Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Other Items

Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.
In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims' family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.
The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.
But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. "There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater's actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company's high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation," the report states.

The above is from John M. Broder's "Report Says Firm Sought to Cover Iraq Shootings " in this morning's New York Times. What gets left out? Oh so much. Broder drops back to the "at least 8 killed" nonsense in referring to the September 16th slaughter by Blackwater in Baghdad. Hadn't the US coverage finally moved up to "at least 11" (yes, it had), if not the "at least 20" the international press reports? Minimize, minimize. It's equally cute how the paper pretends that their happy talk story didn't explode yesterday. The one where James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise presented a 'report' and its happy findings (yes, things were bad, but, golly gee, Blackwater employees stepped up!). It was a nice little fairy tale. Passed off as reality. Blackwater wrote that report. That came out yesterday (see yesterday's snapshot). Plenty of time for it to be included in this (or any other) article in the paper or for the paper to provide a "For the Record" connection. They appear to believe no one will catch on. Possibly they are right since so little attention was paid to Iraq last week. Blackwater's Erik Prince is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee today. From Warren P. Strobel's "Report: State Dept., Blackwater cooperated to neutralize killings" (McClatchy Newspapers):

The disclosures appear to contradict past claims by State Department officials that they aggressively investigated wrongdoing by Blackwater. The company has received $835 million in contracts to guard U.S. civilians in Iraq.
Blackwater has come under heightened scrutiny since a shooting Sept. 16 in Baghdad that left 11 Iraqis dead. On Monday, the FBI said it has begun a criminal investigation.
"At the request of the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is sending a team to Iraq to assist in the ongoing investigation into the September 16, 2007, shooting incident allegedly involving Blackwater employees," FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said in a statement.
The memorandum released Monday by the House committee's Democratic staff describes other questionable incidents.

Turning to a health topic. Rachel e-mails to note Deepa Fernandes announced this morning that she'll be taking time off from Wakeupcall Radio (WBAI) due to health issues and will return in 2008. Rachel writes that as she understands it, tomorrow may be Fernandes' last broadcast this week (last until 2008). (Rachel notes Deepa may be on tomorrow and Thursday but she understood it to be tomorrow. Rachel: "If I'm wrong, blame it on shock.") [Also this morning, Grace Lee Boggs was on the program.] I don't watch Democracy Now!, I listen. But this morning, Amy Goodman notes that some have been wondering about an issue. She explained she has Bell's Palsy but is fine. She said it makes it hard to smile on camera "but so does much of what's going on in the world." From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and recover completely within 3 to 6 months."

Along with the cholera outbreak in Iraq (still largely ignored -- treated by the press as if it just went away), IRIN reports, "
Bad hygiene in several Iraqi prisons has caused prisoners to become infected with scabies, and no treatment is being given, according to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dealing with prisoners."

Mark Deen and Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg News) report, "Prime Minister Gordon Brown, preparing for a possible election in the U.K., said he plans to pull 1,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. The withdrawal would leave about 4,250 U.K. soldiers stationed near the city of Basra and put Iraqi forces in charge of day-to-day security across the south of the country."

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