Blackwater case a microcosm of our Iraq misadventure

blackwater-logo1-1The calendar says that it happened less than eight years ago, but the calendar feels wrong. It feels as if it occurred in another era altogether.

Less than eight years ago, on Sept. 17, 2007, a group of Blackwater contract security guards passing through Baghdad’s Nisour Square went on a wild shooting spree, using heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to kill or wound more than 30 Iraqi civilians who happened to be in the square at the time. Nobody has ever proved what initiated the barrage — some of the guards claimed that their convoy had come under attack, and they may have honestly perceived that to be the case. Other witnesses, including other Blackwater guards, testified that it was unprovoked.

However, those whom they had killed or wounded, including two dead children, had been unarmed. American investigators later found no evidence that an ambush had occurred in the square and no evidence that the convoy had come under fire. Instead, they found that the Blackwater guards had treated the crowded square as a free-fire zone, acting with utter disregard for the lives of others.

Yesterday, four of those Blackwater guards were sentenced in a federal court in Washington. One man was sentenced to life in prison; three others were sentenced to serve 30 years. Such sentences are probably appropriate, but as I read accounts of the courtroom proceedings, I couldn’t help but compare their fates to those of the low-ranking American prison guards at Abu Ghraib. Those young soldiers at Abu Ghraib probably deserved prison sentences as well for badly mistreating Iraqi prisoners, but it is just as true that they served as convenient scapegoats.  Their superiors involved in the much larger, more inhumane and officially sanctioned program of organized torture carried out in the name of the United States have never been called to account, and never will.

Likewise, the shootout at Nisour Square was our invasion of Iraq writ small. Like the invasion, it began with claims of danger that later proved totally exaggerated if not outright lies. American firepower was used indiscriminately, to shock and awe a population that we were ostensibly there to help yet ended up harming. In the end, we did more damage than good. More specifically, the outrage that followed the Nisour Square shooting, and the Iraqi resentment at feeling helpless in their own country at the hands of invaders, ended up hardening Iraqi sentiment against the United States and making it impossible for President Bush to negotiate an agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to remain active in Iraq while being exempt from Iraqi law.

And while those four Blackwater guards will serve long, long sentences for their cowboy behavior, those who pushed us into the larger invasion of Iraq are still in Washington, still in positions of influence in politics, the media and think tanks, and astonishingly still arguing for a do-over in taking on neighboring Iran, on the premise that this time we’ll get it right.

Like I said, Nisour Square was less than eight years ago. Can we have forgotten so much in so short a time?

 

 

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294 comments
N-GA-Online
N-GA-Online

I am both pleased and surprised at this judicial result. Yet it reminds me of the My Lai massacre. William Calley was pardoned by President Gerald Ford (who also pardoned Richard Nixon). Where is the justice for the hundreds of My Lai victims?


JoelEdge
JoelEdge

"those who pushed us into the larger invasion of Iraq are still in Washington, "

One of them is in Iowa. :)

Starik
Starik

Reinstating the draft would be the single biggest action we could take to straighten ourselves out.  No more overpaid mercenaries. Fewer atrocities like Abu Ghraib...and a reluctance to go to war unless absolutely necessary.

honested
honested

The facts remain:

The United States should NEVER have invaded Iraq.

The United States should NEVER solicit and employ mercenaries for ANY REASON.



EricLC
EricLC

In Foreign Policy magazine, Ali Khedery, perhaps the longest serving US official from Operation Iraqi Freedom, attributes the regression of Iraq since Bush left office to decisions by Obama from the outset in 2009, including the pull-out in 2011: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/19/irans-shiite-militias-are-running-amok-in-iraq/ .

In Foreign Affairs magazine, Rick Brennan, a senior advisor in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006 to 2011, describes "the bungling of the Iraq exit" by Obama: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142204/rick-brennan/withdrawal-symptoms .

In Politico, Emma Sky, another senior advisor in Operation Iraqi Freedom, laments the progress and opportunities lost in Iraq due to Obama's sharp deviation from Bush with an approach that favored Iran's encroachment in Iraq: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/04/obama-iraq-116708.html#.VSP3pbt0x0t .

Fly-On-The-Wall
Fly-On-The-Wall

@EricLC Are all of those supporters of the war?  Of course they would blame Obama or anyone else for that matter.  They F'd up badly and are looking for cover. 

Who would trust anything these people say except for other neo-cons?

honested
honested

@EricLC 

The misnamed 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' should never have been undertaken no matter what lame excuses can be trotted out to excuse the terrible error!!

lvg
lvg

Rumsfeld was Saint Ronald's special emissary to Sadaam selling him all kinds of weapons and wmd . Then same Rumsfeld and Cheney and fellow Neocons  write a letter in 1998 to President Clinton and Congress that Sadaam nust go because he has hidden wmd and is  selling oil illegally to the Ruskies. Congress agreed. Anything odd about that scenario?

