NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Will Blackwater face Iraqi law?

NEWS: Will Blackwater face Iraqi law?
Iraqi authorities seek Blackwater ouster

Iraqi authorities want the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with Blackwater USA within six months. They also want the firm to pay $8 million in compensation to families of each of the 17 people killed when its guards sprayed a traffic circle with heavy machine gun fire last month.

The demands — part of an Iraqi government report examined by The Associated Press — also called on U.S. authorities to hand over the Blackwater security agents involved in the Sept. 16 shootings to face possible trial in Iraqi courts.

The tone of the Iraqi report appears to signal further strains between the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the White House over the deaths in Nisoor Square — which have prompted a series of U.S. and Iraqi probes and raised questions over the use of private security contractors to guard U.S. diplomats and other officials.

Al-Maliki ordered the investigation by his defense minister and other top security and police officials on Sept. 22. The findings — which were translated from Arabic by AP — mark the most definitive Iraqi positions and contentions about the shootings last month. [complete article]

Blackwater chief at nexus of military and business

Erik D. Prince, the crew-cut, square-jawed founder of Blackwater USA, the security contractor now at the center of a political storm in both Washington and Baghdad, is a man seemingly born to play a leading role in the private sector side of the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is both a former member of the Navy Seals and the scion of a fabulously wealthy, deeply religious family that is enmeshed in Republican Party politics. As a result, the 38-year-old Mr. Prince stands at the nexus between American Special Operations, which has played such a critical role in the war operations, and the nation’s political and business elite, who have won enormous government contracts as war operations have increasingly been outsourced.

Republican political connections ran deep in his family long before Mr. Prince founded Blackwater in 1997. When he was a teenager, religious conservative leaders like Gary Bauer, now the president of American Values, were house guests. James C. Dobson, the founder of the evangelical organization Focus on the Family, gave the eulogy at his father’s funeral in 1995. “Dr. and Mrs. Dobson are friends with Erik Prince and his mother, Elsa Broekhuizen,” Focus on the Family said in a statement. [complete article]

See also, Iraqis tell of guards’ reckless behavior (LAT) and State Dept. ignored Blackwater warnings (LAT).

Editor’s Comment — It has frequently been reported that Blackwater operates in Iraq with legal immunity. Now AP reports that the Iraqi government says otherwise:

It said Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq expired on June 2, 2006, meaning it had no immunity from prosecution under Iraqi laws set down after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

What’s Erik Prince’s response to that?

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