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Blackwater killed more than reported

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October 4, 2007

Seventeen people were killed and 24 injured in the September 16 Baghdad shootout involving security teams from private firm Blackwater USA.

That death toll is significantly higher than the 10 originally reported in the incident which prompted intense criticism of Blackwater’s operations protecting American diplomats and other officials in Iraq, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Citing witnesses, Iraqi investigators and a US official, the Times said the shootout in Baghdad’s Nisour Square started when a Blackwater guard fired a single shot at a hospital pathologist driving his mother on an errand, killing him.

When the man’s car continued to roll ahead toward the Blackwater team, they let loose “an intense barrage of gunfire in several directions,” killing the mother in the car and hitting numerous fleeing Iraqis, the newspaper said.

The Times also said that shortly after the first shootout, a Blackwater convoy opened fire at another spot a few hundred meters (yards) away near the square, an incident that had previously gone unreported.

While the Times report suggested that the Blackwater team did not come under attack, as the company has claimed, it said it was not clear if Iraqi security forces themselves started firing once the incident began — which could have led the Blackwater men to believe they were being attacked.

Iraqi investigators believe that some of the gunfire also came from Blackwater helicopters which arrived overhead after the shooting began, a point which the company has denied.

On Tuesday Blackwater chief executive Erik Prince denied to a US Congress hearing that his staff ran riot like “cowboys” after a Congressional report suggested the company’s security teams in Iraq are out of control.

Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL who had previously shunned the limelight, warned lawmakers there had been a “rush to judgment” over the Nisour Square shooting.

“Based on everything we currently know, the Blackwater team acted appropriately while operating in a very complex war zone on September 16,” Prince said in prepared testimony.

“To the extent there was loss of innocent life, let me be clear that I consider that tragic,” said Prince.

Prince appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee amid a public storm over the role of for-profit contract firms in war zones, and a string of probes into Blackwater’s conduct.

The committee report found that Blackwater had been involved in at least 195 shootings in Iraq since 2005, and accused it of covering up fatal shootings involving its staff.

But Prince warned the firm was the victim of “negative and baseless allegations reported as truth.”

He added that no one, including US lawmakers on visits to Iraq, had been killed while being protected by Blackwater guards, most US veterans, while 30 employees had died while on duty.

Blackwater has earned over one billion dollars for security services to the US government since 2001, and is contracted by the State Department to protect US diplomats in Iraq.

“The September 16 shooting … is just the latest in a series of troubling Blackwater incidents,” the Congressional committee chairman Henry Waxman said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Representative Dennis Kucinich, a longshot Democratic presidential hopeful, said firms like Blackwater had no interest in promoting peace.

“If war is privatized, then private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going. The longer the war goes on, the more money they make.”

7 Responses to Blackwater killed more than reported

  1. Steve Horn

    October 4, 2007 at 10:26 am

    The very fact that private armies like this are allowed to stand in America should be a clear warning to us all. The fact that we, as a nation, are using mercenaries to do our bidding and fighting should leave us shame faced and physically ill.

    Peace

    Steve

  2. nuQler Ostrich

    October 4, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Yeah, the “long-shot Presidential hopeful” is the only one speaking truth to power.

    Kucinich is the only candidate who got it right from the very beginning.

    He has it right on Iran too.

    Why he’s a “Long-Shot” might be baffling, until you look at who is lobbying for the “front-runners.” Corporations like Blackwater, Kellog Brown and Root, Dyncorp, Rand, Exxon-Mobile, et.al. And the Media owned by giant military contractors, NBC = GE, CNN = AOL [Majority share holder Saudi Prince Talal – of The Carlyle Group] and so on.

    If Americans vote for one of the “front-runners” who will not promise to get out of Iraq, then Americans will get what they deserve. Endless war. And more goon squads like Blackwater patrolling the streets of our cities like they did after Katrina in New Orleans.

    Constitution? Weeee dun need no steeenkeen Consteeetooshun.

  3. SEAL

    October 4, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Obama “got it right from the very beginning” and has flatly stated he will end the war and bring the troops out in one year and has shown how he will do it. You can go to Obama’s web site and see for yourself. I don’t believe Edwards has gone on record with a plan yet but he has consistantly said he would end the war. Hillary and the repugnat front runners are the ones that have double talked it or said they would stay the course.

