Posts Tagged ‘Baghdad’

Another Lawsuit Targets Founder of Blackwater

September 17, 2009

by Bill Sizemore, The Virgin-Pilot, Sep 16, 2009

Yet another civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater guards of driving through the streets of Baghdad randomly shooting innocent Iraqis.

[Grilled by the politicans ... Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: AFP)]Grilled by the politicans … Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: AFP)

The latest case accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personally directing murders from a 24-hour remote monitoring “war room” at the private military company’s Moyock, N.C., headquarters.

Prince “personally directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army… to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians,” alleges the suit, filed by four Iraqi citizens.

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Iraqis rejoice as US troops leave Baghdad

June 30, 2009

The Raw Story, June 29, 2009

By Agence France-Presse

Iraq’s security forces were Monday on high alert in Baghdad as US troops finalised their withdrawal from the conflict-hit nation’s urban areas, an event to be marked by a massive party in the capital.

The US pullout, under a bilateral security accord signed last year, will be completed on Tuesday, which has been declared a national holiday.

In the wake of several massive bombings that have killed more than 200 people this month, soldiers and police were out in force in Baghdad.

All leave for security forces personnel has been cancelled in a reflection of the threat of attacks, and motorcycles, the favoured transport of several recent bombers, have been banned from the streets.

“Our expectation is that maybe some criminals will try to continue their attacks,” said Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the interior ministry’s operations director and spokesman.

“That is why orders came from the highest level of the prime minister that our forces should be 100 percent on the ground until further notice.”

On Monday, the former defence ministry building in the capital, taken over in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, was handed back to the Iraqi government.

“This marks the end of the rule of the multinational force,” said General Abboud Qambar, commander of Baghdad Operation Command, the central headquarters for the Iraqi security forces.

Festivities to mark “a day of national sovereignty” were to start at 6 pm (1500 GMT) in Zawra Park, the biggest in the capital, with singers and poets kicking off proceedings before music groups take to the stage.

From July 1, Iraq’s security forces will take sole charge of security in the country’s cities, towns and villages.

In the first reaction from Iraq’s dominant Shiite Muslim community, Sheikh Ali Bashir al-Najafi, one of the country’s four supreme religious leaders, said the US withdrawal was a significant sign of progress.

“It is a step we hope to follow up by other steps to achieve independence and stability of the country, and it is a real test of the efficiency of the security forces to shoulder their responsibilities,” he told AFP.

“Iraq will after this day be just like many other Arab countries where there is the presence of foreign troops organised according to agreements signed between the country and the government of those forces.”

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned earlier this month that insurgent groups and militias were likely to step up attacks in the run-up to the June 30 deadline in a bid to undermine confidence in Iraq’s own security forces.

There have been several large bombings since, the deadliest of which came in the northern city of Kirkuk on June 20, when a truck loaded with explosives was detonated, leaving 72 people dead and more than 200 wounded.

The toll from a bomb in a market five days ago in the Shiite district of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad was also bloody, killing at least 62 and wounding 150.

But Maliki and senior government officials have since insisted that Iraq’s 750,000 soldiers and police can defend the nation against attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and forces loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Only a small number of US forces in training and advisory roles will remain in urban areas, with the bulk of American troops in Iraq, 131,000 according to Pentagon figures, quartered elsewhere.

The June 30 withdrawal is the prelude to a complete American pullout by the end of 2011.

Although the Iraqi police and army remain fledgling forces, they have in recent months steadily taken control of military bases, checkpoints and patrols that used to be manned by Americans.

Iraq has also set up a joint operations centre — the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee, based at Baghdad airport — which must give its approval before a US unit can intervene.

The Status of Forces Agreement, which set the pullback deadline, says US commanders must seek permission from Iraqi authorities to conduct operations, but American troops retain a unilateral right to “legitimate self-defence”.

POLITICS: Why Its Iraqi “Client” Blocked U.S. Long-Term Presence

September 3, 2008

Analysis by Gareth Porter |  IPS News, Sep 1, 2008

WASHINGTON,- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signaled last week that that all U.S. troops — including those with non-combat functions — must be out of the country by the end of 2011 under the agreement he is negotiating with the George W. Bush administration.

That pronouncement, along with other moves indicating that the Iraqi position was hardening rather than preparing for a compromise, appeared to doom the Bush administration’s plan to leave tens of thousands of military support personnel in Iraq indefinitely. The new Iraqi moves raise the obvious question of how a leader who was considered a safe U.S. client could have defied his patron on such a central U.S. strategic interest.

Al-Maliki declared Aug. 25 that the U.S. had agreed that “no foreign soldiers will be in Iraq after 2011”. A Shiite legislator and al-Maliki ally, Ali al-Adeeb, told the Washington Post that only the Iraqi government had the authority under the agreement to decide whether conditions were conducive to a complete withdrawal. He added that the Iraqi government “could ask the Americans to withdraw before 2011 if we wish.”

It was also reported that al-Maliki has replaced his negotiating team with three of his closest advisers.

These moves blindsided the Bush administration, which had been telling reporters that a favourable agreement was close. The Washington Post reported Aug. 22 and again Aug. 26 that the agreement on withdrawal would be “conditions-based” and would allow the United States to keep tens of thousands of non-combat troops in the country after 2011.

The administration had assumed going into the negotiations that al-Maliki would remain a U.S. client for a few years, because of the Iraqi government’s dependence on the U.S. military to build a largely Shiite Iraqi army and police force and defeat the main insurgent threats to his regime.

