Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

IRAQ: Blackwater victims continue to pay

May 4, 2008 |  9:34 am


The consequences of September's shootings of civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square by gunmen employed by Blackwater Worldwide in continue to unfold.

The contractor's gunmen allegedly killed 17 Iraqis in a confusing shoot-out.

As a piece on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times explains, the case underscores the sharp differences between the Iraqi and American approaches to justice:

U.S. officials painstakingly examine evidence and laws while attempting to satisfy victims' claims through cash compensation. But traditional Arab society values honor and decorum above all. If a man kills or badly injures someone in an accident, both families convene a tribal summit. The perpetrator admits responsibility, commiserates with the victim, pays medical expenses and other compensation, all over glasses of tea in a tribal tent.

News last month that the State Department had extended the contract of the security firm for another year further jolted victims of the incident.

"There are so many more victims of Blackwater," said Mohammed Hafidh Abdul-Razzaq, a car spare parts dealer who lost his 10-year-old son in the incident. "Whoever extended their contract plans to bring about chaos and disorder to our country."

Haithem Rubaie, a physician who lost his wife and son in the shooting, said the State Department's decision "abuses us" and makes a mockery of justice by rewarding a company that he considers guilty of murder.

"It is not fair," he said. "There is no justice on this issue."

— Raheem Salman in Baghdad and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Blackwater employees, in plain clothes, join a gun battle in Najaf, Iraq, in April 2004. Last month, the State Department renewed the security company’s contract for an additional year, a decision that enraged victims of a September shooting in Baghdad involving its employees. Credit: Gervasio Sanchez / Associated Press