Newyorktimes:

WASHINGTON — Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards were convicted and immediately jailed Wednesday for their roles in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that marked a bloody nadir in America’s war in Iraq.

A jury in Federal District Court found that the deaths of 17 Iraqis in the shooting, which began when a convoy of the guards suddenly began firing in a crowded intersection, was not a battlefield tragedy, but the result of a criminal act.

The convictions on murder, manslaughter and weapons charges represented a legal and diplomatic victory for the United States government, which had urged Iraqis to put their faith in the American court system. That faith was tested repeatedly over seven years as the investigation had repeated setbacks, leaving Iraqis deeply suspicious that anyone would be held responsible for the deaths.

The convictions on murder, manslaughter and weapons charges represented a legal and diplomatic victory for the United States government, which had urged Iraqis to put their faith in the American court system. That faith was tested repeatedly over seven years as the investigation had repeated setbacks, leaving Iraqis deeply suspicious that anyone would be held responsible for the deaths.

One defendant, Nicholas A. Slatten, a sniper who the government said fired the first shots, was convicted of murder. The others — Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty and Paul A. Slough — were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime. A fifth contractor, Jeremy Ridgeway, previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter and cooperated with prosecutors.

Jurors could not reach verdicts on several of the counts against Mr. Heard, but that will have little bearing on the sentencing. The machine-gun charges carry mandatory 30-year minimum prison sentences, more than the manslaughter charges. Mr. Slatten faces possible life in prison. No sentencing date has been set.

The trial was an epilogue to the story of Blackwater, which began as a police- and military-training facility in North Carolina and came to symbolize the country’s outsourcing of its wartime responsibilities.

This series of events magnifies what is already a horrible chapter in American history.  From “Shock and Awe” to the take over of Iraq  by ISIL, our involvement in this war-torn country just seems wrong on so many levels.

Many Americans raised an eyebrow from the start over mercenaries being used in many different capacities in Iraq.  In the first place, mercenaries hurt morale.  Many of them were making exceptionally  large salaries, especially when compared to what our troops were making.  It was said that they had all the rights and none of the responsibilities that the average American soldier had.  Furthermore, the mercenaries were also trained at taxpayer expense, since most were former U.S. military personnel.

Were these men killers or were they just doing the job that ordinary Americans ddin’t want to do?  Was there an intended  target the day of the massacre?  Were the innocent men, women and children who died simply collateral damage?  This story asks far more questions than it answers.

Will Americans go around wearing a patch for the convicted?  Were those charged and convicted  just doing their job?  Did poorly articulated orders from our government cause bad decision-making  on the part of these men?  Did they betray our country by killing innocent people?

I have no idea.  They probably didn’t enhance our image in that part of the world, I feel certain.  I wasn’t there.  I haven’t followed the story.  However, I don’t think the story will go away quietly…or will it?

Perhaps this story is just more than Americans want to stomach.  After all, these guys weren’t American soldiers.  We can just pretend we missed reading the story of their ultimate conviction.  Yea, that’s the ticket.

War-time crimes are perhaps the most conflicted of all.  Often there is no clear delineation–the thin line between duty and illegal conduct unbefitting an American in combat is the thinnest.  In war we kill.  The terms of engagement are clear–or are they?  That is what must be decided.  7 years is a long time to have to wait for justice.  7 years is a long time to have your life on the balance if you are the one charged.  My only hope is that these men are not the sacrificial lambs of poor policy in the first place.

28 thoughts on “Blackwater Guards found Guilty

  1. Cargosquid

    “Another challenge is that prosecutors cannot say for certain which contractors killed which Iraqis. Instead, they are relying on the premise that, by firing, each contractor contributed to the shooting as a whole, and each is responsible for all the deaths.”

    This, right here, invalidates the case, I think. By their logic, each one is guilty of all….but fi that is the case, then if one is convicted…..the rest are innocent.

    It was a war zone. It was a combat zone with crossing fire. All of the deaths and injuries are being blamed on the mercs. The bad guys take their dead with them OR fired from within the crowd and ran. The people were caught between. This was a tragedy, not a crime.

    1. Thank you for your perspective.

      It is sickening for sure.

      No comment on using mercenaries. What is your opinion there?

  2. blue

    To accept this verdict – which will be appealed – you have to believe that they were just sitting there in a parked car (key to the prosecutions case) and just decided to fire into a crowd unprovoked. That is what the prosecution argued – that there was no incoming fire. Now, we had a crime scene, but, like Bengazi, nobody ever secured it nor has it yet been reviewed by forensics experts. Seems strange does it not?

    In avoiding a discussion of mercenaries, perhaps we might use proper definitions. These were guards hired by the US State Dept. to protect diplomatic officials — not front line assult soldiers as seen if Aftica. But then, the federal employee unions feared that if they could contract out this kind of work, perhaps the government could seek competitive bids for things like grounds maintenance, vehicle repair, warehouseing, and yes, building security currently done by Federal employees. Like Fergusen, they only needed to wait for an incident in order to throw the granade.

    1. I consider many of the people who worked for private companies in Iraq to be mercenaries. I know it really pisses off conservatives. I am not sure why.

      They were hired guns. Sorry. They weren’t federal employees. Blackwater cut their paychecks.

  3. Cargosquid

    @Moon-howler
    Were you saying that my perspective is sickening? Or the situation?

    I remember this case. They took incoming fire. The scene was not secured. The insurgents were known to fight from within crowds. They were known to retreat and take dead and wounded with them. There was no way to follow or track them. This was a battle.

    I feel that these guys were set up by the insurgents. And the political reality in Iraq demanded a scapegoat. They wanted this to be the test case of putting Americans under Iraqi law. THAT idea thankfully failed.

    There are even pictures of bullet strikes on their vehicles. One vehicle had to be towed.

