The release by WikiLeaks late last week of 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq War has been said to be “…the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.” The revelations emerging from these documents showcase the culture of impunity that has plagued this war effort, including the U.S. government’s failure to adequately address rights violations linked to the corporations and contractors used to fight our wars.
As an August 22, 2006 report released by WikiLeaks stated
AFTER THE IED STRIKE A WITNESS REPORTS THE BLACKWATER EMPLOYEES FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY AT THE SCENE.
More than one year later, on September 16, 2007, Blackwater (now renamed Xe) guards, still benefiting from huge government contracts, shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. This is just one example of many that can be found in the leaked documents.
It is clear that the record of unjustified killings and violence by PSCs is far beyond what had previously been released to the public. As it stands, none of these incidents has resulted in prosecution, and even those cases that have moved forward have resulted in dismissal or failure to indict. Recently, a case against Andrew J. Moonen, a former Blackwater guard who was accused of killing a guard assigned to an Iraqi VP while wandering drunk in the Green Zone, was dropped by the Justice Department, citing difficulties in obtaining evidence in war zones, and the granting of immunities to the defendant by American officials at the scene.
Even the most public of cases, including that against Blackwater guards for the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, have resulted in dismissals in US courts. This culture of impunity extends across PSC activities. On September 11th, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a 2 to 1 ruling dismissed a lawsuit brought against CACI International that alleged CACI personnel participated in torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
By creating complex legal hurdles, issuing on the scene immunities, and failing to ensure an environment of transparency, oversight and accountability, we are shielding the true costs of our wars, not only financially but in human terms as well. The release of these documents showcases just how terrible that cost is.
Let’s continue to call for accountability in conflict zones. Tell President Obama and Congress to respect human rights and counter terror with justice.