But that dependence has diminished dramatically over the past two years as Iraqi security forces continued to grow, the Sunni insurgents found refuge under U.S. auspices and the Shiites succeeded in largely eliminating Sunni political-military power from the Baghdad area. As a result, the inherent conflicts between U.S. interests and those of the Shiite regime have been become more evident.

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The NYT Finds Heroes in Tbilisi – In Baghdad, Only Terrorists

August 15, 2008

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By: Laura Flanders Tuesday August 12, 2008 3:45 pm
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The New York Times ran a feature August 12, on Georgian civilians who’ve joined the fight against the Russian invasion of that former Soviet republic. The story, by Nicholas Kulish and Michael Schwirtz is full of empathy and heart.

Nika Kharadze and Giorgi Monasalidze went to war last week, the Times report begins, “even though they were not warriors.”

It goes on to describe how the men’s parents have been searching for them ever since. They’ve gone from hospital to hospital, to the local and International Red Cross. Mom and dad even asked the cellphone company to trace the last known location of their son’s phone. No luck.

And then there’s this line: as parts of the country fell before the Russian invaders, the Times writes, “it was not only the army that rose in its defense but also regular citizens.” Resistance, we learn, was part of a tradition, inscribed in local history and culture going back to “medieval times.”

To make the point, the writers describe a government employee, standing under a statue of Stalin in the city’s main square with a rifle slung over his civilian clothes. The man is part of a group of a dozen locals who tell the reporter they’re there to defend their town.

The story also describes displacement caused by bombing. “The planes came in and they started to bomb. The ground was covered with dead people, and there was nowhere to go,” says Goderzi Zenashvili, 48. “The people that died, they died from their houses falling in on them, from the shrapnel and from concussions.”

So now we know! The New York Times can do it when they want to. They can paint a picture of war that’s hard to shake: heroic, hapless young men who take up arms to defend their homelands; moms and dads and lovers worried sick. The Times can explain how invading armies provoke righteous resistance.

But they didn’t – not when it was Baghdad instead of Tbilisi, and the statue Saddam’s, not Stalin’s. Then, local people in resistance were called dead enders, killers, terrorists. Because of course — here’s the difference: then the resisters were the enemy and the invaders were – are – us.

The F Word is a daily commentary by Laura Flanders

U.S. mercenaries in Iraq

July 9, 2008

Jeremy Scahill | Socialist Worker, July 9, 2008

Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist and author of the award-winning book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, spoke at Socialism 2008 on the spread of privatized war corporations and the struggle against them.

Blackwater's heavily armed security forces

I GAVE a talk the other day in San Francisco in front of an audience primarily of military people. I was invited by the Marines’ Memorial Association of San Francisco, and I was actually introduced by Major Gen. Mike Myatt, who was one of the commanders of the 1991 Gulf War.

This was hardly an antiwar crowd, but as an indication of how serious the problem of mercenaries and private forces in Iraq has become, many from within the established military are now starting to speak out about it.

So I was honored to be in a room full of people, regardless of their perspective on the war, who take this issue seriously enough to do something about it–who realize that this is an incredible problem. We didn’t share the same global outlook and certainly not the same opinion about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but on this issue, we’re hearing more and more voices coming from the established military.

Series: From Socialism 2008

Some 1,000 people from across the U.S. gathered for a weekend of left politics and discussion at the Socialism 2008 conference on June 19-22 in Chicago. SocialistWorker.org will be publishing some of the presentations from the weekend, so stay tuned for more.

I’m going to spend time talking about what’s at stake not just with mercenaries in Iraq, but also with the election. But I want to begin by telling a story that makes up part of a substantial investigation I did for the update of my book Blackwater. I have over 110 new pages of material in this book, and I also went through and substantially updated it based on some of the important investigations that have been conducted and are ongoing into Blackwater’s activity.

I open the book with a new investigation of an incident that I know everyone in this room remembers well–the Nisour Squre shootings last September. What I want to do right now is begin by giving you a narrative overview of what exactly happened there–what we understand from eyewitness testimony and from investigations that have been done. Because it really is a horrifying story. I think it’s important not just that we know that Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians, but the nature of that crime, and what the response of the Bush administration was after it.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ON THAT morning of September 16, 2007, a young 20-year-old Iraqi medical student, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed, was with his mother and father. Ahmed was driving; his mother Mohassin was in the passenger seat. They dropped off his father at the local hospital where he worked, and then they went to go run some errands.

What else to read

Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army climbed into the New York Times best-seller list on its release. Now the book has been republished in paperback, with indispensable additional materials.

Scahill documents Blackwater’s latest venture, a private spy company run by the shadowy J. Cofer Black, in “Blackwater’s Private Spies” in the Nation. Scahill’s “Blackwater: From the Nisour Square Massacre to the Future of the Mercenary Industry” is an extended interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

For more on the rise of the mercenaries, see “Blackwater’s Heart of Darkness” in the International Socialist Review, an article based on an earlier speech by Scahill.

Among the errands that they were running was dropping off college applications for Ahmed’s younger sister. This was an extraordinary family. They very much had medicine in their DNA; they were a family of doctors. They had an opportunity to leave Iraq when the U.S. invasion was imminent, but they ultimately decided as a family that they were going to stay in their country, because they felt that more than ever in the history of their nation, the country was going to need doctors because of the incredible violence and bloodshed that was going to be unleashed. So they stayed in Iraq.

Ahmed and his mother were driving, and they pulled into an area of Baghdad known as the Monsour district. I had been there many times in my travels to Iraq. It used to be an upscale section of the city, where there were markets and cafes and restaurants. Now it’s a hollow shell of its former self.

Continued . . .


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