World News

Iraq Pulling License of Blackwater Security

Posted September 17, 2007

— The Interior Ministry said Monday that it was pulling the license of an American security firm allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of civilians during an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade in Baghdad.

The ministry said it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force in the Sunday incident.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight people were killed and 13 were wounded when security contractors working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad.

"We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities," Khalaf said.

Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., provides security for many U.S. civilian operations in the country. Phone messages left early Monday at Blackwater's office in North Carolina and with a company spokeswoman were not immediately returned.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman said witness reports pointed to Blackwater involvement but said the incident was still under investigation. It was not immediately clear if the measure against Blackwater was intended to be temporary or permanent.

U.S. troops are immune from prosecution in Iraq under the U.N. resolution that authorizes their presence, but Khalaf said the exemption does not apply to private security companies.

The U.S. Embassy said a State Department motorcade came under small-arms fire that disabled one of the vehicles, which had to be towed from the scene near Nisoor Square in the Mansour district.

An embassy official provided no information about Iraqi casualties but said no State Department personnel were wounded or killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to media.

He said the shooting was being investigated by the State Department's diplomatic security service and law enforcement officials working with the Iraqi government and the U.S. military.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki late Sunday condemned the shooting by a "foreign security company" and called it a "crime."

Tens of thousands of private security contractors operate in Iraq – some with automatic weapons, body armor, helicopters and bullet-proof vehicles.

The contractors, including many Americans and Britons, provide protection for Westerners and dignitaries in Iraq as the country has plummeted toward anarchy and civil war. Blackwater personnel, many of whom are former military members, also have worked in Afghanistan and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"One of the problems you always have when you subcontract something out is oversight," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Springer, a military analyst for WRAL. "If you don't have somebody watching these folks, then you don't know if your contract is being handled adequately, safely, securely and doing the job that's supposed to be done."

Many have been accused of indiscriminately firing at American and Iraqi troops and of shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens who got too close to their heavily armed convoys, but none has faced charges or prosecution.

Iraqi police said the contractors were in a convoy of six sport-utility vehicles and left the scene after the shooting. A witness said the gunfire broke out following an explosion.

"We saw a convoy of SUVs passing in the street nearby. One minute later, we heard the sound of a bomb explosion followed by gunfire that lasted for 20 minutes between gunmen and the convoy people who were foreigners and dressed in civilian clothes. Everybody in the street started to flee immediately," said Hussein Abdul-Abbas, who owns a mobile phone store in the area.

The wartime numbers of private guards are unprecedented - as are their duties, many of which have traditionally been done by soldiers. They protect U.S. military operations and have guarded high-ranking officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Baghdad.

They also protect journalists, visiting foreign officials and thousands of construction projects.


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  • Feisty Redneck Diva Sep 17, 2007

    eclid - I am not convinced that it is all mercenary. I am sure some of it is, but I also know that many are attached to press / media personnel. I personally feel that if the military thinks they need to be in the middle of a battle ground, fine but they need to protect themselves. If they choose to pay a private security company, so be it as long as it is not our troops being pulled from their jobs.

    I also know that the posted reminded me of my nephew in the Army. He has been in Afghanistan 3 times (he is a green beret) and is very disheartened by what he (and his group) perceive as the anti-military sentiment pervading this country. I have a problem with it myself when it comes from certain people who have never served. I do not have a problem with someone serving and getting out then joining Blackwell. If you were commissioned you realized a much higher salary (and higher life insurance benefits) than most of the enlisted can realize.

  • elcid89 Sep 17, 2007

    "katgoesloco- why don't you set up a profile and share your information? I will be happy to share mine then. My name is on my profile and I work for myself, your turn."

    After reading the posts below, do you now understand why this mercenary garbage makes me so angry?

  • Feisty Redneck Diva Sep 17, 2007

    katgoesloco- why don't you set up a profile and share your information? I will be happy to share mine then. My name is on my profile and I work for myself, your turn.

  • elcid89 Sep 17, 2007

    "elcid89 you still didnt answer the question of what you are doing for the military. you talk about standing beside the other soldiers, so when does your tour of duty start?"

    1) I served.

    2) I am too old to reactivate my commission, or I would have volunteered my services. Instead, I do pro bono work on behalf of any active duty service member who asks me for it. I also do what I can to support several active duty Marines through with regular letters and care packages.

    Never, ever mistake my disapproval for this specious war with any remote degree of contempt for the men and women in uniform sent to fight it. My problem is with their civilian leadership, not with them.

    And, as far as I'm concerned, what's he doing is no better than walking away and leaving men in the field. If he believes, then he needs to stay and support his buddies where his skills are most needed - in uniform. Instead he sold them out.

    And you? When does your tour start? What are you doing?

  • ckpowers Sep 17, 2007

    elcid89 you still didnt answer the question of what you are doing for the military. you talk about standing beside the other soldiers, so when does your tour of duty start?

  • mindyourown Sep 17, 2007

    I would agree that these services need to be done by the military and not contractors, as stated previously these contractors are not being watched and they are paid more than the military guys who I'm sure go through alot more, so there again, it goes back to a money thing.

  • elcid89 Sep 17, 2007

    "elcid, I am embarassed to know that our combat representatives, in or out of uniform, can find dispicable, ungrateful drivel like your post on the web, while ON DUTY protecting your sorry hide. Not only do you owe them an apology, you should try giving thanks they're there, and not you. Ever consider that you could be in the next building or plane that's bombed?"

    I will apologize to no one. If he believes in the mission as much as he says he does, then he can reenlist and support his friends by standing beside them instead of being little more than a mercenary. I have zero, and I mean zero, respect for anyone who does that.

    If you believe in what you are doing, then you go stand beside your buddies instead of jumping the boat for extra cash. I respect the men and women in uniform risking their lives every day for a pittance. This guy, who walked out on them for money? No, sorry. I'll drop dead before I apologize to him.

  • bill0 Sep 17, 2007

    I think most of us were on board with some contractors taking on mundane tasks for the military. Some services like providing food, sourcing office supplies, janitorial services etc can probably be done more effectively by private companies. However, it is pretty clear we have gone way overboard now. If US State Department personnel need protection in a warzone, that job falls to the US armed forces. Anything that resembles a combat operation should never be outsourced.

  • Worland Sep 17, 2007

    You ever wonder why these contractors have strong Republican ties? Most of the guys working for Blackwater, Haliburton and such are former members of the military. The military is made up of 80%+ Republicans.

    Perhaps if some Liberals would join the ranks of the military, things would be different. But, as it is, Liberals DO NOT serve in the military. But, the Lib's here sure do feel qualified to make comments about things they know nothing about.

  • wildervb Sep 17, 2007

    Again, if this administration were serious about winning this war, if it realy meant anything to them, they would make sure there were enough US Army Soldiers available to do the job.

    They would not be outsourcing to contractors.

    This administration always, always, puts private profits above national interest.