Arms_Akimbo
Arms_Akimbo

Fast forward to 2012. The Democratic spin machine is STILL blaming Bush for Middle East turmoil. As the U.S. announced to the world the Iraq withdrawal schedule with dates and locations for our enemies to see, our allies both in Iraq and the international coalition were appalled to witness our cowardly president put their lives in harm's way merely for a partisan campaign political talking point. In 2015, the president continues to focus on his personal legacy by trying to do anything to cut a deal with Iran and implementing the weakest foreign policy platform in U.S. history. This allows the religious head of a nation-state that does not recognize the separation between church and state and who has repeatedly threatened death to the U.S. and our allies, access to nuclear weapons.


In the meantime, as Bookman assigns blame and whines about the death of 30 civilians, 200,000+ civilians have died in Syria after Obama failed to follow up on his promises. The world knows that Obama is all show, no go. The Russians have already announced removing sanctions against Iran selling them state of the art missile weapons systems that will neutralize U.S. air superiority. So much for any peace dividend from the Iran negotiations. The early withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq created a power void that has been filled by Al Queda, ISIS, and  the Iranian military. Iraq was basically stable when Obama took office, and now the former nation has devolved into a territory embroiled in civil war. Iraq is no longer functioning as a nation-state and the Obama administration is directly responsible.


The nuclear proliferation resulting from this administration's incompetence and naivete has made the region much more dangerous than anything Bush ever did. All you have to do to confirm this is look at the anointed one. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's inability to articulate ANY meaningful accomplishments while serving as the country's top diplomat shows how far we as a nation have strayed from the role of being a global leader. Of course, loyal Dems have to accept her rule because she is all they have got. There is no debate or new ideas for the Dems. The country is tired of the constant blame game and needs new ideas. Like them or not, at least  the GOP candidates are throwing around ideas. Just blaming Bush is stale and no longer an acceptable strategy for the Dems.   

Vindicator
Vindicator

@Arms_Akimbo Love your logic and pragmatism, dude.  The libs have nothing to fall back on but, Hillary the RESET wonder.

Vindicator
Vindicator

@Tuna Meowt @Arms_Akimbo I believe it was the Clinton administration and Madeline Albright who had a love affair with those commies.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Vindicator "I believe it was the Clinton administration and Madeline Albright who had a love affair with those commies."


And the Bush Administration trashed the Agreed Framework, whereupon the North Koreans developed their bomb.


Learn from that, Vinnie.  Talking tough won't stop anyone from building a bomb if that's what they want.  Your plan sucks.

kitty72
kitty72

@Arms_Akimbo  Then let's learn what not to do and Bush's actions are a case study of that. Before we do it again.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Arms_Akimbo "In the meantime, as Bookman assigns blame and whines about the death of 30 civilians, 200,000+ civilians have died in Syria after Obama failed to follow up on his promises."


President Obama tried to intervene in Libya and Congress lost its collective mind and forced him to stop.


Fine, we won't intervene in any further situations like that.


Now you WANT intervention in a near-duplicate of the Libyan situation, but you want it in Syria.


Please make up your minds.


"The nuclear proliferation resulting from this administration's incompetence and naivete has made the region much more dangerous than anything Bush ever did."


Ignorance is not your color.  Iran hasn't got the bomb, but due to Bush's screwups, the North Koreans do.


Read a book and LEARN something, willya?

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

Saddam had to go. We took him out. It's what we do. Blackwater protected the State

Dept. for the most part. The military could not be used for that. It's over.

kitty72
kitty72

@barkingfrog  Saddam was a monster, yes. Thumb his nose at us at times, yes. Was he contained? Yes. By deposing him all we did was destabilize the region. Sometimes the monster you know is better than the monster you don't. We are dealing with that monster now.

fedup52
fedup52

Slightly off topic:

The Iraqi PM is asking for financial help to fight his war.


I thought Bush said the oil from Iraq will pay for the war.

JamVet
JamVet

Sean, the reason Iran’s going to have a power in the gulf because your president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and turned it into an ally of Iran. 

The reason we're in this position is because Saddam Hussein, a thug, was overthrown, his state was destroyed, his army was broken up, elections were held by Bush, democracy crusade and the Shia won and we LOST (emphasis mine) control of Iraq.  ~Pat Buchanan, April, 2015

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

" making it impossible for President Bush to negotiate an agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to remain active in Iraq while being exempt from Iraqi law."


