Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘murder

Excellent post by Andrew Sullivan

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Via Kevin Drum, this extremely good and cogent post by Sullivan.

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2008 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP

Tagged with ,

If you want incompetence, you have to reward it

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And the Bush Administration does:

Spencer Ackerman reports that the State Department has quietly given bonuses for “outstanding performance” to two officials who had “direct oversight” over Blackwater:

On November 20, an internal cable, listed as State 158575, went out to State employees announcing the recipients of bonuses ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 for “outstanding performance.” Among them: Kevin Barry and Justine Sincavage. You can read the cable here. Barry’s name is listed on page 2, and Sincavage’s is on page 5. Both Barry and Sincavage already earn approximately $150,000 annually. Their bonuses are scheduled to take effect on December 20, in time for the holidays.

In October, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also promoted Barry and Sincavage.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 3:09 pm

How Condi’s State Dept investigates

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Condi Rice has been in charge of the State Department for 3 years. It’s hers. The policies are hers. She’s responsible. But she’s not accountable, obviously. She’ll keep her distance on this, and she’ll get away with it. And here’s how her State Department works:

 Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague’s side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings — including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander — and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as “an act of terrorism” and said Blackwater “caused the incident.” The media network concluded that the guards were killed “without any provocation.”

The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team’s actions “fell within approved rules governing the use of force,” according to an official from the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad’s Green Zone, to investigate.

The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire. The shooting occurred more than seven months before the Sept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at another Baghdad traffic circle.

The Feb. 7 shootings convulsed the Iraqi Media Network, one of the prominent symbols of the new Iraq, in anger and recrimination.

U.S. officials and the security company, now known as Blackwater Worldwide, offered no compensation or apology to the victims’ families, according to relatives of the guards and officials of the network, whose programming reaches 22 million Iraqis.

“It’s really surprising that Blackwater is still out there killing people,” Mohammed Jasim, the Iraqi Media Network’s deputy director, said in an interview. “This company came to Iraq and was supposed to provide security. They didn’t learn from their mistakes. They continued and continued. They continued killing.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2007 at 10:54 am

Yet more on the Blackwater shootings

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From the NY Times:

Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.

The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.

The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.

Their statements, made in interviews with The New York Times, appeared to challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away. Since those initial accounts, Blackwater and the State Department have consistently refused to comment on the substance of the case.

The Kurdish witnesses said that they saw no one firing at the guards at any time during the event, an observation corroborated by the forensic evidence of the shell casings. Two of the witnesses also said all the Blackwater vehicles involved in the shooting drove away under their own power.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 8:06 pm

Blackwater, revisited

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From the Washington Post today:

Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

“It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers’ report — based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police — concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the shootings as a “criminal event.” Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

The soldiers’ accounts contradict Blackwater’s assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.

Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. “I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon,” said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.

In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Sept. 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a “massacre” and “senseless slaughter” that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.

More at the link—and then this, from Newsweek:

The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 6:08 pm

More Blackwater

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From ThinkProgress (and more at the link, including video clip):

In a memo released today, House Oversight And Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reveals that of the 195 “escalation of force” incidents Blackwater has been involved in since 2005, Blackwater forces fired first in over 160 of them:

According to the Blackwater incident reports received by the Committee, Blackwater personnel have participated in 195 incidents in Iraq from January 1,2005, through September 12, 2007 , that involved firearms discharges by Blackwater personnel. This is an average of 1.4 incidents per week. In 32 of those incidents, Blackwater personnel were returning fire after an attack, while on 163 occasions (84% of the shooting incidents), Blackwater personnel were the first to fire.

Despite the controversy around Blackwater, the Pentagon recently awarded the firm a new contract worth $92 million. Tomorrow, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince will testify before Waxman’s committee tomorrow.

Read more highlights from Waxman’s memo here and here.

UPDATE: The Oversight Committee’s staff also found evidence that the State Department “helped create an environment where Blackwater guards could use deadly force with minimum reprisal.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2007 at 3:49 pm

Can Blackwater look any worse? Can the State Department?

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Condi Rice is running a criminal enterprise, it seems:

Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report to a Congressional committee said today.

The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the 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 was hit by 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 said. As a State Department official wrote, “We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2007 at 1:59 pm

Blackwater continued firing…

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NY Times:

Participants in a contentious Baghdad security operation this month have told American investigators that during the operation at least one guard continued firing on civilians while colleagues urgently called for a cease-fire. At least one guard apparently also drew a weapon on a fellow guard who did not stop shooting, an American official said.

The operation, by the private firm Blackwater USA, began as a mission to evacuate senior American officials after an explosion near where they were meeting, several officials said. Some officials have questioned the wisdom of evacuating the Americans from a secure compound, saying the area should instead have been locked down.

These new details of the episode on Sept. 16, in which at least eight Iraqis were killed, including a woman and an infant, were provided by an American official who was briefed on the American investigation by someone who helped conduct it, and by Americans who had spoken directly with two guards involved in the episode. Their accounts were broadly consistent.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater, Anne E. Tyrrell, said she could not confirm any of the details provided by the Americans.

The accounts provided the first glimpse into the official American investigation of the shooting, which has angered Iraqi officials and prompted calls by the Iraqi government to ban Blackwater from working in Iraq, and brought new scrutiny of the widespread use of private security contractors here.

The American official said that by Wednesday morning, American investigators still had not responded to multiple requests for information by Iraqi officials investigating the episode. The official also said that Blackwater had been conducting its own investigation but had been ordered by the United States to stop that work. Ms. Tyrrell confirmed that the company had done an investigation of its own, but said, “No government entity has discouraged us from doing so.”

An Iraqi investigation had concluded that the guards shot without provocation. But the official said that the guards told American investigators that they believed that they fired in response to enemy gunfire.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2007 at 8:59 pm

Paul Krugman on Blackwater

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Interesting point, re: Machiavelli’s assessment:

Sometimes it seems that the only way to make sense of the Bush administration is to imagine that it’s a vast experiment concocted by mad political scientists who want to see what happens if a nation systematically ignores everything we’ve learned over the past few centuries about how to make a modern government work.

Thus, the administration has abandoned the principle of a professional, nonpolitical civil service, stuffing agencies from FEMA to the Justice Department with unqualified cronies. Tax farming — giving individuals the right to collect taxes, in return for a share of the take — went out with the French Revolution; now the tax farmers are back.

And so are mercenaries, whom Machiavelli described as “useless and dangerous” more than four centuries ago.

As far as I can tell, America has never fought a war in which mercenaries made up a large part of the armed force. But in Iraq, they are so central to the effort that, as Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution points out in a new report, “the private military industry has suffered more losses in Iraq than the rest of the coalition of allied nations combined.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2007 at 8:57 pm

Blackwater…

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McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The firm’s contractors have killed or wounded at least 43 people in eight days in Baghdad. Its snipers also killed three guards at an Iraqi TV station earlier this year. The most recent spate of killings comes as a U.S. congressional report slams Blackwater for sending guards to Fallujah unprepared, resulting in the March 2004 massacre of four contractors. » read more

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2007 at 5:56 pm

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