Bush evades Blackwater issue

President Bush on Thursday refused to criticize a U.S. security company in Iraq accused in a shooting that left 11 civilians dead, saying investigators need to determine if the guards violated rules governing their operations.

Bush said he expected Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would raise the shooting by agents of Blackwater USA when they meet next week at the U.N. General Assembly.

Al-Maliki has urged the U.S. Embassy to find another security firm to protect its diplomats, saying he cannot tolerate “the killing of our citizens in cold blood.” He called the shootings a “crime” and said they had generated “widespread anger and hatred.”

“Obviously, to the extent innocent life was lost, you know, I’m saddened,” the president said at a wide-ranging news conference. “Our objective is to protect innocent life. And we’ve got a lot of brave souls in the theater working hard to protect innocent life.”

Officials of Blackwater, the Moyock, N.C.-based company, say its employees acted appropriately in response to an armed attack Sunday against a State Department convoy. Blackwater is the main provider of bodyguards and armed escorts for U.S. government civilian employees in Iraq.

In a telephone conversation on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked al-Maliki to delay any initial action to the shooting and that any permanent measures be held up until all the facts were known, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details of the private discussion.

Maliki, however, insisted on taking a stronger line and warned that continued use of the contractors would further inflame tensions, the official said. Blackwater’s operations in Iraq were suspended, prompting the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to ban all road convoys by diplomats and other civilian personnel outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

A U.S.-Iraqi commission is looking into the shooting.

The shooting is the latest source of tension between Baghdad and Washington as Bush presses ahead with the Iraq war despite strong opposition across the United States and in the Democratic-led Congress. A week ago, Bush announced gradual cutbacks in U.S. forces from the current peak of 168,000 soldiers. Even so, the plan would leave 130,000 U.S. troops or more in Iraq next summer.

Bush acknowledged Baghdad would not meet the goal he set last January for Iraq to take over security in all of its 18 provinces by November.

“Achieving those goals have been slower than we thought,” Bush said. But he said the goals were still worth pursuing.

“Part of the reason why there’s not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule,” Bush said. “Sort of an interesting comment, I heard somebody say, `Where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.”

It was a reference to the charismatic former leader of South Africa who helped reconcile his country after decades of racial division. Mandela is still alive.

On another foreign policy issue, Bush said he took seriously threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “This is a person that consistently talks about the use of force on Israel, for example, and Israel is our very firm and strong ally,” Bush said.

He was asked about a recent statement by France’s foreign minister that the international community should prepare for the possibility of war in the event Iran obtains atomic weapons — although the official later stressed the focus remains on diplomatic pressures.

“I have consistently stated that I am hopeful that we can convince the Iranian regime to give up any ambitions it has in developing a weapons program, and do so peacefully,” Bush said. “That ought to be the objective of any diplomacy.”

He also defended the decision of New York officials to deny Ahmadinejad permission to lay a wreath next week at ground zero — site of the detroyed World Trade Center. “I can understand why they would not want somebody that’s running a country that’s a state sponsor of terror down there at the site,” the president said.

Bush spoke out for the first time about the case in Jena, La., in which six black teenagers were initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate. He wouldn’t comment on legal specifics. The case has attracted nationwide attention.

“The events in Louisiana have saddened me,” the president said. “I understand the emotions.”

He said the FBI is monitoring the situation, adding: “All of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice.”

Bush repeatedly refused to comment on reports that Israeli planes guided by ground forces attacked an installation — believed to be the beginnings of a nuclear project — in northern Syria on Sept. 6.

Asked about whether North Korea was providing nuclear assistance to Syria, Bush said: “We expect them not to.”

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report

7 Responses to "Bush evades Blackwater issue"

  1. Ardie  September 21, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Blackwater has done a lot of good in Iraq. It has mercilessly and indiscriminately killed a lot of innocent Iraqis, all in the name of corporate profit. No wonder the Iraqis love us so much.

  2. adamrussell  September 22, 2007 at 3:46 am

    More arms sales to terrorists. What a world! Think baby Bush will pardon them like his father pardoned Ollie North?

  3. Sandra Price  September 22, 2007 at 6:37 am

    I think we are seeing a new America evolve under the Bush Administration. Our laws tell us our government is not to be involved in killing citizens of other nations unless we meet them in a state of war. This law kept Clinton from having OBL taken down. Without this law, we would merely send loaded drones after people without due cause.

    Our laws may have been changed to allow the Bush Administration to hire trained mercenaries to kill indiscriminately anyone they believe to be our enemy.

