Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oh say can you Xe: Swirling Blackwaters

     January 2010 marked a momentous decision by the families of the 17 people who lost relatives in Bagdad’s Nusoor Square in October 2007: All but one of those families have agreed to settle their suits against Blackwater.
     Xe, as Blackwater is now known, will pay 16 of the 17 families $100,000; while those who were wounded will receive between $20,000 to $50,000.
     For those of you who haven’t heard about what happened, let me just enlighten you by recalling that in October 2007 Blackwater guards opened fire on a public square, killing 17 unarmed civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. In their denial of any wrongdoing, the Blackwater operatives asserted they were protecting a U.S. State Department convoy, and had come under fire. Although Blackwater’s guards say they were returning that fire with necessary force, the Iraqi officials and the survivors of the Nusoor Square massacre maintain the killings were out-and-out, unprovoked, premeditated murder. 
     [Just imagine if the FBI were to indiscriminately shoot up Time Square in New York City if someone fired upon them from an unknown location, killing passing civilians in their vehicles???]
     In 2008, one of the Blackwater guards pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter; while the remaining five who were charged with manslaughter had their charges dismissed in U.S. court in December 2008.
     Blood money. In Islam this is acceptable: to give a person or family a financial token to settle a death score.
     What is unacceptable to me is that you can change a tiger’s stripes, but it is still a tiger—claws, teeth, and carnivorous character.
     Blackwater may now be called Xe, but it is still headed by Erik Prince, who—in sworn statements by two ex-employees—views himself as a Christian crusader whose mission on this earth is to eradicate Muslims and Islam. This is borne out in the New York Times’ bestselling book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” by investigating journalist Jeremy Scahill (Nation Books, 2007).
     Even though the shootings have led to tighter controls over the activities of Blackwater and other agencies like it in Iraq, the average everyday Iraqi is still angered by the outcome of the tragic events. In December 2009 the CIA canceled a contract with Blackwater to load Predator missiles onto drones in Pakistan. Additionally, its Iraq contract was not renewed by the U.S. State Department, that in 2009 alone projected total revenues at $669 million—three-quarters of which stems from federal contracts to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
     Basically, however, the North Carolina based Blackwater has only been tapped on the hand, because under its new name, Xe Systems, the agency may be rewarded with a security contract in Afghanistan worth possibly $1 billion!!! 
     Your tax dollars at work…

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