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Published on Tuesday, December 9, 2008 by The
A Whitewash for Blackwater?
The federal manslaughter indictment of five Blackwater Worldwide security guards in the horrific massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in
If what Justice Department prosecutors allege is true, the five guards -- Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough -- should have to answer for what happened on Sept. 16, 2007. The men, working under Blackwater's contract to protect State Department personnel in
The indictment, charging voluntary manslaughter and weapons violations, demonstrates that those who engage "in unprovoked attacks will be held accountable," Assistant Attorney General Patrick Rowan claimed.
But it demonstrates nothing of the sort. As with the torture and humiliation of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, our government is deflecting all scrutiny from the corporate higher-ups who employed the guards -- to say nothing of the policymakers whose decisions made the shootings possible, if not inevitable.
Prosecutors did not file charges against the North Carolina-based Blackwater firm -- the biggest
The Blackwater guards were nervous because of a car bombing elsewhere in the city that day. The company says the Blackwater convoy came under attack by insurgents, prompting the guards to fire in self-defense. "Tragically, people did die," defense attorney Paul Cassell told reporters.
There is a huge difference between self-defense and the kind of indiscriminate fusillade that the Blackwater team allegedly unleashed. Proper training and supervision -- which was the Blackwater firm's responsibility -- would have made it more likely for the guards to make the right split-second decisions amid the chaos of
Blackwater no doubt has rules and regulations about when and where its people can discharge their weapons. But were those rules enforced? Did the guards who were indicted yesterday have any reason to believe they would be punished for the rampage? Or were the shootings considered acceptable inside the Blackwater bunker? Company executives should have to answer these and other questions -- under oath.
But a real attempt to establish blame for this massacre should go beyond Blackwater. It was the Bush administration that decided to police the occupation of
There are an estimated 30,000 security "contractors" in
Barack Obama has criticized the Bush administration's decision to outsource so many essentially military tasks in
Putting national security in the hands of private companies and private soldiers was bad practice from the start, and incidents such as what happened at
© 2008 The
Eugene Robinson writes a regular column for The
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs