May 26, 2010 § Leave a Comment
On the evening of May 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Jeremy Scahill’s brave new documentary, Blackwater’s Youngest Victim. The film, which is a collaborative effort by Scahill and Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films, tells the story of nine year old Ali Khanani, who was shot by Blackwater mercenaries on September 16, 2007 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Nisour Square is considered to be the highest profile deadly incident involving Blackwater–or any private war contractor. The government’s case against five former Blackwater security guards charged with manslaughter and firearms violations in the Nisour Square incident was supposed to finally hold private security companies accountable for their alleged crimes. However, earlier this year, federal court judge Ricardo Urbina decided to dismiss that case. Rather than focusing on the evidence that existed against these men, Urbina based his decision for dismissal on the grounds that prosecutors in the case had committed gross misconduct and violated the constitutional rights of Blackwater men. The administration responded to the courts decision with assurances that the dismissal would be appealed, but legal analysts everywhere predict that the case is a losing battle. And, perhaps we should not be surprised given the administration’s painstakingly apparent contradictory agenda in both claiming that it wants to hold Blackwater accountable, while simultaneously maintaining Blackwater (now Xe) as a war contractor in what can only be described as the most privatized war in history. As Scahill’s ongoing reporting for The Nation suggests, the number of private contractors currently hired by the state has more than doubled under the Obama Administration.
January 1, 2010 § 1 Comment
In a notification filed on December 30th in a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department has announced that in addition to shifting prisoners from Bagram to a newly built facility nearby, the Pentagon also intends to demolish the original facility at Bagram. According to the notification, the Department of Defense will shift prisoners to the new facility by January 19th. Shortly thereafter, plans to demolish the Bagram facility will be put into effect.
According to an article in the Huffington Post on December 31st, Ramzi Kassem – a lawyer serving as counsel for several Guantanamo and Bagram detainees – has stated that the plan to demolish Bagram “amounts to destroying evidence in the cases of detainees who say they were tortured there.”
Kassem, also a law professor at City University of New York, maintains that Bagram ought to be preserved as evidence and as a crime scene. In Kassem’s view, the administration’s decision to demolish the facility can be read as an ”underhanded attempt” on the part of a government concerned with “covering its own tracks.”
December 22, 2009 § 2 Comments
During an interview with Riz Khan on December 21st Jeremy Scahill reported that the Obama administration has surpassed the Bush era’s privatization of war, having nearly doubled the number of security contractors in Afghanistan over the past several months. Amongst the contracting firms who remain in Afghanistan is Blackwater (now operating under the name XE) – a firm that Scahill describes as “one of the most powerful private actors in the so called War on Terror.“
In a series of reports for The Nation in November and December of 2009, Scahill revealed that “members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives” both inside and outside of Pakistan. Despite public indictments, Blackwater continues to work for the State Department without oversight.