Had Blackwater had their "contractors" act like "true" Americans, perhaps, just perhaps Iraq would have allowed US forces to remain.  However, hindsight doesn't change history, but perhaps help the next round of actions. 


Or not.  If The Powers that be want war, then there will be war. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@LogicalDude 

Had Blackwater had their "contractors" act like "true" Americans, perhaps, just perhaps Iraq would have allowed US forces to remain

***
Very doubtful. Those Blackwater atrocities were not out of the ordinary. They were quite common, including among regular military. These included abuses such as night raids, etc. 

In the end, these were the expression of a barbaric invasion and occupation itself, not just of a few 'bad apples'. 

straker
straker

EdUktr


If Saddam or one of this sons were in power, the overall situation would still be bad, but nowhere near as bad as it is now.

The forces tearing the Mid East apart have been there for many generations. Only the iron hand of ruthless dictators kept them suppressed.

Bush had two choices, bad and worse.

He choose worse. 

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@straker --He could've done what his father before him did -- used common sense and left Iraq and Saddam, alone.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@straker

If leaving a brutal dictator in place is the route liberals wanna take then we should do away with, or ignore groups like Amnesty International, Children's Defense Fund, Human Rights Action Center, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Without Frontiers, and NAACP just to name a few. Though left-leaning, it's obvious the liberals wanna ignore what they have to say...selectively of course.

schnirt


FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@DebbieDoRight @FIGMO2 @straker

So the world at large is not part of YOUR collective, Debs? Obama would disagree with you.

With social media, trade, and transportation being what it is....we are One World.

schnirt

I believe Obama calls hisself a citizen of The World and proclaims that we must come together...blah blah blah.

He would be so disappointed in you, Debbers.

Paul42
Paul42

@straker

I think EdUktr's like one of those old missiles - fire and forget.

Make a comment, then drop off when asked to think and comment about it.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@FIGMO2 @straker --Iraq was NOT our country. We are NOT the world's police. We need to spend money on our infrastructure HERE instead of someone else's over THERE.

Let's build OUR nation before we try to build someone else's.

dreema
dreema

@FIGMO2 @straker I never realized that it was Amnesty International, Children's Defense Fund, Human Rights Action Center, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Without Frontiers, and NAACP--and not a bunch of chickenhawk neocons--who led us into war against Iraq.

Vindicator
Vindicator

People like Jay Bookman and his leftist followers inspired North Vietnam's Gen. Giap to proclaim that his side was helped in winning the war by such protesting liberals of the United States during the Viet Nam war.


I know, the brave service members know, and the protectors of liberty know that it is the liberals of this country that weaken and abet the enemies of this once admired nation.

fedup52
fedup52

@Vindicator Random killing of civilians instigated the protests by the liberals.  Is that a bad thing?

Vindicator
Vindicator

@Tuna Meowt @Vindicator Army veterans are not liberals.  However, if a few of them joined, they were rear guard supply troops, lawyers, or admin troops who needed the money.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@Vindicator --  "North Vietnam's Gen. Giap to proclaim that his side was helped in winning the war by such protesting liberals of the United States during the Viet Nam war."


Baloney!!  We, along with other nations, went over to a country that has been preparing for invasions for eons. Who already had elaborate underground CITIES and roads that helped them to move goods, men and arms out of sight and away from our troops; and to appear and disappear (within the tunnels), in a moments notice leaving havoc in their wake.

The US with all their firepower got beaten by a people with hardly ANY firepower. Yet you want to blame it on PROTESTERS.  How ridiculous.

Vindicator
Vindicator

@DebbieDoRight @Vindicator Liberals make for lousy story tellers.  After Rolling Thunder II we had them on the ropes and they were willing to capitulate at the Paris Peace Conference.  Don't try to school me.  I was there.  Your liberal education in a liberal school disqualifies you from realistic warfare assessments.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Vindicator @DebbieDoRight "Don't try to school me.  I was there.  Your liberal education in a liberal school disqualifies you from realistic warfare assessments."


This disabled Army veteran says EFF YOU.


You disqualify yourself with your specious political claims.


Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@DownInAlbany @Tuna Meowt @Vindicator I guess I erred in giving you that 'attaboy' last week, DIA.


Seems like you don't REALLY like disabled veterans -- you just like the ones who think the same way you do, amirite?

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Vindicator "I know, the brave service members know, and the protectors of liberty know that it is the liberals of this country that weaken and abet the enemies of this once admired nation."


This liberal disabled Army veteran knows you're incredibly full of it.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Vindicator

proclaim that his side was helped in winning the war

Because he knew that right wing rubes would believe it and blame those dirty flippin' hippies for losing the war.

Doesn't take a lot of brainpower to manipulate rubes.