The story burbles along. The front page of today's Washington Post puts an even larger hole into the Blackwater version of the Nisour Square massacre:
U.S. military reports from the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting incident involving the security firm Blackwater USA indicate that its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians, according to a senior U.S. military official.Casualties from the incident have quietly risen, I see. The CNN link in the update below says that Blackwater "kill[ed] as many as 20 [civilians] at two scenes in western Baghdad."
The reports came to light as an Interior Ministry official and five eyewitnesses described a second deadly shooting minutes after the incident in Nisoor Square. The same Blackwater security guards, after driving about 150 yards away from the square, fired into a crush of cars, killing one person and injuring two, the Iraqi official said.
The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government's contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.
Update: 5:15 pm, 13 Oct - Blackwater cover story now swiss cheese:
Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month ... 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.In other words, as I said at the time it was issued, the Blackwater/State Department version is a lie from start to finish.
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 ...challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away.
There's a new wrinkle to an incident noted in my earlier post, the jailbreak of a former government minister convicted of embezzling $2.5 billion. Turns out that DynCorp also tried unsuccessfully to get him out before Blackwater succeeded. The perp's in Chicago. Who got him out of Iraq and into the U.S.?
Update: 6:45 pm, Oct 5 - An even more outrageous twist was revealed today in another episode covered in my first post. The drunken Blackwater employee who killed the Iraqi VP's bodyguard on Christmas eve was not only spirited back to the U.S. and faced no charges; within two months he was back working for another private military, Combat Support Associates, on a Defense Dept. contract in Kuwait:
Because the State Department and Blackwater kept the incident quiet and out of Moonen's personnel records, CSA was unaware of the December incident when it hired Moonen.Update: 7:45 pm, 9 Oct - Via WIIIAI, this gem from Moonen's lawyer: "Being drunk, yeah, maybe that’s the basis for being fired. But I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate for another defense contractor to hire somebody because they happen to be drunk once in their life with some serious consequences."
According to Moonen's personnel record, the U.S. Army tried to call him back to service in April 2007, but canceled the request when they were notified he was overseas. Moonen, 27, had served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from April 2002 to April 2005 before joining Blackwater.
In other news, the House voted overwhelmingly yesterday (Oct. 4) to put mercenaries under the jurisdiction of the Military Extraterritorial Juridiction Act; the Senate is expected to follow. But given the attitude of the State Department and the Pentagon toward atrocities committed by troops and mercenaries in Iraq so far, and the difficulties for U.S. courts of collecting evidence and testimony about incidents taking place thousands of miles away, how likely are we to see any such cases? The House bill does provide some FBI investigative resources, a step forward.
Update: 10:00 pm, 9 Oct - An interesting Blackwater timeline (which could be usefully supplemented by mine, but who's counting? ;>)
Via Laura Rozen.
Update: 5:10 pm, 13 Oct - Anyone who doubts this is a full-scale private army should take in this Washington Post tour of Blackwater's training base in Moyock, NC. Erik Prince has Ollie North's haircut and attitude, and almost $15 billion in contracts in the last six years:
"If they don't like what we're doing then" -- he snapped his fingers -- "cut off that revenue steam right now."From your lips to a new administration's ears, pal.