Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More bad news for Blackwater

AP reports:

"A congressional committee has begun an investigation of the State Department's inspector general, alleging that he blocked fraud investigations in Afghanistan and Iraq, including potential security lapses at the newly built U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."

That congressional committee is the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its chairman Henry Waxman (D.Cal.) has sent a letter to the State Department's Inspector General outlining a number of issues related to his handling, or mishandling, of investigations into security lapses at the American embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone and various other allegations of contractors engaging in fraudulent behavior. One contractor's name that jumps right out is Blackwater USA. Weren't they just in the news for something?

Oh right, that little misunderstanding about the killing of perhaps up to 28 Iraqi civilians on a Baghdad street this past Sunday.

The WaPo reports on an eyewitness account by Sarhan Dhia, 34, a Baghdadi traffic cop who, contrary to Blackwater's official version of what happened -- which is that they were only firing in self-defense -- says: "There was no bombing. They were shooting everywhere."

"A man in a white sedan near Dhia was shot in the head,' he recalled. 'His mother was sitting right next to him. I heard her screaming. She was hugging her son and screaming,' he said.
After the driver had been shot, the car kept rolling forward, he said. 'We tried to stop the car and save it. He was dead but the car was heading towards them,' he recalled. 'Within seconds they opened fire on the woman.' The car burst into flames and the woman died, he said."

Now, because of the pulling of Blackwater's licence to operate in Iraq, the State Department has forbidden State Department employees from traveling outside the Green Zone. That's the problem you run into when you hire of bunch of mercenaries who are answerable to no one.

But thanks to L. Paul Bremer's CPA Order #17, no American contractor can be prosecuted by an Iraqi court. Jeremy Scahill told Terry Gross the order, "Effectively immunized private contractors from any kind of prosecution in Iraq. It said that Iraqis can't seek justice for any crimes committed by private contractors in Iraq and it's the responsibility of the government to prosecute these guys."

There also seems to be no way for the Federal Government back here at home to prosecute these guys, either. According to Human Rights Watch, civilians working for the DoD can be prosecuted for war crimes under the "Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-778), known as MEJA."

The probelm here is that these Blackwater folks are working for the State Department. In the case of David Passaro, who is the only security contractor to ever be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch says, "As MEJA does not provide jurisdiction over non-Defense Department contractors, the government asserted jurisdiction on the basis of Title 18, section 7(9)(A) of the U.S. code, which extends federal jurisdiction to U.S. diplomatic, consular, military or other U.S. government missions or entities in foreign states, including the buildings, parts of buildings, and land appurtenant or ancillary thereto or used for purposes of those missions or entities, irrespective of ownership was prosecuted."

Of course, there is no chance in hell any of these Blackwater Christian Jihadis will ever see the inside of a court room. [See Chris Hedges "America's Holy Warriors"]

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says that gunslinging American civilians "should not have immunity" from Iraqi law. "We are a sovereign country and there is no country in the world where security companies could move so freely without being subjected to local laws."

That's what he thinks!

Jeremy Scahill says:

"Blackwater has essentially declared its forces above any effective law while resisting attempts to have its private forces subjected to the Pentagon's court martial system. Blackwater also claims this immunity from civilian litigation. In fact the only law Blackwater wants applied to its forces is one that has no teeth and has not been enforced in Iraq or elsewhere. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which is a law that says contractors operating in the war zone should be subjected to the US criminal court system."

Getting back to Howard J. Krigard:

One of the most persistent pursuers of Blackwater over the years and what they're up to and how much they're bilking the American taxpayer for, has been Henry Waxman, who just happens this week to be looking into the allegations that Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq.

In the letter to Howard J. Krongard, the IG now under investigation, Waxman writes:

"You impeded efforts by your investigators to cooperate with a Justice Department probe into allegations that a large private security contractor [Blackwater USA] was smuggling weapons into Iraq.

According to several sources, after weeks of delay, a briefing was arranged at which the Assistant U.S. Attorneys overseeing the investigation made a personal request for assistance. In response to their request, you asked an official on your congressional and media relations staff not a professional investigator, to take the lead in seeking evidence from the State Department to assist the federal prosecutors. This unorthodox arrangement has reportedly impeded the investigation."

Along with the looking the way other way on Blackwater's misdeed, Krongard also gave a pass to a Kuwaiti contractor screwed up construction of the new embassy and who also imported slave labor to build it. Now that's freedom on the march!

Something interesting I noticed in an article about the VA is this: Outgoing VA administrator James Nicholson told Congress he can't do anything about the delays vets home from Iraq are experiencing trying to get medical care and as far as VA facilities for returning troops go:

"On average, VA buildings are 57 years old, and the price of purchasing land, design, and construction of a hospital costs about $750 million." [AP]

It's costing us $600 million to build this "non permanent" embassy in Baghdad and we're wasting untold zillions on corrupt contractors in Iraq. Just think how many hospitals we could build here at home for our troops, who, by the by, aren't mercenaries. They actually fight for love of their country, not the for the Almighty and the almighty buck!


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