Blackwater Massacres in Iraq Result in Civil Law Suits

By Kenneth J. Theisen

 
In civil lawsuits filed last week, injured civilians and families of Iraqis killed in two massacres in Baghdad by Blackwater mercenaries sued the company and founder Erik Prince. The lawsuits were brought in federal courts located in California. The lawsuits claim that several Blackwater defendants (now operating as Xe and other companies under the control of Prince) demonstrated “a pattern and practice of recklessness in the use of deadly force.”
 
The first case was brought by the family of Iraqi teacher Sa’ad Raheem Jarallah who was killed by Blackwater personnel near Al Watahba Square while in Baghdad on school business on Sept. 9, 2007. The lawsuit contends that Blackwater “shooters” fired, “without justification, on a crowd of innocent Iraqi persons in and around Al Watahba Square resulting in multiple deaths and injuries.” The complaint continues, “This senseless slaughter … was only one in a series of recent incidents in Blackwater’s lengthy pattern of egregious misconduct in Iraq resulting in the deaths of innocent Iraqis.”

The second case involves another Blackwater multiple civilian shooting – the infamous Sept. 16, 2007 Nisoor Square massacre which killed 17 people and resulted in criminal prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice against Blackwater personnel. One Blackwater employee has pled guilty. He admitted that Blackwater personnel were not protecting diplomats or being threatened and that they intentionally killed innocents after ignoring orders to stay in the International Zone by the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office.

The 15 suing plaintiffs include the estates of 12-year-old Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, who was shot while riding in a car with his father, who also was killed, and his mother, who was injured; numerous men and women who were in or around Nisoor Square; and two Baghdad police officers, whose attempts to stop the killing allegedly were ignored by Blackwater personnel.

According to the complaint, “Xe- Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.”

In the lawsuits, the defendants are accused of committing war crimes, assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and tortious spoliation of evidence. The complaint also includes allegations of drug use and cover-ups of illegal conduct by Xe – Blackwater personnel.
 
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys is Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Katherine Gallagher. She stated, “The Iraqi victims of Xe - Blackwater’s unlawful actions have come to U.S. courts in search of justice. Justice begins with accountability, and private military contractors must be held accountable when they shoot innocent people.” Unfortunately the U.S. government which hired these mercenaries has yet to be held accountable.
 
Another of the attorneys, Susan L. Burke charged, “These deaths are part of a pattern of illegal Xe – Blackwater shootings around the globe known to company management. With the litany of civilian shootings by Xe – Blackwater personnel, the company has created, fostered and refused to curb a culture of lawlessness and unaccountability.”
 
Blackwater was one of many “contractors” hired by the U.S. government to assist in its war on the Iraqi people. Mercenary companies such as Blackwater are an integral part of the U.S. war machine in its war of terror. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. has employed hundreds of thousands of “contractors.” Many of these are armed mercenaries composed of former military personnel. Others were employed at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run hellholes to assist in torture of detainees. The employment of contractors has many benefits. Such a practice allows the U.S. to “hide” the total number of forces deployed in the invaded countries. It also allows the government to reward its friends with lucrative contracts and the chance to commit outright fraud. 
 
These lawsuits are one step to hold civilian contractors and their employees accountable for their reprehensible actions. But we also need to hold high government officials, such as the former president and his criminal cohorts, accountable for their actions in Iraq and elsewhere. They initiated the war in Iraq and are responsible for a million deaths and other war crimes. Justice will not have been done until they sit in a criminal docket and are sentenced.
 
The complaints in these lawsuits can be viewed at:
·                     3.26.09 Al Razzaq v. Xe-Blackwater - Complaint.pdf
·                     3.27.09 Complaint in Jarallah v. Xe-Blackwater.pdf