Iraqis not surprised by US pardon of Blackwater killers

The four men were guarding a convoy of bulletproof vehicles and allegedly opened fire at random with machine guns and grenade launchers on the crowd of civilians.

Protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (photo credit: REUTERS)
Protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump pardoned the four former American security contractors convicted in US federal court in the 2007 killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including two children, in Baghdad.
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They were part of a wave of pardons issued Tuesday by Trump, made in the final days of his presidency.
The four men, employees of the private military company Blackwater Security Consulting (now Academi), were escorting a US embassy convoy when they fired into a crowd of Iraqis, killing 17 and wounding 20.
Blackwater guards later said the convoy was ambushed and that they fired at the attackers, but an FBI investigation found that at least 14 of the slain were shot without cause.
Nicholas Slatten, one of the pardoned men, was serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for first-degree murder. Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard had been sentenced to between 12 years and 15 years for manslaughter.
Dr. Khalid Al Yaqoobi, an Iraqi politician and former adviser on national security to the Federal Government of Iraq, told The Media Line that ordinary Iraqis are no longer interested in the affair, because of the great problems they face in their day-to-day lives.
“Also, they are losing hope for a better life amid the current political process in Iraq that is almost reaching its end,” Al Yaqoobi said.
Iraq is preparing for early elections, planned for June, amid concerns over past voting fraud and myriad political, security and economic challenges.
Asked about the Iraqi government’s position on the pardons, Al Yaqoobi said it was more concerned with the nation’s difficult internal situation.
He added, however, that the political class in the country would try to exploit Trump’s decision “as usual, via political blackmail.”
The four men were guarding a convoy of bulletproof vehicles and allegedly opened fire at random with machine guns and grenade launchers on the crowd of civilians. The Nisour Square massacre sparked an international protest against hiring mercenaries during wartime.
Othman al-Mukhtar, a writer for The New Arab news website, told The Media Line this was not the first time Iraqis were disappointed over the response to crimes committed by Americans since the 2003 US-led invasion.
“I think that the new decision constitutes a continuation of racism in dealing with Iraqi blood by American administrations, and it is very strange that Trump was so late with the decision,” he said.
Iraqis have not forgotten the other massacres committed by Americans in Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib Prison, “and the crime of rape of the child Abeer al-Janabi, and then burning her with her parents” in 2006, Mukhtar said. “In addition, there was the execution of unarmed civilians in a mosque in Fallujah in 2004, leading to the Nisour massacre.”
Mukhtar pointed out that Iraqis were facing similar crimes committed by pro-Iranian militias on a daily basis, “so I believe that the [Trump’s] decision will consolidate the idea of Washington being implicated in what happened to Iraq,” he said. “But they certainly consider the crimes taking place today as an extension of the American invasion of 2003.”
Those responsible for such crimes escaped justice, Mukhtar believes. “They were tried in theory only, or were sentenced with judgments that failed to be commensurate with the calamities they caused among Iraqi families,” he said.
Khalil Ibrahim Shaker, whose son was slain in 2003, told The Media Line that the international community and the United Nations Security Council must condemn the decision of the US president.
“We condemn and deplore Trump’s decision to pardon the murderers and thugs who created mayhem and shed Iraqi blood,” Shaker said.
He added that the American administration must compensate the families of every victim proven to be killed by the US military, “including my son Mahmoud, who was martyred in 2003 at the age of 12, without any guilt. He was killed by the American army in cold blood, and it’s proven by his death certificate that he was a martyr of war.”
It was a shame that the American president viewed the Arab nation as weak, Shaker said. “He’s trying in every way to enslave and despise its people, but this will not happen,” he said.
Dr. Naser Alfahdawy, an academic at the College of Islamic Studies at the University of Baghdad, told The Media Line the US has continued to show the Iraqi people its ugly face by violating humanitarian standards in “granting immunity to gangs from private security companies, and acquitting the perpetrators of the crime of genocide against the defenseless Iraqi people in Nisour Square, in front of the entire world.”
Alfahdawy added that Blackwater was not only military contractor working in Iraq, as dozens of foreign security companies had operated in the country, and they had their own union, the Private Security Company Association of Iraq (PSCAI).
“The number of security companies operating in Iraq at that time reached more than 70 companies, with about 100,000-120,000 mercenaries employed by the United States of America,” he said. “The killing business was opened widely for them, to create a spirit of defeatism and intimidation among the Iraqi people.”
The PSCAI disbanded in December 2011.
The pardon decision revealed the true face of the “fake democracy that the US used to deceive public opinion and mislead the world, all the while claiming it aimed to spread democracy in Iraq and establish the foundations of justice,” he said.
“This unjust amnesty decision contradicts all the scales of justice. A free people aspires to be free from dictatorship and the injustice of Iran’s gangs,” Alfahdawy said.