Senior Iraqi officials repeatedly complained to U.S. officials about Blackwater USA's alleged involvement in the deaths of numerous Iraqis, but the Americans took little action to regulate the private security firm until 11 Iraqis were shot dead last Sunday, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Before that episode, U.S. officials were made aware in high-level meetings and formal memorandums of Blackwater's alleged transgressions. They included six violent incidents this year allegedly involving the North Carolina firm that left a total of 10 Iraqis dead, the officials said.
"There were no concrete results," Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamal, the deputy interior minister who oversees the private security industry on behalf of the Iraqi government, said in an interview Saturday.
Violent encounters between Blackwater contractors and Iraqi government personnel and civilians have happened on a regular basis, but Blackwater employees have gone so far as to add insult to injury:
Kamal said addressing Blackwater's alleged actions was also a matter of preserving Iraq's dignity and honor. Seated in his spacious office, he recalled an incident two months ago when Blackwater guards threw a water bottle at a traffic policeman. The officer was so furious that he submitted his resignation, but his superiors turned it down, Kamal said.
"This is a flagrant violation of the law," Kamal said. "This guy is an officer with a rank of a brigadier general. He was standing in the street doing his job, regulating traffic. He represents the state and the law, and yet this happened."
Picture foreign personnel in our country browbeating our civilians and throwing water bottles at police operating in the streets, and you can get a sense of why the Iraqis are so upset. It is absolutely clear that Blackwater, whatever their value to the State Department as security (a value they've obtained only because of a conscious decision on the part of Bush administration to employ private contractors who operate with impunity as opposed to actual professional-and accountable-soldiers) they are a detriment to the mission in Iraq. If the Bush administration chooses to stonewall on this, or back Blackwater over the concerns of the Iraqis, they will make it quite clear to the Iraqi people that we are not willing to suffer even the slightest inconvenience to our mission in Iraq for the sake of their supposed sovereignty.
It's past time to reign Blackwater in.