Four Blackwater contractors were convicted in federal court yesterday of murder, manslaughter, and weapons charges for their role in a massacre that occurred in Iraq in 2007 while Blackwater was protecting a convoy of US State Department officials.The shooting incident, which left 17 unarmed Iraqis dead, was ruled a crime rather than a wartime accident by a federal jury.
The case took seven years to reach a courtroom due to claims and actions by the State Department that attempted to derail the prosecution. State Department officials are believed to have removed evidence such as shell casings from the crime scene and have claimed that US prosecutors did not have jurisdiction to prosecute State Department contractors as it did defense contractors.
Despite the State Department’s efforts, all four Blackwater contractors were convicted on charges that could put them in prison for decades.
Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards were convicted and immediately jailed Wednesday for their roles in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that marked a bloody nadir in America’s war in Iraq. A jury in Federal District Court found that the deaths of 17 Iraqis in the shooting, which began when a convoy of the guards suddenly began firing in a crowded intersection, was not a battlefield tragedy, but the result of a criminal act…
One defendant, Nicholas A. Slatten, a sniper who the government said fired the first shots, was convicted of murder. The others — Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty and Paul A. Slough — were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime. A fifth contractor, Jeremy Ridgeway, previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter and cooperated with prosecutors.
Blackwater, now known as Academi, previously reached a settlement with Iraqi families for a wrongful-death civil suit. Since the incident Blackwater has changed its name twice from Blackwater to Xe Services in 2009 and Xe Services to Academi in 2011.
Though the settlement of the civil lawsuit was likely quite costly, the criminal conviction of Blackwater employees could ultimately be more taxing for Blackwater and other private military service companies. If private military contractors are going to be subject to prosecution then much of their comparative advantage is removed and regularly military or diplomat service personnel may, once again, do those jobs.
Without immunity from prosecution killing people for money is a lot less lucrative.