Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blackwater Down


Justice: Once again, Americans asked to put their lives on the line go on trial. Their crime was doing the very job we asked them to do in Iraq. Will they now be sacrificed for an ungrateful Iraq?

On Tuesday, five members of a tactical support team of Blackwater Worldwide security guards in Iraq made their first appearance in U.S. District Court on charges ranging from voluntary manslaughter to the use of automatic weapons. The "crime" was protecting State Department personnel under fire in a war zone and firing back.

On Sept. 16, 2007, 18 members of the "Raven 23" team came under fire while responding to an attack on another Blackwater group transporting a State Department official. It was a typical mission under their contract. This freed up military personnel for combat.

To aid their comrades, Raven 23 had to take the most direct route, which took them through Baghdad's Nisour Square on their way to the Green Zone. As radio logs show, they came under fire while trying to set up a temporary roadblock through which their comrades could pass quickly and safely. They returned fire and when the firefight ceased 14 Iraqis were dead and 20 wounded.

To call this action "voluntary manslaughter in the commission of a crime" is a tragic joke. They were protecting State Department personnel in a war zone, as they were contracted to do. They had no reason or motive to show up in downtown Baghdad and start randomly shooting civilians.
According to testimony by Gen. David Petraeus before the Senate on April 8, 2008, there were about 790 attacks on Coalition Forces and diplomatic personnel that week. That comes out to about 112 a day, or more than four an hour. Blackwater personnel knew each day someone would try to kill them and those they were to protect.

But the Iraqis wanted their pound of flesh, and a U.S. government reeling from anti-war criticism was willing to make sacrificial lambs of Raven 23. They're being tried under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), which lets U.S. Courts punish Defense Department contractors overseas.

One small problem: Blackwater was under contract to the State Department, not the Defense Department.
Even though MEJA was amended to include actions "in support of" the DoD mission, Raven 23 was protecting State Department personnel. Simply, that wasn't the Defense Department's mission.

Amid the fog of war, security teams like Raven 23 have performed magnificently, freeing up U.S. troops to go after al-Qaida in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say the astounding success of the surge is due, in part, to the private security for U.S. diplomats Blackwater provided. It let the U.S. Marines focus on sending al-Qaida members, who were then making life in Iraq hell, to their just reward.

In a statement to Congress, then-Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte summed it up: "I personally was grateful for the presence of my Blackwater security detail, largely comprised of ex-Special Forces and other military, when I served as ambassador to Iraq. Their alert and controlled posture kept me safe, to get my job done."

Their critics forget another mission on March 31, 2004, when a convoy escorted by Blackwater personnel similarly came under fire during an ambush.

Four Blackwater employees were killed that day and their charred bodies hung from a Fallujah bridge. Gruesome photos of their mutilated bodies were printed in every major newspaper around the world and displayed on jihadist Web sites as a victory against the Great Satan.

Interestingly, their case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina. He's the same jurist who ordered Uighur terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay to be released on American streets. His justice is not only blind, it is politically correct.

Like U.S. Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, and the U.S. Marines charged with murder in a jihadist ambush in Haditha, Raven 23 is paying the price for political correctness.

They are being sacrificed to placate ungrateful and uncooperative allies and to please critics of the War in Iraq on the far left.

We think it's time to free the "Raven 23."

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