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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Iraq war logs: military privatisation run amok | Pratap Chatterjee | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Iraq war logs: military privatisation run amok | Pratap Chatterjee | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
The Wikileaks logs provide ample evidence of private security contractors entirely unaccountable for lethal rogue actions
The Wikileaks Iraq war logs bring to light previously unknown incidents involving military contractors like Blackwater, acting with legal immunity, which resulted in deaths of civilians during the occupation of Iraq. Photograph: Gervasio Sanchez/AP
Shortly after 10am on 14 May 2005, a convoy of private security guards from Blackwater riding down "Route Irish" – the Baghdad airport road – shot up a civilian Iraqi vehicle. While they were at it, the Blackwater men fired shots over the heads of a group of soldiers from the 69th Regiment of the US Army before they sped away heading west in their white armoured truck. When the dust cleared, the Iraqi driver was dead and his wife and daughter were injured.
A terse, 57-word dispatch in the Iraq war logs published by Wikileaks is the first public evidence of the shooting, as recorded by the US military.
The incident is one of several dozen "escalation of force" incidents involving private security companies in Iraq – which is military parlance for an unwarranted attack, almost all of which have never been previously reported. Blackwater, the company from Moyock, North Carolina, is responsible for about half of the attacks, closely followed by Erinys, a British private security company registered in the Virgin Islands, which seems to have an unusually high number of vehicle crashes.
On my four visits to Iraq in the last seven years, I learned quickly to steer clear of the fast-moving vehicles belonging to these private security companies. The men – sporting identical reflective wrap-around sunglasses, bullet-proof jackets – would aim their high-powered assault rifles and shout "Imshi" ("Move") at any vehicle that came within a 50m perimeter. Sometimes, they would throw plastic water bottles to shock pedestrians into staying away.
Easily the best-known private security company is Blackwater (recently renamed Xe), which rocketed to fame three years ago when four company security guards, escorting a convoy of US state department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad, opened fire in Nisour Square in Baghdad killing 17 Iraqi civilians. Yet, a query of the Iraq war logs for "Blackwater" or "Nisour Square" turns up nothing, at first.

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