    I can only hope our Congress will straighten this up and outlaw any civilian armed group to be called into service to kill who ever our President demands. Hitler did this with success.

    Personally I’m not convinced that Iraq should have been invaded in the first place and that we should have finished the job in Afghanistan that would have sent the message that America will not be attacked without a full military reaction. The fact that we did not kill OBL has caused me to think that maybe he was not the instigator of 9/11 and may have bragged about it for his own reasons.

    Nothing smells right in the Bush Administration and even those who back Bush 100% are often not viewed as legitimate. What is left of the Conservative internet sites shows a bunch of cold-blooded killers without a clue of what is moral, ethical or legal. That seems to be all that is left of the GOP that I remember.

    I feel strongly that Blackwater is an example of this immoral, unethical and illegal actions coming from the Bush Administration and I hope Blackwater and Bush pay a heavy price for trying to pull such a terrible trick on the American people.

    Blackwater may be the icing on the cake to destroy the Bush legacy and it will be up to the Congress to judge whether America can now hire out mercenaries to destroy what enemy the White House decides. It will destroy our nation of laws.

    Is Blackwater simply a Christian group of crusaders who believe they kill for Jesus Christ? Am I the only one who is concerned with this new discovery? Read the book!!

  4. SEAL  September 22, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Sandra, here is some background on the owner of Blackwater, USA:

    Erik Prince (born June 6, 1969 in Holland, Michigan) is the founder and owner of the military support contractor Blackwater USA. A millionaire and former US Navy SEAL, after high school he briefly attended the United States Naval Academy before attending and graduating from Hillsdale College.

    After college, in 1992, he joined the Navy, somehow earned a commission and served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia.

    When his father Edgar Prince unexpectedly died in 1995, he ended his Navy service prematurely. After Erik’s mother, Elsa Prince, sold the family’s automobile parts company, Prince Corporation, for $1.3 billion to Johnson Controls, Inc., Erik moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater USA at the age of 27.

    Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.

    Prince’s first wife, Joan Nicole Prince, died of cancer in 2003. He has since remarried and has six children. He now runs Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, from an office in McLean, Virginia and also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a nonprofit group with a mission of helping “Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ”.

    I retired 4 years before Prince came into the Seals and never had him under my command. But I met him once and did not like what I saw in his eyes. The person that succeeded me said Prince was not a team player wanting to make his own judgments and decisions and that he constantly caused problems by not “specifically” following orders and/or deviating from the mission. He was a SEAL for all the wrong reasons.

    Gary Jackson, Vice president of Black h2o is also a former SEAL washout. It is interesting to note (especially for the conspiracy theorists) that their Vice Chairman, Cofer Black, was the top counter-terrorism official in the Bush administration when 9/11 occurred and that several former CIA and Pentegon officials left government to become honchos at Black h2o.

    From what I hear, Blackwater has received as much as 15 billion in no bid contracts from Bushco. That should be no surprise, however. Erik Prince has always been connected to the Bush crime family and served in daddy Bush’s political organization when he was young. It is “unclear” what his role was there.

    Those I have talked to that have had experience with him consider Prince a power mad misguided jesus freak hell bent on america’s world domination by force. But, right now Blackwater is available to the highest bidder and has performed many services for foreign governments and individuals. Outside of his standard personnel he has a base of 21,000 former special forces and other “retired” military types from all over the world to draw from to fill any of his unusual contractual obligations, whatever they are. There’s a lot of section 8’s in that bunch. This is a very scary organization led by a madman.

  5. Sandra Price  September 22, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks Seal. I read the story of Prince when I read the book. Just think of the good he could have done in Iraq, but chose illegal, unethical profits instead. This is sort of a Christian thing.

    We are expecting a bad thunder and lightning storm valued at “Severe.” I’m flying out of here in the morning and hope the plane is flying too! I’ll check back in on October 1st and hope this mess with Blackwater is over and Bush takes the fall.

    Keep this thread going!!!

  6. Rick Fuller  September 23, 2007 at 12:10 am

    President Bush has refused to criticize Blackwater as the Democrats have refused to criticize Moveon.org for the “Betray Us” NYTs ad.

    Oh wait!

    One is accused of killing innocents and selling arms to our enemies – the other is accused of speaking poorly about a 4-star General in a “time of war.”

    The fact is: On is about money; the other is about truth – …and, you know which side President Bu$h is on…

  7. maryadavis  June 9, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    He will not tolerate letting our citizens being shot in another country. But when one of our own citizens shot a pedestrian in another country, it all went quiet very fast. Where’s the justice?

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