TODAY PRINCESS BRAT CAROLINE KENNEDY PICKED UP THE ENDORSEMENT OF MICHAEL BLOOMBERG IN HER QUEST TO BECOME A SENATOR WITHOUT AN ELECTION OF HAVING TO MIX WITH THOSE "UNGODLY PEOPLE."
IT WAS NO SURPRISE TO CAROLINE THAT A PROFESSIONAL WALKER WOULD ENDORSE HER, SHE SHARED, "THE CLOSET CASES LOVE ME. THE GAYS OUT OF THE CLOSET, NOT SO MUCH. THEY BLAME ME FOR MY FATHER SCREWING OVER MARILYN MONROE. I UNDERSTAND SHE'S VERY POPULAR WITH THE GAYS OR THAT'S WHAT MY HAIR DRESSER SAYS. I DON'T HANG WITH THE GAYS. WELL, DAVID GEFFEN. BUT YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY, REALLY RICH. IT'S LIKE I ALWAYS SAY, 'YOU AIN'T NEVER BANKED YOUR FIRST BILLION, THEN YOU AIN'T NO FRIEND OF MINE'."
PRINCESS BRAT CAROLINE KINDLY POSED FOR THESE REPORTERS BUT STATED SHE WAS CALLING THE PHOTO BELOW "CHARITY WORK" AND "AUNT ETHEL BETTER GET OFF MY ASS ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE!"
The Salt Lake Tribune reports today: "Blackwater Worldwide security guards indicted in Washington D.C. for the 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians surrendered to federal authorities in Salt Lake City this morning. They arrived one by one with their attorneys starting about 7:45 a.m. As the first three of five men walked in, they offered no comment to reporters. Attorneys said they would attend a 1:30 p.m. hearing, where the exact charges are expected to be unsealed. The indicted men wore suits and expressionless faces as they walked from 400 South into the federal courthouse at 350 S. Main St." The five are Paul Slough, Nick Slatten, Donald Ball, Dustin Heard and Even Liberty, as Ginger Thompson and Katherine Zoepf (New York Times) reported yesterday after the attorneys for the five men gave some confirmation to the indictments. Ruth noted the reported indictments on Friday evening (and was careful to note they were reported and not confirmed at that point) citing Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden (CNN) reporting five (then unnamed) Blackwater Worldwide employees were indicted and a sixth was supposed to be talking plea agreement. Saturday found Ginger Thompson and James Risen (New York Times) reporting on the indictment and noting that "at least 17 Iraqi civilians" were killed September 16, 2007 a shocker for those of us who remember the paper's inability to count the number correctly in the days and days after the slaughter. However, the paper wasn't the worst outlet. we'll get to the worst. First, let's refresh via the September 18, 2007 snapshot:
Turning to the subject of US mercenaries. Blackwater's latest slaughter continues to garner attention. On Sunday, Blackwater fired into crowds and they've repeatedly changed their story ever since. Are the mercenaries in our out? Martin Fletcher (Times of London) notes that any effort to eject them from Iraq -- any Iraqi effort -- "would be resisted strenuously by the US Government, whose security arrangements will be thrown into chaos if Blackwater can no longer operate in Iraq." Which is why US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice spent 15 minutes on the phone with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted that "several contractors predicted Monday that it was unlikely the Iraqi government would carry through with the threat to expel Blackwater."For all intents and purposes they belong to the [U.S.] Department of State," one contractor said of Blackwater employees". Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports on "an extraordinary telephone news conference, the US embassy spokeswoman could not answer whether the company was still working for the Americans inside the Green Zone, or what its legal position was along with similar foreign contractors within Iraq." Sengupta also notes the ever changing story of Blackwater for why the opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians killing at least 8 on Sunday. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes that Ali Dabbagh spoke to the press in Baghdad and noted that the Iraqi investigation "had found that guards with the private security company Blackwater USA had fired without provocation on a Baghdad traffic circle, killing eight people and wounding 13" and that a child was among the dead. As Leila Fadel, Joseph Neff and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) point out, "Whether the Iraqi Interior Ministry will be able to enforce its decision to ban North Carolina-based Blackwater Security from operating in Iraq is likely to be a major test between the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the United States. Blackwater, founded by a major Republican Party benefactor, is among the most prominent -- and most controversial -- of dozens of companies that provide security to both government and private individuals in Iraq. In 2003, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority exempted the companies and their employees from prosecution under Iraqi law, but Iraqi officials disputed whether that exemption remains in effect, and U.S. officials declined to comment."
