Kuwaiti had used counterfeit electrical wiring that did not meet specifications, according to testimony at a congressional hearing in July.

Even the fortress suffers from contractors. The e-mail address for this site is