Christmas Eve 2006 in Baghdad’s Green Zone an off-duty Blackwater employee shot and killed Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s personal bodyguard. Seven months later the contractor is still free and has not been charged with any crime. This story received little media coverage. Partly because Abdul-Mahdi assured the U.S. ambassador that he would try to keep it from public attention.
In February during a Congressional hearing the large room filled to capacity went silent when Rep. Dennis Kucinich asked Blackwater USA’s general counsel Andrew Howell if he was aware of the shooting. Mr. Howell replied that he was aware of it and that Blackwater had brought the individual “back to the United States.”
A recent article by Bill Sizemore, published in the Virginian-Pilot, provides additional insight into the incident with memos secured through use of the Freedom of Information Act. His article cites U.S. State Department memos that reveal an effort to keep this murder from the citizens.
According to a January 8th memo from the U.S. Embassy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Abdul-Mahdi told then U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that
he had tried to keep the issue from the public eye and had not disclosed to the press the nationality of the suspect.
The U.S. Ambassador assured the Iraqi Vice President that the U.S. government “was undertaking an investigation” and that the Embassy was working with the company to “achieve an adequate offer of compensation.”
The memo also provided the Vice Presidents’ response,
“Abdul-Mahdi said that justice was even more important than compensation noting that Iraqis would not understand how a foreigner could kill an Iraqi and return a free man to his own country.”
Gary Jackson Blackwater President said that to the best of his knowledge the shooting is still being investigated. Mr. Jackson told Mr. Sizemore that “the shooter was flown home at the direction of the U.S. government.”
This incident highlights the lack of control and oversight our government has over the 140,000 private contractors in Iraq. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Price of North Carolina, and over 15 other legislators have co-sponsored the Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007 (HR 369) that requires accountability for personnel performing private security functions under Federal contracts, and for other purposes.
For now it remains as it was last year when Rep. Dennis Kucinich asked Pentagon officials under oath if the US Department of Defense would prosecute a private contractor who murdered Iraqi civilians. He was told repeatedly,
“Sir, I can’t answer that question.” Finally Rep. Kucinich said: “Wow. Think about what that means. These private contractors can get away with murder…They aren’t subject to any laws at all.”