January 10, 2008 | Filed Under War
When Blackwater Is In the News, It’s Always Bad
If corporate headquarters over at Blackwater had half a brain, they’d try and clean up Blackwater’s act from here on out. More of Blackwater’s Iraq atrocities are coming to light and they aren’t sitting very well with Americans. One afternoon, in the “Green Zone” that is typically flooded with Iraqi civilians, drivers and U.S. military personnel, the knuckleheads at Blackwater decided to release a nerve agent (e.g. via the Chemical Weapons — “WMDs” that made former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein so dangerous) in the area.
Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.
“This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. “It’s not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness.”
The use of nerve gas in a highly reckless manner versus an enemy during a skirmish or surge of sorts is one thing. But using it on or near civilians and U.S. military personnel? No, No, NO. These guys need to be reigned in, has Blackwater even left Iraq after their government demanded they leave? My guess is no.
None of the American soldiers exposed to the chemical, which is similar to tear gas, required medical attention, and it is not clear if any Iraqis did. Still, the previously undisclosed incident has raised significant new questions about the role of private security contractors in Iraq, and whether they operate under the same rules of engagement and international treaty obligations that the American military observes.
“You run into this issue time and again with Blackwater, where the rules that apply to the U.S. military don’t seem to apply to Blackwater,” said Scott L. Silliman, the executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at the Duke University School of Law.
Sure, Blackwater has a good reason for its actions? There must be a good excuse or defense, right? Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, said the CS gas had been released by mistake.
“Blackwater teams in the air and on the ground were preparing a secure route near a checkpoint to provide passage for a motorcade,” Ms. Tyrrell said in an e-mail message. “It seems a CS gas canister was mistaken for a smoke canister and released near an intersection and checkpoint.”
She said that the episode was reported to the United States Embassy in Baghdad, and that the embassy’s chief security officer and the Department of Defense conducted a full investigation. The troops exposed to the gas also said they reported it to their superiors. But military officials in Washington and Baghdad said they could not confirm that an investigation had been conducted. Officials at the State Department, which contracted with Blackwater to provide diplomatic security, also could not confirm that an investigation had taken place.
Read the full story: “2005 Use of Gas by Blackwater Leave Questions“
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