By Robert Scheer
Oct. 6, 2007
How did it come to be that the ostensibly best-educated and most refined representatives of the United States in Iraq are guarded by gun-toting mercenaries who kill innocent civilians? More urgently, why did State Department employees and their bosses in Washington tolerate—and pay to conceal—the wanton murder conducted on their watch?
That’s the real scandal of the more than $832 million the U.S. State Department paid Blackwater, investigated this week by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). The issue is not simply that of the Blackwater forces’ horrid behavior but, more important, why the mayhem they unleashed upon innocent Iraqis was approved and covered up by the Bush administration. For example, why did a top State Department official initially suggest a payment of $250,000 of American taxpayers’ money to conceal the uncontested fact that, as the House committee report states, “a drunken Blackwater contractor killed the guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi”?
The State Department enabled the Blackwater shooter to be spirited out of the country within 36 hours, and although Blackwater subsequently fired him, he has never faced any criminal charges. Nor have any of the others involved in the 195 shooting incidents Blackwater officials admitted have occurred in the past two years, incidents in which 84 percent of the time Blackwater contractors fired first. According to Blackwater’s own documents, the congressional committee reports, “in the vast majority of incidents … Blackwater shots are fired from a moving vehicle and Blackwater does not remain on the scene to determine if their shots resulted in casualties.” During one trip U.S. diplomats made to the Ministry of Oil, 18 different Iraqi civilian vehicles were smashed by the fast-moving motorcade. Those hit-and-runs were conducted in full view of the escorted State Department officials without any of them forcing a subsequent investigation.