Blackwater Sniper Fells Three Iraqi Security Guards
BAGHDAD -- 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."
Basically, State's justification was that Blackwater said they were fired upon, so that was the truth, and no investigation or evidence was required at all. Blackwater ducked charges in the Iraqi court because of Bremer's 2004 law granting them blanket immunity. And this wasn't just Blackwater shooting at civilian vehicles. The snipers fired from one government compound into another government compound, and they knew it too. The guards were guarding the state-owned and US-funded television station al-Iraqiya. Blackwater was told this by the Justice Department. And then, as the Iraqi guards, clearly in military camoflague and standing on guard towers with the Iraqi flag, in broad daylight no less, directed people away from parking at the TV station because they were worried about car bombs, Blackwater's mercenaries gunned them down in cold blood. And got away with murder.