On September 16, 2007, employees of military contractor Blackwater USA opened fire in a Baghdad traffic circle called Nisoor Square. They killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy who was riding with his father. Many more were injured.
New evidence is expected to be introduced by U.S. prosecutors in the upcoming trial of the Blackwater security guards, who are facing charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations.
The guards’ defense is that they believed they were under hostile fire at the time. The trial is scheduled to begin in June.
Friday, in a court ruling, the Justice Department prosecutors stated they must be allowed to introduce further evidence that establishes the defendants’ motivation for the shootings.
“In the year leading up to the events of Sept. 16, 2007, several of the defendants harbored a low regard for and deep hostility toward the Iraqi civilian population, which they openly expressed to other Blackwater personnel,” the Justice Department filing stated.
“This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury … but rather that they unreasonably and recklessly fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their low regard for and hostility toward Iraqis,” the filing added.
What the prosecutions court filing indicates is that Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten stated he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as “payback for 9/11.” He allegedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had already shot, including an old Iraqi woman who was holding a knife. That incident occurred while Slatten was in the Army, the filing stated.
In many areas in Baghdad, Slatten intentionally fired his weapon to initiate return fire, thereby establishing gun battles in a manner that was against policies that governed Blackwater personnel in Iraq, the court filing said.
Four months prior to the Nisoor Square shootings, prosecution alleged that defendants Evan Liberty and Paul Slough had intentionally fired automatic weapons from a Blackwater armored vehicle without taking aim, and with disregard for who might be hit by the shots.
This blatant disregard for human life should be punished. This bloody incident illustrates the lack of proper oversight by the government in many military contracts and the difficulties associated with holding the companies and their employees accountable when crimes or misdeeds occur.
There have been many other allegations of abuses and illegal activities by Blackwater. Several of these examples follow the description of the Nisoor Square shooting incident.