Flashback: Private Army Slaughters Dozens Of Innocent People
Blackwater Security Work
A substantial and shocking UK Independent story on the recent Blackwater Security murder spree in Baghdad, which includes detail from eyewitnesses to the attack. Imagine such an event taking place in the quiet, peaceful wealthy district of your own city. This was no accident, this was a purposeful massacre of dozens of innocent people, including women and children :
The eruption of gunfire was sudden and ferocious, round after round mowing down terrified men women and children, slamming into cars as they collided and overturned with drivers frantically trying to escape. Some vehicles were set alight by exploding petrol tanks. A mother and her infant child died in one of them, trapped in the flames.
The shooting (on Sunday, September 16), by the guards of the American private security company Blackwater, has sparked one of the most bitter and public disputes between the Iraqi government and its American patrons, and brings into sharp focus the often violent conduct of the Western private armies operating in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, immune from scrutiny or prosecution.
Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer, was shot four times in the back, his car riddled with eight more bullets, as he attempted to get away from their convoy. Yesterday, sitting swathed in bandages at Baghdad's Yarmukh Hospital, he recalled scenes of horror. "I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Mr Salman. "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus, he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him, she jumped out after him, and she was killed. People were afraid."
At the end of the prolonged hail of bullets Nisoor Square was a scene of carnage with bodies strewn around smouldering wreckage. Ambulances trying to pick up the wounded found their path blocked by crowds fleeing the gunfire.
Yesterday, the death toll from the incident, according to Iraqi authorities, stood at 28. And it could rise higher, say doctors, as some of the injured, hit by high-velocity bullets at close quarter, are unlikely to survive.
With public anger among Iraqis showing no sign of abating, the US administration has suspended all land movement by officials outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Blackwater and the US State Department maintain that the guards opened fire in self-defence as they reacted to a bomb blast and then sniper fire. Amid continuing accusations and recriminations, The Independent has tried to piece together events on that day.
The reports we got from members of the public, Iraqi security personnel and government officials, as well as our own research, leads to a markedly different scenario than the American version. There was a bomb blast. But it was too far away to pose any danger to the Blackwater guards, and their State Department charges. We have found no Iraqi present at the scene who saw or heard sniper fire.
Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties.
Mr Salman said he had turned into Nisoor Square behind the Blackwater convoy when the shooting began. He recalled: "There were eight foreigners in four utility vehicles, I heard an explosion in the distance and then the foreigners started shouting and signalling for us to go back. I turned the car around and must have driven about a hundred feet when they started shooting. My car was hit with 12 bullets it turned over. Four bullets hit me in the back and another in the arm. Why they opened fire? I do not know. No one, I repeat no one, had fired at them. The foreigners had asked us to go back and I was going back in my car, so there was no reason for them to shoot."
Muhammed Hussein, whose brother was killed in the shooting, said: "My brother was driving and we saw a black convoy ahead of us. Then I saw my brother suddenly slump in the car. I dragged him out of the car and saw he had been shot in the chest. I tried to hide us both from the firing, but then I realised he was already dead."
Jawad Karim Ali was on his way to pick up his aunt from Yarmukh Hospital when shooting started and the windscreen exploded cutting his face. " Then I was hit on my left shoulder by bullets, two of them another one went past my face. Now my aunt is out of hospital and I am sitting here. There was a big bang further away but no shots before the security people fired, and they just kept firing."
Baghdad's "Bloody Sunday" has become a test of sovereignty between the powers of the Iraqi government and the US. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said: "We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood." The shooting was, he said, the seventh of its kind involving Blackwater.
Sunday's shooting happened at Mansour, once one of the most fashionable districts of Baghdad, with roads flanked by shops selling expensive goods, restaurants and art galleries.
The US State Department took the side of Blackwater Security, citing the usual process of "transparent investigations" to "get to the truth".
The State Department's long delay in acknowledging the reality of what happened in Mansour has only fueled anger and dissent within the Iraqi government, and amongst Iraqis. The Iraq government tried to ban Blackwater Security outright, but the US made clear it cannot function in Iraq without thousands of private soldiers to secure transports and act as security guards.
Only days after the massacre, Blackwater Security were back in business on the streets of Baghdad.
The Maliki government of Iraq has promised to prosecute the Blackwater Security personnel involved, but this seems unlikely, as the private corporate armies in Iraq were granted immunity from prosecution by the provisional authority, back in 2003, then headed by Paul Bremer, and prime minister Maliki doesn't want the US to leave Iraq before security is restored.
The US State Department has told Maliki America's military cannot function successfully in Iraq without the additional support of private armies, like Blackwater, so Maliki treads a fine line between voicing his outrage, to tamper down fury amongst Iraqis, and placating the Americans, who he still relies on to prop up his government.
Also BS Work
Private, corporate armies, are now a key part of the massive worldwide security industry, worth more than $US180 billion a year, and the market for "corporate commandos" is growing by the day :
In Nigeria, corporate commandos exchange fire with local rebels attacking an oil platform. In Afghanistan, private bodyguards help to foil yet another assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai. In Colombia, a contracted pilot comes under fire from guerrillas while spraying coca fields with pesticides. On the border between Iraq and Iran, privately owned Apache helicopters deliver US special forces to a covert operation.
This is a snapshot of a working day in the burgeoning world of private military companies, arguably the fastest-growing industry in the global economy. The sector is now worth up to $120bn annually with operations in at least 50 countries, according to Peter Singer, a security analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"The rate of growth in the security industry has been phenomenal," says Deborah Avant, a professor of political science at UCLA. The single largest spur to this boom is the conflict in Iraq.