Blackwater and bedlam
The problem with the Iraqi account is that it makes no sense. Why would security guards deliberately create a dangerous situation so they could shoot up some Iraqis? It also does not take into account the car bomb that triggered the event.
The initial U.S. Embassy report on a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad involving Blackwater USA, a private security firm, depicts an afternoon of mayhem that included a car bomb, a shootout in a crowded traffic circle and an armed standoff between Blackwater guards and Iraqi security forces before the U.S. military intervened.
The two-page report, described by a State Department official as a "first blush" account from the scene, raises new questions about what transpired in the intersection. According to the report, the events that led to the shooting involved three Blackwater units. One of them was ambushed near the traffic circle and returned fire before fleeing the scene, the report said. Another unit that went to the intersection was then surrounded by Iraqis and had to be extricated by the U.S. military, it added.
Separately, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said that participants in the shooting have reported that at least one of the Blackwater guards drew a weapon on his colleagues and screamed for them to "stop shooting." This account suggested that there was some effort to curb the shooting, with at least one Blackwater guard believing it had spiraled out of control. "Stop shooting -- those are the words that we're hearing were used," the official said.
According to the report, which was obtained by The Washington Post, the incident occurred shortly after noon as three Blackwater teams moved to escort one "principal" back to Baghdad's Green Zone. The official had been visiting a "financial compound" when a car bomb detonated about 25 yards outside the entrance, the report said.
Two of the Blackwater teams returned to the Green Zone with the official, who was apparently unharmed. But the third team came under fire from "8-10 persons" who "fired from multiple nearby locations, with some aggressors dressed in civilian apparel and others in Iraqi police uniforms," the report said.
The report, which is designated sensitive but unclassified, differs significantly from the account of the Iraqi Interior Ministry and several witnesses interviewed at the scene. According to those accounts, the Blackwater guards moved into the traffic circle in a convoy of armored vehicles, halting traffic and then firing on a white sedan that had failed to slow down as it entered the area. The car burst into flames, killing the occupants, according to these accounts. The Blackwater team then unleashed a barrage of fire into the surrounding area as people tried to flee in the pandemonium.
Sarhan Thiab, a traffic policeman who was in the circle at the time, said Iraqi police did not fire on Blackwater. "Not a single bullet. They were the only ones shooting," said Thiab, who said he and other traffic officers fled to nearby bushes once the shooting began.
"All the vehicles were shooting. They were shooting in every direction," said a senior Iraqi police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. "They used a rocket launcher or grenade launcher to hit the car. They were supported by two helicopters who were shooting from the air."
One of the keys to the event is contained in this piece of the report. "... the third team came under fire from "8-10 persons" who "fired from multiple nearby locations, with some aggressors dressed in civilian apparel and others in Iraqi police uniforms...." It highlights how the enemy's war crime of camouflaging themselves as civilians endangers all civilians. Camouflaging themselves as Iraqi police is for a similar effect meant to cause confusion and hesitation in responding to enemy attacks. The media has consistently failed to even acknowledge this enemy war crime in Iraq and its effect on civilian casualties.
Douglas Mac Kinnon speaks up for the men in black and against the media rush to judgment.