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Names of Blackwater guards must be released

Ed Haas

Names of Blackwater guards must be released 

October 25, 2007 – Erik D. Prince, chief executive of Blackwater USA told “60 Minutes” that he wants his 20 guards involved in the September 16 Baghdad square confrontation which resulted in the death of at least 17 Iraqi civilians to be able to “clear their names, do their jobs and move forward.” 

Is it possible to clear the names of the Blackwater guards without their names being released to the press?  The Muckraker Report has left numerous phone messages for Blackwater USA spokeswomen Anne Tyrrell in which she is asked to explain why the names of the guards have not been released.  Tyrrell has received e-mails from the Muckraker Report that ask the same question.  After numerous attempts to get Blackwater USA on the record regarding the release of the names of its guards involved in the September 16 incident, the Muckraker Report has received no response. 

Why should the names of the guards be released to the press?  If free press is of any value to our society, the real question is why not?  When U.S. military personnel have been caught up in wrongdoing in Iraq, their names and photographs appear in newspapers.  Who can forget Abu Ghraib Prison and the names of Army soldiers, Specialist Lynndie England and Specialist Charles Graner along with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski? 

What about the 7 U.S. Marines and 1 sailor charged in the April 26, 2006 murder of an Iraqi civilian, 54 year old Hasham Ibrabim Awad?  Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Pfc. John Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, and Medical Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos do not enjoy the privilege of immunity from media scrutiny, so why do the Blackwater guards rate?  There are many other names of U.S. military personnel that have been made public as the result of alleged misconduct – so what makes Blackwater employees exempt? 

Having the benefit of witnessing Erik Prince testifying before Congress recently, and after reading his many defensive comments in response to media inquiry, it is all too apparent that Prince does suffer from delusions of grandeur.  He clearly believes that he and his company, Blackwater USA, are more powerful, more influential, greater, and more important than reality permits. 

For Prince, being on the “X” and getting off the “X” is a tactical constant.  Unfortunately for Iraqi civilians, conditions in Iraq are more complex and cannot be so narrowly defined.  “X” for Prince is absolute – even when it is not a reality.  When he’s wrong – innocent Iraqi civilians die.  Such narrowness coupled with his exaggerated perception of self is the corporate cultural propellant that fuels the well documented and substantiated usage of unnecessary and excessive force by his guards – making Blackwater USA a menace, both here and abroad. 

I am certain Blackwater believes that to release the names of its guards would put the guards and their families in danger.  Having seen and heard Prince in action – he might actually believe that it’s a matter of national security.  For this to be true - when compared to the news coverage of U.S. military personnel – the naming of names of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and marines accused of crimes, would mean that civilian Blackwater guards are elite, exclusive, somehow better and therefore exempt; a despicable and intolerable premise considering they are getting 5 times the pay of a U.S. Marine capable of performing the exact type of work with more prudence, professionalism, and restraint – completing the mission with better results.

Setting aside the moral conflict of using Blackwater to do the job of the Marine Corps, Marines have been guarding United States Embassies, Consulates, and other State Department property and personnel around the world since 1948 with phenomenal success, there is an additional and compelling reason to demand that Blackwater USA be forced to release the names of the guards involved in the September 16 killings, as well as any past or future incidents. 

Andrew Moonen is a former Blackwater guard that is suspected of shooting, while drunk, a bodyguard of an Iraqi vice president.  The United States State Department helped to get Moonen out of Iraq 36 hours after Blackwater dismissed him.  Within weeks of losing his job, Moonen was hired by another Department of Defense contractor and was sent to Kuwait.  Blackwater never revoked Moonen’s security clearance.  Neither did the federal government.  It is troubling that Prince testified before Congress a few weeks ago that he would now see to it that Moonen’s security clearance would be revoked.  How is it that Blackwater has the authority to revoke security clearances?  Isn’t that the responsibility of the State Department or Department of Defense? 

Clearly, the only reason that Andrew Moonen was discovered was because his name has been released or leaked to the media.  We have since learned that 3 of the Blackwater guards involved in the September 16 Baghdad square killings have already been rotated stateside by the State Department – despite the fact that the Iraqi government wants to press murder charges against all 20 guards and make them stand trial in Iraqi courts.  Prince is on record as saying that he will not allow his guards to be arrested by Iraqi officials and stand trail in Iraqi courts because he does not believe that they could get a fair trial.  This further demonstrates Prince’s arrogance.  It’s just not his call to make.  It’s a consequence of the profession he selected – an occupational hazard, a known risk in exchange for money that the Blackwater guards voluntarily accepted.  To now seek prosecutable cover after mowing down, with automatic weapons, 17 Iraqi civilians that had no cover is cowardly and unbecoming.  It’s the old adage – if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen – that applies here.

And where are those 3 guards recently rotated stateside?  Who are they working for now?  The remaining 17 guards as of last week were reportedly held up in the Baghdad’s Green Zone.  Are they still there?  The public and local municipalities have a right to know – particularly if any of these guards seek employment as police officers in the United States. 

Prince maintains that the pre-employment background checks and psychological assessments of Blackwater guards are thorough, rigorous, and complete.  If true, then there should be no fear whatsoever of a free press taking a look at these individuals.  As a gung-ho supporter of the neoconservative agenda, Prince must endorse the Bush / Cheney line of logic – if you have nothing to hide, then you will not mind if the government listens to your phone conversations, reads your e-mail, monitors your purchases and bank accounts, and searches your belongs without probable cause.  How then, is it possible, that if Blackwater and its guards have nothing to hide, it remains steadfast in concealing the names and locations of the guards that Iraq wants to charge with murder? 

It is uncertain that even if the FBI finds Blackwater at fault for the 17 Iraqi deaths the guards involved could be prosecuted under any U.S. law.  There appears to be no legal precedent for holding non-Department of Defense contractors accountable for criminal conduct abroad. 

If fault is found and not covered up, this would be a great travesty and injustice because it would mean that the Blackwater guards involved could get away with murder unless tried by the Iraqi courts.  If Marines cannot get away with murder in a war zone – then neither should civilian contractors.  Between the two choices – those accused should be turned over to Iraqi authorities if the law prohibits them from standing trial in the United States.  They should not be allowed to walk free – especially while U.S. servicemen are serving time in federal prison for similar actions. 

Prince should not be troubled by this proposition, assuming his political affiliations and beliefs amount to conviction.  I’m sure he supports the fair trials and fair treatment of the Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Certainly the Iraqi government will at least match, if not surpass, the fairness the Bush Administration has demonstrated by providing the Guantanamo Bay detainees access to a valid court system at which Middle Eastern men of Muslim faith get fair trials.  Prince’s guards are certain to receive at least the same level of humane treatment and impartial justice if arrested and detained by Iraq. 

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