Author of the Book ‘Blackwater’ on the Blackwater Shootings

From The Nation:

It’s being described as “Baghdad’s bloody Sunday.” On September 16 a heavily armed State Department convoy guarded by Blackwater USA was whizzing down the wrong side of the road near Nisour Square in the congested Mansour neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. Iraqi police scrambled to block off traffic to allow the convoy to pass. In the chaos, an Iraqi vehicle entered the square, reportedly failing to heed a policeman’s warning fast enough. The Blackwater operatives, protecting their American principal, a senior State Department official, opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver. According to witnesses, Blackwater troops then launched some sort of grenade at the car, setting it ablaze. But inside the vehicle was not a small sect from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia or the Mahdi Army, the “armed insurgents” Blackwater described killing in its official statement on the incident. It was a young Iraqi family–man, woman and infant–whose crime appeared to be panicking in a chaotic traffic situation. Witnesses say the bodies of the mother and child were melded together by the flames that had engulfed their vehicle.

Gunfire rang out in Nisour Square as people fled for their lives. Witnesses described a horrifying scene of indiscriminate shooting by the Blackwater guards. In all, as many as twenty-eight Iraqis may have been killed, and doctors say the toll could climb, as some victims remain in critical condition. A company spokesperson said Blackwater’s forces “acted lawfully and appropriately” and “heroically defended American lives in a war zone.” Blackwater’s version of events is hotly disputed, not only by the Iraqi government, which says it has video to prove the shooting was unprovoked, but also by survivors of the attack. “I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot,” said Iraqi lawyer Hassan Jabar Salman, who was shot four times in the back during the incident. “But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus–he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him. She jumped out after him, and she was killed.”

(via Danger Room)