September 18, 2007, PBS' NewsHour provided a discussion (link has audio, transcript and video). Judy Woodruff moderated the discussion and set it up with a clip of an eye witness (speaking through a translator), We see the security firms or the so-called American security firms doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scron them. . . . . They shot randomly." Woodruff then brought on David Brooks of the wrongly named the International Peace Operations (it's a civilain arm of the US military) and Jeremy Scahill (who was still an independent journalist back then, having not yet joined the Cult of Barack). Scahill explained that "the Bush administration failed to build the coalition of willing nations to occupy Iraq and so instead it built a coalition of billing corproations. As you said, there are now [more] private contractors in Iraq than there are official U.S. soldiers." That was a real attempt at an honest dicussion. You had Scahill and Brooks from opposite sides and you had Woodruff, a journalist who knows her trade and takes pride in practicing it. Sadly . . .
The October 10, 2007 snapshot noted the worst 'discussion' and it was on PBS. Yes, Washington Week (or Washington Weak) where the gas bag and the fool shall roam -- freely! And without shame! US News & World Reports' Linda Robinson and Gwen appeared to believe their job was to confuse the issue. Linda wanted to "set the stage" but never in such a way that addressed the people of Iraq, the wounded or the dead. Her idea of setting the stage was offering excuses and justifications for Blackwater's slaughter: "Very, very violent city. You're driving around, bombs going off at any unpredicted time. So what happens is these convoy drivers use tactics. They throw things at people. They sound their horns, their sirens. If you don't get out of the way, they will shoot. And so Iraqi drivers generally pull over as soon as they see a convoy." Robinson considers all she stated normal so let's again ask: "So the question is, were Linda Robinson or Gwen to be walking to their cars at the start of the day and a car came zooming through with those in it throwing things at them, would they see that as a problem? Should Jon Stewart attempt to find out for The Daily Show? In fact, it shouldn't even be a surprise. Gwen and Robinson should volunteer for it to prove what good sports they are. After ten to fifteen minutes of drive-bys where water bottles are hurled at them (the mildest object usually cited in press reports) from speeding cars, let's see their smiling, bruised (possibly bloodied?) faces and find out whether they now think that 'the problem' includes a great deal more than being able to tell if a convoy is approaching?"
Here's Linda babbling on some more: "This is the situation right now. With the U.S. military the size that it is, there is no way that uniformed military people could do the job of guarding all these civilians. And it's our biggest embassy in the world and they're trying to get all of these developments people out. I mean, that's part of the General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker thing is to get the civilians out to help people in the neighborhoods."
Linda will say that the "agreesive tactics do protect the people inside the vehicle. What's the problem of course is that innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed. Now, we do -- and this is why I introduced this topic with the violence of that environment." During the entire discussion, only AP's Charles Babington seemed aware of the issues at stake. He demonstrated that by asking, "And there's nothing the Iraqi government can do? Can't take them to court, can't arrest them?" Linda explained Paul Bremer exempted them in 2004 with a decree leading Gwen to qucikly jump in with, "Okay, thank you, Linda." Yes, let's not focus on the Iraqis too much when discussing Iraq.
"At least 17" is the figure reported on the story in this news cycle. At one point, the Interior Minsiter in Iraq was saying 20 Iraqis were shot dead (that count was being given in September of 2007). AP's Matt Apuzzo and Lara Jakes Jordan report the five Blackwater employees indicted (a six is reportedly in the midst of a plea bargain) intend to turn themselves today in Utah and the reporters observe: "The case already is shaping up to be a series of contentious legal battles before the guards can even go to trial. By surrendering in Utah, the home state of one of the guards, the men could argue the case should be heard in a far more conservative, pro-gun venue than Washington, some 2,000 miles away." Nadine Elsibai and Cary O'Reilly (Bloomberg News) add, "Government officials said at a news conference it intends to try them in Washington, where support for the war in Iraq isn't likely to be as strong as in the western state." Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) notes "the Justice Department unsealed a 35-count indictment against them. . . . The indictment said all five were charged with volunatary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. A sixth security guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit voluntary manslaughter, according to papers filed in court today."
