The American ambassador to Iraq spoke with remarkable frankness about Blackwater guards in an interview with reporters today.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker (pictured), considered one of the top professionals in the US Foreign Service, called the September 16 incident "horrific" but said he stands by the company.
Not only that, but he assumed personal responsibility for the Nisoor Square incident that left 17 Iraqis dead.
"Those guys guard my back. And I have to say they do it extremely well. I continue to have high regard for the individuals who work for Blackwater," Ambassador Crocker said in comments reported by the Associated Press.
Crocker said he personally bears final responsibility for the shooting.
"I'm the ambassador here, so I'm responsible," said Crocker. "Yes, I certainly do wish I'd had the foresight to see that there were things out there that could be corrected."
The ambassador grew "introspective" as journalists pressed him on the security company, AP says.
"I think about those things all the time. When I came here [in March], I started looking at different elements of this operation, and I changed a lot of things. I'm the guy who's responsible so I certainly wish I'd had the foresight or the insight to say 'We've got to get on this one [security contractors] right away.'
"Being as honest and frank with myself as I can," he told the reporters, he did not see the private security guard situation as "a disaster waiting to happen." He says that in hindsight he still sees no warning signs that could have anticipated the tragedy.
"And, indeed, I don't even make that connection that this was an accident waiting to happen," he says. "Something bad did happen and what we've got to do now, sobered by that, is then look at the whole thing and that's what we've done."