    It isn’t true that Kucinich is the only one. I’m not advocating for Obama or anyone else. But let’s be fully informed before making declarations or decisions.

  4. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    October 4, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Hey Seal, I don’t know if you ever saw my response about my voting for Kucinich in the primaries, but to answer your view about Obama being the best man who could end the Clinton Dynasty, and that voting for Kucinich in the primary will increase Hillary’s chances to get the nomination has merit, but I still hold my original position on this subject.

    The way I look at it is there will never be a good time to vote on prinicple since there is always something that is at stake as a rationale to not vote for someone like Kucinich.

    Political pre-conditions for a candidate jockeying for a serious run, who does not tow major lobbying groups agendas have the odds heavily stacked against them. Groups like the Democratic Leadership Council who in turn takes money from these lobbyists makes the electioneering process a self perpetuating vicious circle that keeps on putting in politicians that are stooges for these lobbying groups agendas.

    There is never a good time to vote for principle so this is what drives my decision to vote for Kucinich.

  5. Jim C

    October 4, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    The very fact that an outfit like this is allowed to function out of our country is dispicable . The whole damned bunch should be rounded up , tried for their crimes , their assets seized and used to compensate their victims . I would like someone explain what the difference is between these foul beasts and the SS or brown shirts ? They will kill whomever , whenever , however for a fee . The idea that a thugs for hire business is allowed to be based in this country is beyond dangerous , this kind of activity needs to be outlawed , period . This abomination will be a black mark on our country for a long long time . I also find it disgusting that our elected officials didn’t put a stop to it as soon as it came to light instead of dithering and blathering about what to do . Somehow all of these ” proud to be an american ” bumper stickers are starting to seem like a sick joke . In fact in seven short years our once proud nation has went from being the most admired country to the most despised and feared . If we survive the damage this administration has wrought it will be pure dumb luck .

  6. SEAL

    October 4, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Klaus: no explanation necessary. I understand that expressing your feelings about it is the most important thing for you. I respect that.

    I view everything as a mission to be accomplished and look for the way to do that. The mission is to stop Hillary Clinton and the way to accomplish that is for everyone who doesn’t want her to be president to support Obama because he is the only one in the position to do it.

    However, the more I watch the man and listen to him, the more I like him. An Obama/Kucinich ticket looks very appealing at this point.

  7. SEAL

    October 5, 2007 at 12:46 am

    I think some people are over reacting. Not every Blackwater employee in Iraq is a trigger happy merc. Many of them are ex-military that went to Blackwater only because of the money. They can make up to 10 times as much working for them as they could in the regular army or marines. Also, they have more control over their lives. They do the job the way it’s supposed to be done.

    Like it or not, there is a place in this world for private military type security personnel. However, not as employees of our government. There could never be any legitmate reason for the government to hire private security of any type. This administration did so to avoid the political position of having a draft to supply all the personnel necessary to the Iraq operations and some other personal and financial reasons.

    I truly believe that Cheney feels he may have a need for Blackwater security at some future date. He is a very paranoid individual. Frankly, he has a right to be, considering all he has done. I would bet that when he leaves the White House we will see Blackwater security with him quite often. Especially around that new jillion dollar mansion he bought on his VP salary. If I remember right the place is on sort of a river Island or something. I remember thinking it would be easy for security to “protect” his privacy there.

    Bush is too convinced of his divine aurora to feel threatened. He actually believes that crap. I doubt he will ever get to the “Revelations” part. However, don’t be surprised if Blackwater shows up around him in a few places like his raunch(not a typo). His handlers know he isn’t bullet proof.

    The Secret Sevice is very good at protection but it is based upon avoidance and preplanning. They bring very little firepower to the game. A well trained terrorist or other radical assault unit would have no trouble getting through them if they could get close enough. Blackwater security is equiped to stop them.

    Company executives that travel on business to certain countries in the midst of revolutionary fighting need the protection of a Blackwater type of company. There are many reasons why a Blackwater is necessary. But those companies must do a more responsible job of screening and assigning personnel. And they must not be hired by our government. We have our own military and it is the best in the world.