The killing of ‘at least’ eleven Iraqis, all apparently unarmed civilians, by private security men last Sunday, continues to shine a light on Pentagon policies of revolving door recruitment and of pushing legal accountability to the furthest remove, as well as on the very nature of contemporary imperial power.
Since Sunday’s deaths – caused by armed employees of the Blackwater USA firing “‘randomly at citizens’ in a crowded square in the capital, killing innocent bystanders and a policeman” – it was first announced that the nominally independent Iraqi government would launch an investigation into all foreign private military and security contractors, and that all Blackwater people were being expelled from the country.
But by Friday Blackwater had “resumed limited operations in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.” According to Mirembe Nantongo at the US embassy, “the decision to allow Blackwater to resume work had been taken in consultation with the Iraqi government.” Well, naturally…
One wonders exactly how much longer the immunity deal for these artists-formerly-known-as-mercenaries can last:
Armed guards contracted by US and other government agencies were granted immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law under an agreement dating from 2003.
It was extended just days before the Coalition Provisional Authority – the now-defunct interim body set up by the US-led coalition in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein – was disbanded in June 2004.
Especially as Federal prosecutors back in the States are investigating awkward allegations that Blackwater has in some way been involved in the smuggling into Iraq of unlicensed automatic firearms and other military hardware:
Two former Blackwater employees have pleaded guilty in Greenville, North Carolina, to weapons charges and are cooperating with the investigation, The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina reported.
Federal prosecutors in North Carolina are handling the case, the News & Observer reported.
Blackwater, based in Moyock, North Carolina, employs around 1,000 contractors to protect the U.S. mission in Iraq and its diplomats from attack.
The newspaper quoted two unnamed sources as saying prosecutors are probing whether Blackwater was shipping weapons, night-vision scopes, armour, gun kits and other military goods to Iraq without the required permits.
The News & Observer also reported that prosecutors are probing whether Blackwater lacked permits for dozens of automatic weapons used at its training grounds in Moyock.
So, what are the odds on Blackwater taking the heat for its own high-profile sharp practices whilst other, perhaps less blatantly cavalier PMCs, get away with it?
- ‘Iraq to review all security firms’ (Tues, BBC)
- ‘The puppet talks back’ (Tues, The Nation)
- ‘US diplomats grounded in Iraq row’ (Weds, BBC)
- ‘Iraq to review security firms after shooting’ (Weds, Reuters)
- ‘Guards’ Iraq impunity under scrutiny’ (Thurs, BBC)
- ‘Blackwater working again in Iraq’ (Fri, BBC)
- ‘U.S. investigates Blackwater arms smuggling’ (today, Reuters)
- ‘Iraq Probe of U.S. Security Firm Grows’ (today, Washington Post)
- ‘Blackwater Resumes Guarding U.S. Envoys in Iraq’ (today, New York Times)