Thursday, November 15, 2007
Surely, nobody was surprised to learn that an ongoing FBI investigation has determined that at least 14 of the 17 slayings of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater agents in Baghdad on September 16 were unjustified and violated U.S. rules covering security contractors in Iraq. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Justice Department had opened an inquiry to see if indictments were warranted, even while the FBI probe continues. The shootings prompted strong protests from the Iraqi government, including threats to bar Blackwater personnel from the country, and inspired the House of Representatives to pass legislation imposing criminal liability on military contractors who may be immune from such sanctions under U.S.-imposed rules covering the Iraq conflict. But what is surprising is the speed and seriousness with which the U.S. government has handled this incident, one of dozens involving military contractors operating in Iraq. Maybe all the pressure brought by the Democratic majority in Congress and the growing Republican opposition is having an effect on the conduct of the war.