One of the perennial bad apples of American foreign policy is making a splash in the news again; a company formerly named Blackwater, and now known as Constellis Holdings. We’ve discussed Blackwater before and their alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict under what was their name at the time we wrote the article (Academi). This week marked the fifth week in the second trial of four Blackwater contractors charged with murdering 14 iraqi citizens in Baghdad in 2007.
In the first trial in 2009, five Blackwater security guards were indicted on manslaughter and weapons charges, and a sixth entered a plea deal to testify against his former colleagues. However, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court in Washington ruled that the government’s mishandling of the case “requires dismissal of the indictment against all the defendants.”
After the statute of limitations had expired on one of the defendants for the manslaughter charge, the government recharged four of the guards on murder charges, which have no statute of limitations but carry a much higher burden of proof. But, I digress.
According to State Department documents released for the first time during the trial, Blackwater’s top manager in Iraq threatened to kill a State Department investigator who was a member of a team investigating Blackwater’s operations in Iraq just before the incident with the Iraqi civilians. He went on to say that “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” The investigator reported the incident to the American Embassy.
So, how did Embassy officials respond? They sided with Blackwater, and told the investigators to leave the country, claiming that the investigators had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor. After returning to Washington, the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote a blistering report documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees. He also warned that lax oversight of the company had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”
So, what did the State Department do? They gave Blackwater more contracts, of course. Since that time, the State Department’s awarded over $1 billion in contracts to Blackwater/Xe/Academi/Constellis.
We don’t find the fact that the State Department’s still hiring these thugs to be surprising at all, to be honest. Besides supplying training and “security” for such things as our embassies, Blackwater/Xe/Academi/Constellis has always given the government a well trained private army that they can deny any responsibility for. This behavior on our government’s part is inexcusable, and it has to stop.