    IF the prosecution says that there was no evidence, they are lying or the evidence suppressed.
    http://www.blackfive.net/main/2014/10/verdict-soon-in-blackwater-guards-murder-trial.html

    Also, the bullets found in the square and in the wounded were .30 cal. AK-47’s fire .30 cal bullets.
    US weapons fire .223 cal…and the automatic weapons do too.

    As for the mercenaries….. you would have to ask the State Dept why they preferred Blackwater over regular military security.
    What this did give them….was complete control over the actions of the security detail. No other chain of command was there. There was no competing mission that their security might be called on. The military commands were happy with the situation.

    Blackwater was so successful, not one, single State Dept. official was killed.

    1. The entire situation is sickening. No, not your perspective.
      Sorry.

  4. Cargosquid

    Here’s another version
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/world/middleeast/19blackwater.html?pagewanted=all

    The shots from Iraqi forces could have been mistaken for insurgents.

    Either way….combat zone. Battle. Not murder.

    1. This was civilian court, wasn’t it?

  5. Ed Myers

    The return fire was from local Iraqis exercising their God-given 2A-like right to stand their ground and repel an armed attack on their women and children. The massacre would have been a lot worse without the local citizens who carried guns shooting back. This is a perfect execution of the NRA mantra that the best response for bad guys with guns are good guys with guns. [sarcasm off]

  6. Wolve

    Ed, you going troll now? Or just half-troll, like Eric?

    1. Why would you say that? Ed is a regular contributor here, just like you are. Just because you don’t agree with him doesn’t make him a troll.

      Who is Eric?

  7. Wolve

    Each Blackwater security guard freed up a combat-trained US soldier for the front lines in an army which depends on volunteers rather than conscripts.

    1. I don’t think you can deny that using blackwater security hurt morale, since they made 4 times the money our troops made and also they really didn’t have to play by the same rules.

  8. Wolve

    Same reason you often use contractors, where possible, to feed the troops instead of detailing combat soldiers to KP.

  9. Wolve

    Blackwater cut their checks — out of tax money you gave them.

    1. Sort of like all the defense contractors…..

  10. Wolve

    Moon-howler :Why would you say that? Ed is a regular contributor here, just like you are. Just because you don’t agree with him doesn’t make him a troll.
    Who is Eric?

    Read Ed’s post again.

  11. Wolve

    At least he added “sarcasm”

    Moon-howler :I don’t think you can deny that using blackwater security hurt morale, since they made 4 times the money our troops made and also they really didn’t have to play by the same rules.

    this time.

    I wasn’t there and do not know if it hurt the morale of volunteers. However, I am willing to bet that some of those volunteers, pondering their post-military futures, might have been looking at Blackwater as a good possibility.

  12. Wolve

    Moon-howler :Why would you say that? Ed is a regular contributor here, just like you are. Just because you don’t agree with him doesn’t make him a troll.
    Who is Eric?

    “Eric” was an insider comment. I would think that you would have realized from my post #10 that Ed and I know each other very well — in a blogger sort of way.

  13. Cargosquid

    Speaking as one who was deployed over to Kuwait, and talked to the troops about mercs…. their existence did not hurt morale. Not really. Was their griping about their pay….sure. But all troops gripe. The troops also saw that the merc’s support and other benefits were non-existent. The ONLY thing that the mercs got was pay.

    But…every soldier and Marine also knew that the option was open to any one of them at enlistment. Soldiers and Marines were there because they had a desire to serve. They knew that they would not get rich. If the opportunity arose to do what they loved and were good at AND make money…some took it. The biggest gripe was NOT the money…but that Blackwater had no other duties except security. No patrols…no IED… etc.

    The morale was hurt mainly in the higher ups that kept losing qualified men to higher pay. THEY disliked the merc companies. The average grunt had other worries.

  14. Cargosquid

    @Ed Myers
    The massacre would have been a lot less if the LAW ABIDING Iraqis had been armed and shot the insurgents when they showed up. Then, there would have been NO combat with Blackwater.

    See…. you were ALMOST right.

    And yes…. I know you were being sarcastic.

  15. Ed Myers

    There is always disagreement over who are the good guys and this example show how shooting to prevent an attack can quickly get out of hand if everyone is armed. Just picking sides and blaming the other guys doesn’t prevent massacres. One way to maintain civility is to classify all killing, even in self defense, as a crime. Extenuating circumstances might dictate a lenient punishment, however, the objective is to not have to decide who started a gun fight because everyone who shoots a gun in a conflict is culpable. If all killings are a crime we would have more non-lethal self defense options. Sure some non-lethal defenses might result in accidental death, but no gun defense deaths are accidental…they are all intentional.

    If someone is truly fearful of their lives they would not seriously worry about a large fine or even a short stint in jail as punishment. That would be a small price for one’s life but would make someone think first before deploying a gun in minor threats were the worse case is likely a financial loss.

    Read how Blackwater guards treated the ordinary citizen and how little they valued Iraqi lives. Blackwater had the legal power that the NRA wants for all of it’s members…to be able to kill someone who is a threat with no consequences. Those rules of engagement produce a very un-civil society; we don’t want South Chicago to become like Baghdad.

  16. Cargosquid

    @Ed Myers
    You REALLY ARE living in another world….aren’t you?

  17. Emma

    @Ed Myers
    Talk about jumping the shark. Or is #22 tongue-in-cheek?

  18. Cargosquid

    @Emma
    He’s quite serious.

  19. Cargosquid

    @Ed Myers
    “we don’t want South Chicago to become like Baghdad.”

    Actually, at the height of combat…… South Chicago was actually MORE dangerous than Baghdad. More people were dying.

  20. El Guapo

    American Exceptionalism

Comments are closed.