Trigger-happy mercenaries (Australians this time) murdered two Iraqi women today as reported by WaPo:
According to preliminary reports by Iraqi police, the guards who opened fire on Tuesday were escorting a convoy of four vehicles through the Karrada neighborhood. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said officials were looking into the shooting.
The women's white Oldsmobile, riddled with bullets across the hood and window, was seen by a Washington Post reporter outside the Karrada police station after the shooting.
Relatives of the victims who gathered at Karrada identified the two slain women as Armenian Orthodox Christians living in Baghdad. The driver, Marony O'Hanis, was born in 1958, and the front-seat passenger was Geneva Jalal Entranic, who was born in 1977, relatives said.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is demanding that the State Department show Blackwater the exit sign within 6 months, and that the company pay 8 million dollars in damages to each of the families of the 17 murdered Iraqis. The Sydney Morning Herald has details:
A report issued by the Iraqi Government, which calls on the US Government to end its relationship with the controversial security firm within six months, is set to further raise tensions between the Government of the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the White House.
The report said the compensation - totalling $US136 million - was so high "because Blackwater uses employees who disrespect the rights of Iraqi citizens even though they are guests in this country".
The Iraqi Government has called on US authorities to hand over the Blackwater security agents involved in the shootings to face possible trial in Iraqi courts and has disputed US claims that a law agreed to in 2004 grants the Blackwater guards immunity.
The Iraqi Government would now take "judicial measures to punish the company", the statement said.
The US embassy was tight-lipped on whether those involved in the killings would be handed over for prosecution in a case that has thrown the spotlight on the murky world of private security operators in Iraq.
This Iraqi government's moves against Blackwater represent a major test of whether the country is in fact sovereign or is simply an American protectorate. Any sovereign country has the right to try private citizens from other countries who are accused of acts of murder in its judicial system. They also should have the right to expel any corporate entity they determine is unfit to operate in their country. We will have to see over the next few weeks whether the intense pressure the administration is no doubt applying will cause the Iraqi government to back down on these demands. If that happens it will be a clear demonstration that the Iraqi government is far from the sovereign, independent entity that the Bush administration claims it is.
It's a fine mess that Bush and Cheney's headlong rush into privatizing military operations has gotten us into. Of course, none of this had to happen if we had fought this war solely with the fine members of our US armed forces. Our military is far more disciplined and better trained than the ragtag militias that companies like Blackwater have been able to scrape together. These types of incidents would be much less likely to happen if our troops were doing these jobs.
Of course, that would defeat the entire purpose of using mercenary armies in the first place. That purpose is to circumvent the political opposition to the waging of unnecessary and unpopular wars overseas by using hired mercenaries instead of American soldiers. It's even better if those mercenaries are Australian, South African, Chilean or Honduran as many of them are. This makes the waging of wars far more palatable to the American people since we don't have as many of our troops at risk than we otherwise would have.
As part of the process of taking back our government from the warmongering neocons, the American people should demand that we reverse the trend in outsourcing military operations to hired thugs like those of Blackwater USA. Not only are these mercenary outfits damaging our efforts in Iraq by spreading ill will toward America among the Iraqi people, but they represent a direct threat to our own rule of law here in the US. This mad rush by the right-wing to privatize everything in sight has gone far enough.
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