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.
At present, there is only one remaining legal case against Blackwater in the United States: the lawsuit brought on by Mohammed Khanani, the father of nine year old Ali Khanani, who was shot and killed by Blackwater forces at Nisour Square. According to Big Noise Films, “Ali’s father may well be the one man now standing between Blackwater and total impunity for the Nisour Square massacre.”
Through the personal account of a father who continues to mourn the loss of his son, Blackwater’s Youngest Victim compels viewers to think deeply and critically about the foundational sins of both administrations in the war on terror, the relentless and indiscriminate nature of its actions and policies, and the distance between its real and declared aims.
A trailer for Blackwater’s Youngest Victim can be seen here, and the film can be purchased by clicking on this link to Big Noise Films: