> The Blackwater shootings in Nisour Square highlight at least two problems that Americans must grapple with. First, some American security contractors in Iraq appear to lack the sound judgment and restraint required to carry out their mission (see the Blackwater shootings, the DynCorp Int’l shootings and the Unity Resources Group shootings). Second, these contractors have operated for years without sufficient scrutiny or legal consequences to their actions.
The Blackwater security contractors involved in the incident have claimed they retaliated after being fired upon, which resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqis. The evidence against Blackwater has slowly mounted since this initial claim. In a recent NPR report, Philadelphia attorney Susan Burke said, “We have not found anyone, anyone at all, who has come forward to say there were any shots fired or any kind of threat made upon these Blackwater shooters”. In addition, Iraqi civilians have filed civil lawsuits accusing Blackwater guards of disobeying orders by going to Nisour Square instead of staying with the State Department official they were supposed to be guarding, and accusing them of taking steroids.
Equally disturbing is the fact that no law has been found–U.S., military or Iraqi–that holds these contractors accountable for their actions. The following is from a November 28 NPR report:
“The more immediate challenge for Justice Department officials and prosecutors has been to find an American law that applies to the parameters of this incident.
Bob Chadwell, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle, says prosecuting the Blackwater guards isn’t a slam dunk.
‘They are going to have to shoehorn the facts into a statute that wasn’t designed to address that concern, and that is a problem,” he said, referring to Justice Department lawyers. “If the law isn’t meant to address something, it is sometimes like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Sometimes it just can’t be done.’
…A federal grand jury is hearing from witnesses this week, and the Justice Department has said it could be months before it seeks an actual indictment.
Any and all Americans abroad represent their country at all times, whether a diplomat, a businessman or woman, a backpacker or a security contractor. We must determine whether or not the actions of American security guards in Iraq have been excessive or irresponsible, and there must be legal recourse to address those actions. Doing so will show Iraq and the rest of the world that the U.S. is strongly dedicated to the legal system and that no one is above the law.
Photo: Nisour Sqaure; Khalid Mohammed for the New York Times