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Blackwater Fever: High Crimes and Hired Guns

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From Empire Burlesque

Scott Horton of Harper's gives us chapter and verse of the Justice Department's very deliberate -- and insultingly brazen -- sabotaging of its own case against the Blackwater mercenaries who murdered 17 Iraqis in Nisoor Square back in September 2007. As any sentient observer could have told you then, these hired killers -- gorging on taxpayer dollars as they assisted the mass-murdering invasion and occupation of Iraq -- were never going to do time. Why should they? They were just doing what they were paid, by us, to do: kill ragheads.

The case was dismissed by a federal judge last week due to prosecutorial misconduct. In an interview with Democracy Now, Horton explained how the bad deal went down:

[The] decision to dismiss these charges had nothing to do with lack of evidence or weak evidence against the Blackwater employees. To the contrary, there was copious evidence. There was plenty of evidence prosecutors could have used that they evidently weren't prepared to, including eyewitnesses there. The decision to dismiss was taken as a punishment measure against Justice Department prosecutors based on the judge's conclusion that they engaged in grossly unethical and improper behavior in putting the case together.

And specifically what they did is they took statements that were taken by the Department of State against a grant of immunity; that is, the government investigators told the guards, "Give us your statement, be candid, be complete, and we promise you we won't use your statement for any criminal charges against you." But the Justice Department prosecutors took those statements and in fact used them. They used them before the grand jury. They used them to build their entire case. And they did this notwithstanding warnings from senior lawyers in the Justice Department that this was improper and could lead to dismissal of the case. It almost looks like the Justice Department prosecutors here wanted to sabotage their own case. It was so outrageous.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that's possible?

SCOTT HORTON: I think it is possible. Specifically in this case, there were briefings that occurred on Capitol Hill early on in which senior officials of the Justice Department told congressional investigators, staffers and congressmen that essentially they didn't want to bring the case. In fact, one of the congressmen who was present at these briefings told me they were behaving like defense lawyers putting together a case to defend the Blackwater employees, not to prosecute them. And I think we see the evidence of that copiously in Judge Urbina's opinion.

Horton also notes the bipartisan nature of the ongoing, long-standing moral rot at the "Justice" Department:

It was a decade of gross prosecutorial abuse. We saw lawyers at the US Department of Justice issue opinions attempting to justify torture and mistreatment of prisoners. That was adopted as a legal mantra of the department. [And is now being upheld by the Obama Administration in several court cases.] We saw hundreds of politically motivated prosecutions being brought, one of which is already withdrawn. That was the prosecution of Senator Stevens of Alaska. But we have the Siegelman case, the Paul Minor case, many others, where notwithstanding now overwhelming evidence of misconduct by prosecutors, the Justice Department standing its ground. ...

It's really quite a mountain of evidence now pointing to serious misconduct by Justice Department prosecutors. And there's very little evidence -- although most of this occurred on the watch of the Bush administration, there's very, very little evidence that Eric Holder has realized the gravity or severity of the situation or taken any appropriate measures to deal with it.

I'm afraid I must disagree with Horton on this last point. I believe that Eric Holder and his boss recognize very well what is going on in the Justice Department. They just don't want to do anything about it. Why? Because no faction of greasy pole-climbers ever wants to give up any of the powers it inherits when it takes over the reins of a government. A highly politicized, deeply corrupt prosecutorial arm is a very powerful tool. And just as Obama is strenuously upholding all the major assertions of authoritarian power the Bush Regime made in other areas (including the arbitrary right to seize anyone -- or kill anyone -- the Leader or his minions arbitrarily declare a suspected "enemy"), he is diligently protecting the dirty workers in the Justice Department. It is not a failure or oversight on Obama's part: it is deliberate policy.

Horton also notes that despite all the heartfelt noble promises of both candidate Obama and candidate Clinton during their glorious progressive agon for the presidential nomination in 2008, the mercenaries of Blackwater -- and other firms in the ever-expanding security goon community -- are still swelling their bellies at the government trough:

AMY GOODMAN: What about the US continuing to work with Blackwater, now called Xe, X-e? You have just this latest news of two government--Blackwater operatives reportedly killed last week at the CIA base in Afghanistan.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, that's right. In fact, I would note that one of the statements the Iraqi government made in response to this was that even though Blackwater was no longer formally a contractor in Iraq, they found that many of the Blackwater employees had simply recontracted with the new contractors there, so they were still in place. And the Iraqi government said that's completely unacceptable.

Well, the problem is that the US has not changed its pattern of heavy reliance on private security contractors. If anything, we're actually seeing that reliance increase in connection with the operations in Afghanistan. And in fact, there are only a handful of qualified and authorized service providers. So Blackwater, almost by definition, is going to continue to hold a large part of these contracts as they're awarded, not with -- this is notwithstanding promises that were made by Hillary Clinton, when she was running for president, to terminate the Blackwater contracts. I mean, now she is Secretary of State, and Blackwater is still the principal security contractor to the State Department.
This is all tediously predictable. But in the end, there is a perverse sort of justice at work here. For why should the goon squads of Blackwater be put on trial, when those who hired them go free? The mafia don who orders a hit is considered equally culpable with the button man who actually does the job.

In the end, it is almost obscene to pursue a few hired killers for a single incident, when our highest, most honored officials routinely order mass killings of innocent people all over the world, year after year, without the slightest blush. On the contrary, they boast about it, laud themselves for it, and invite our admiration and support for their "toughness."

For be assured: these bombing runs and house raids and drone strikes are all carried out with the full knowledge that innocent people -- that is, people who have not been arbitrarily declared an "enemy" based on god knows what "intelligence" (lies, whispers, rumors, denunciations, misinformation from double agents, etc.) -- will be killed. An "acceptable level" of "collateral damage" is factored into the matrix of mission planning.

For example, in the early days of the invasion of Iraq, the acceptable level was 30 innocent people -- women, children, the old, the sick, and all other non-combatants. Any mission that was likely to kill more than 30 innocent people had to be signed off personally by Pentagon chief Don Rumsfeld. As far as can be determined, few -- if any -- such missions were ever cancelled by Rumsfeld. Missions which fell below that threshold -- that is, missions in which more than two dozen innocent people were likely to be killed -- were left up to the discretion of commanders in the field.

The acceptable level of civilian deaths in today's operations is not known. (Although it appears that at least eight children can be handcuffed and murdered at any given time.) Very likely the levels change according to the shifting political winds, the nature and location of the mission, the forces and weapons involved in carrying it out, etc. These sorts of details are more closely guarded now. The story about Rumsfeld's mass-death warrants came out in the heady days of "Mission Accomplished," when our masters waxed more lyrical about their special military genius. In fact, the story was put out in order to show how "surgical" and "humane" the American invasion was: "See, we're not just blowing everybody to hell over there! We care. Why, if it looks like we're going to slaughter more than 30 people, Rummy himself has to give the nod!"

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Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more...)
 
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Blackwater contractors, along with the "judge" (mo... by Peter Warner on Saturday, Jan 9, 2010 at 9:35:28 PM

 

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