Monday, October 1, 2007

Report Says State Department Covered For Blackwater

A report released Monday to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform says
guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department
according to David Stout and John M. Broder in the International Herald Tribune.

Their article, "Blackwater security firm assailed for Iraq killings" (mirrored here) also says:
The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the private security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what they hit with their bullets.

In one incident, the State Department and Blackwater agreed to pay $15,000 to the family of a man killed by "a drunken Blackwater contractor," the report says. As a State Department official writes, "We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission."
How many more innocent people are going to be killed by our protective mission?

Nobody knows. Nobody will ever know.

The timing of the release may be significant:
The report was compiled by the Democratic majority staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on Blackwater activities on Tuesday. That hearing is sure to be contentious now that the chairman, Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, and other members have the staff's findings to study.
More excerpts from Stout and Broder:
Blackwater guards have engaged in nearly 200 incidents of gunfire in Iraq since 2005. In the vast majority of cases they fired weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or help the wounded, the report says.

The shootings logged by Blackwater were more than those by the other two private military contractors in Iraq combined, the report says. Blackwater has more than twice the number of contractors than the other two combined. Those two are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.

"Blackwater also has the highest incidence of shooting first, although all three companies shoot first in more than half of all escalation-of-forces incidents," the staff report says.

And the State Department's own documents "raise serious questions" about how its officials responded to reports that Blackwater employees killed Iraqis, the report says. "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 incidents involving Blackwater or the company's high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation," the committee staff writes.

Moreover, contrary to the terms of its contract, Blackwater sometimes engaged in offensive operations with the American military, instead of confining itself to its protective mission, the report says.

The report raises questions about the cost-effectiveness of using Blackwater forces instead of U.S. troops. Blackwater charges the government $1,222 a day per guard, "equivalent to $445,000 per year, or six times more than the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier," the report says.

The incident involving "a drunken Blackwater contractor" arose when the employee killed a bodyguard for the Iraqi vice president, Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, in December 2006. State Department officials allowed Blackwater to take the shooter out of Iraq less than 36 hours later.

The State Department charge d'affaires then recommended that Blackwater make "a sizable payment" and an "apology" in an effort to "avoid this whole thing becoming even worse," the report goes on. The State Department official suggested a $250,000 payment to the guard's family, but the department's Diplomatic Security Service said that was too much and could cause Iraqis to "try to get killed." In the end, $15,000 was agreed upon.
The sentiment highlighted in the previous paragraph leaves me speechless.

The New York Times is running a much abbreviated version of the same article (mirrored here), thus alerting its readers to the release of the report but sparing them most of the speech-defying details.

But the NYT does provide a link to the report, which is is available as a PDF file here.


Bob Parry does a good job of putting this depravity in context. Please read his piece, "Bush's Global 'Dirty War'".

Eric Schmitt fills in a few more gaps for the New York Times with "Report Describes Drunken Contractor’s Killing of Iraqi" (mirrored here).