Special report: Tension escalates in
Blackwater security contractors inspect the site of a roadside bomb in central Baghdad. (AFP File Photo)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Sept. 16 shooting
incident involving the private security firm Blackwater USA has stirred anger in
Iraq and an uproar in the United States.
According to a report by the Washington Post on
Friday, even U.S. military reports indicated that Blackwater guards opened fire
without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians.
Immediately after the killing incident, the Iraqi
Interior Ministry launched an investigation and asserted that Blackwater
security guards were at fault in the incident in Nisoor Square in western
Baghdad, where at least 11 Iraqi civilians were killed.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki went as far as
saying that the shooting amounted to a challenge to Iraq's sovereignty and the
security firm should leave the country, although the Iraqi government later
backed off its pledge to ban the private security firm.
The shooting incident also stirred an uproar back in
the United States as the House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to make
all private security contractors in Iraq and other combat zones subject to
prosecution by U.S. courts.
The bill was overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 389
to 30 as the first major legislation of its kind to be approved since the deadly
shootout took place.
U.S. military official was quoted as saying that "The
(Iraqi) civilians that were fired upon, they didn't have any weapons to fire
back at them. And none of the IP (Iraqi Police) or any of the local security
forces fired back at them."
"They (Blackwater guards) tend to overreact to a lot
of things. They maneuver around town very aggressively, they've got weapons
pointed at people ... When it comes to shooting and firing, they tend to shoot
quicker than others," the official said.
Under pressure, the U.S. State Department said Friday
it would send its own personnel as monitors on all Blackwater security convoys
in and around Baghdad, and would also install video cameras in Blackwater
armored vehicles to produce a record of all operations that could be used in
investigations of the use of force by private security contractors.
However, the House bill faces an uncertain future as
the White House has signaled unhappiness with it and President George W. Bush
may not sign it to become law. What is more, it remains unclear whether the
State Department has the will to effectively monitor the often arrogant security
There have been calls from the Congress to bring
those responsible in the shooting incident to justice.
"The secretary still needs to address the essential
question of accountability: How will rogue individuals who commit criminal acts
be brought to justice?" Rep. David Price, who sponsored the bill, said in a
According to a report by the New York Times on
Friday, it would be extremely unlikely and difficult to prosecute the Blackwater
security guards even if the bill was adopted.
Shortly after the occupation of Iraq in 2003, the
American administrator, Paul Bremer, issued a decree granting immunity to
American military and civilian personnel, including private security guards,
from criminal prosecution in Iraqi courts and the decree is still effective even
as the Iraqi government has taken over authority from the United States.
As a result, Iraqi courts would be powerless to
prosecute the security guards, and it is also highly unlikely for American
prosecutors to conduct extensive investigations under dangerous circumstances in
Iraq, and bring evidence and witnesses back to the United States, the New York
Times report said.
Therefore, it is highly likely that the Blackwater
security guards will remain free in Iraq.
Observers pointed out that after the Iraq war, the
United States has been suffering from a severe image crisis in Iraq as sandals
concerning U.S. troops were exposed one after another. However, the United
States has been slow or reluctant to prosecute those involved in the scandals.
They added that if the U.S. government maintains the
criminal immunity the Americans enjoy in Iraq and fails to bring those
responsible to justice, its reputation in Iraq will continue to get worse.
Blackwater defends its operation in
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Blackwater, a U.S. private
security company which was involved in a shooting incident last month leaving
many Iraqis dead, defended its operation in Iraq on Tuesday. Full story
FBI to send team to Iraq to
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) said on Monday that it will send a team to Iraq to review
the role of a U.S. private security contractor which was involved into a
shooting last month, leaving nearly a dozen Iraqis dead. Full story