The New York Times has an article this morning detailing at least part of the incident involving Blackwater contractors that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 24 more. Reading the article requires a strong stomach and I feel some of the images will linger with me for a while.
Trying to formulate my thoughts on the article really invokes the fog of war. There is no evidence of anyone firing on the Blackwater convoy other than the company’s own protestations – but this does not mean they were not being fired upon. The incident appears to have begun when a bullet, fired by the convoy (for no identified reason, perhaps one of there “road clearing” bullets gone astray), struck a driver in the head – probably killed instantly, his foot remained on the accelerator, and the convoy opened full fire as the car continued to approach them. It appears that the convoy then started firing all around as Iraqis, stuck in their cars, tried to flee.
There appears to be very little accountability for Blackwater or other contractors in Iraq. While the Congressional hearings are a good step, I have little confidence they will result in any substantive changes. What many people fail to realize is that President Bush and others are fighting a large part of this war with private forces, avoiding the political consequences of over 300,000 soldiers in Iraq (if we could even muster that many at this point).
Furthermore, the Iraqis don’t differentiate between the acts of contractors and the acts of soldiers – they are all Americans. If we are to be successful in Iraq, by any measure, we need a wholesale change in tactics and a revision of our forces. The “surge” is not an avenue to success, it is simply a bandage meant to cover the festering wound until Mr. Bush leaves office.
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