How does that old saying go? "The more things change, the more they stay the same?" This certainly is true in the case of the paid mercenaries, Blackwater, that first were commissioned by the Bush administration to make war on Iraqis - it seems, any Iraqi will do.
I have been fortunate to catch Jeremy Scahill's reports of Blackwater on television in recent weeks and it is appalling to know that the newly elected president has allowed them to stay in business.
Scahill says in a recent article:
Two years to the day after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, armed and dangerous. As The Nation has reported, the Obama administration recently extended the company's contract there indefinitely. Blackwater has big-money contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA. As in Iraq, Blackwater forces are alleged to have shot and killed innocent civilians there. We now know that Blackwater was hired as part of the secret CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered concealed from Congress and that the company continues to work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A former Blackwater employee, known as John Doe #2, recently alleged in a sworn statement originally obtained by The Nation that Erik Prince, "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." Prince, the former employee charged, "intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.... Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to 'lay Hajiis out on cardboard.' Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince's employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as 'ragheads' or 'hajiis.' "
Another former Blackwater employee, an ex-US Marine, charged in a sworn statement that "Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq." He states that he personally witnessed weapons being "pulled out" from dog food bags. Doe #2 alleges that "Prince and his employees arranged for the weapons to be polywrapped and smuggled into Iraq on Mr. Prince's private planes, which operated under the name Presidential Airlines," adding that Prince "generated substantial revenues from participating in the illegal arms trade."
Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed against Prince by four Iraqis who claim they were shot by Blackwater operatives a week before Nisour Square on September 9, 2007. According to Susan Burke, the lawyer for the Iraqis who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Prince runs the operations of his "heavily armed private army" in Iraq and elsewhere from a twenty-four-hour command center known as the "war room." Burke also alleges that in Iraq "Prince's private army of men went 'night hunting' on more than one occasion. This 'night hunting' entailed Mr. Prince's men, armed with night goggles and riding in Mr. Prince's wholly-owned helicopters after 10 pm over the streets of Baghdad, killing at random."
On the second anniversary of the single worst massacre of Iraqi civilians committed by a private force since the US invasion, President Obama should be forced to explain to the American people and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan why he continues to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to this company and why he permits them to remain on the ground, representing the United States in these countries. At a recent hearing of the bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission, commissioner Linda Gustitus asserted that in not canceling Blackwater's contracts after Nasour Square the State Department helped send a message to other contractors that you can do a lot and not have your contract terminated.
Shame on you, President Obama!