Reuters reported yesterday on a conference at New York University School of Law titled "Privatizing Defense: Blackwater, Contractors and American Security." Comparing the comments of various participants with the actual course of events is striking.
With regards to the deaths of 17 Iraqis in a shootout with Blackwater last September, Reuters cited the New York Times as reporting that "an FBI investigation... found at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified." Reuters cites Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, as going even further, claiming that a military investigation concluded all the deaths were the result of "unjustified and unprovoked fire."
In fact, the FBI's investigation, which began quite late, is still underway. Likewise, no military investigation has been concluded. So in spite of all their alleged journalistic training, Reuters jumps to conclusions, engaging in little more than rumor-mongering.
Who's account most closely matches the actual state of the investigation? Blackwater Vice President Marty Strong's. "Irrespective of The New York Times or any other newspaper saying they think they know what's going on, the FBI is going to complete an official investigation, not one done by the seat of the pants.... At that time we're going to find out exactly what they found out."
On nothing more than their own authority, Reuters reports that Blackwater has "operated with impunity." This runs contrary to the government's own affirmation only a few days ago that Blackwater and other private security contractors are accountable to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and has been unmistakably since 2006.
The suggestion from Scahill and others was that Blackwater's behavior has been irresponsible and unjustified. Though the quotation comes from elsewhere, these experts could easily have been the ones to ask Who drives against traffic in a traffic circle? The answer, quite simply, is the State Department and its contract, which stipulates the aggressive tactics that have made Blackwater famous. (Then again, who ever wrote a news article about all the quite missions going according to plan?)
In light of these trying circumstances, Marty Strong's explanation to the conference was as good as any: "I spent nine months in Iraq, it's a very difficult place."