At the press conference at the Justice Dept today, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Rowan noted, "We're here to announce that a 35-count indictment has been unsealed in the District of Colubmia. As you are aware, an indictment is merely a formal charging document notifying a defendant of the charges against him or her. All defendents are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. The indctment unsealed charges five Blackwater security guards with voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and weapons violations, for their alleged roles in the September 16, 2007 shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq. Specifically, the defendants are charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 other indivuals in connection with this event. In addition, we can report that a sixth Blackwater security guard had pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same shooting."
US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor then spoke and we'll note this from his remarks:
As set forth in the indictment, the five defendants were all employed by the Armed Forces outside the United States. Specifically, the defendants worked as independent contractors and employees of Blackwater Worldwide, a company contracted by the Department of State to provide personal security services related to supporting the Department of Defense in the Republic of Iraq, within the meaning of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or MEJA.
On September 16, 2007, the five defendants and 14 other Blackwater independent contractors were assigned to a convoy of four heavily armed trucks known as a Tactical Support Team, using the call sign Raven 23, whose function was to provide backup fire support for other Blackwater personal security guards operating in the city of Baghdad.
On September 16, 2007, at around noon, the Raven 23 convoy was responding to the detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device that had just exploded in the vicinity of a different Blackwater personal security detail located about a mile away from Nisur Square, and which was transporting a USAID protectee.
The members of the Raven 23 convoy understood that their mission was defensive in nature. They were not permitted to engage in offensive military actions, use the military tactic known as suppressive fire, or exercise police powers. They also understood that they were only authorized to discharge their firearms in self-defense and as a last resort.
The four heavily-armed vehicles in the Raven 23 convoy entered Nisur Square and then positioned themselves in order to block any traffic from entering the circle. Seconds after the Raven 23 convoy entered the traffic circle, it is alleged that at least six members of the Raven 23 convoy, including the five defendants named in the indictment, opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians located in and around Nisur Square, killing, as Pat said, at least 14 persons, wounding at least 20 other individuals and assaulting but not injuring at least 18.
The first victim was later identified as a second-year medical student named Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y, who was driving a white Kia sedan that was approaching the traffic circle from the south. The passenger of that vehicle was also shot and killed. That victim was Dr. Al-Khazali, the mother of the driver of the vehicle.
None of the victims of this shooting was armed. None of them was an insurgent. Many were shot while inside civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee from the convoy. One victim was shot in the chest while standing in the street with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a nearby girls' school. At least 18 civilian vehicles were damaged by gunfire from the convoy, some substantially.
The indictment does not charge or implicate Blackwater Worldwide. It charges only the actions of certain employees for their roles in the September 16 shooting. They are Paul A. Slough, age 29, of Keller, Texas; Dustin L. Heard, 27, Maryville, Tennessee; Evan S. Liberty, 26, Rochester, New Hampshire; Nicholas A. Slatten, 23, of Sparta, Tennessee; and Donald W. Ball, 26, of West Valley City, Utah.
All five defendants are each charged with 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter, and one count of using and discharging a firearm and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence. The firearms included an SR-25 sniper rifle, M-4 assault rifles and M-240 machine guns. The destructive devices were M-203 grenade launchers and grenades.
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, the defendants could face up to ten years in prison on each manslaughter count, seven years in prison on each attempted manslaughter count, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years on the firearms charge.
Of the plea bargain, Taylor noted the man's name was Jeremy P. Ridgeway ("age 35, of California") and that it took place in DC last Friday "before Judge Ricardo Urina. He pleaded to superseding information charging him with one count of voluntary manslaughter and one count of attempt to commit manslaughter." There is no date scheduled for Ridgeway's sentencing at this point.
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