Blackwater's Youngest Victim
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After Ali's death, some of Mohammed's friends came to him and asked him if the death had changed his attitude toward the Americans. It hadn't, he told them. "I honestly separate distinctly between Blackwater and the American people and the American government," he says. "I honestly love America and the American people. What happened to my family is totally isolated from the American people and government."
Mohammed carries with him a letter to his family signed by Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of US forces in Iraq, dated June 25, 2009. The letter is the result of an extraordinary gesture made by the Kinanis after Ali's death. The US Embassy offered to provide a $10,000 condolence payment to the families of the victims of Nisour Square, making clear it was not a remedy for what happened and not a substitute for any potential legal action against the shooters. Initially Mohammed refused the money, but the embassy pursued his family, urging them to take it. They eventually did, but with one condition: that the US military accept a $5000 donation from the Kinanis to the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq. Mohammed's wife, Fatimah, delivered the gift to the US Embassy. "My wife labeled it as a gift from a mother who sacrificed a son on the path to freedom, a gift from Ali's family to whichever US military family the embassy chose, to any soldier's family that was killed here in Iraq, who lost his life in Iraq for the sake of Iraq." Soon thereafter, Fatimah received the letter from General Odierno. "Your substantial generosity on behalf of the families of fallen American soldiers has touched me deeply," Odierno wrote.
After Ali's death, the thought of suing Blackwater didn't cross Mohammed's mind. He readily cooperated with the US military and federal investigators, and he believed that justice would be done in America. But when he would go to the US Embassy, Mohammed recalls, he would get "hammered there. They all wanted me to shut up so they could defend Blackwater." He says an embassy official tried to convince him that there had been a firefight that day, not a massacre. Mohammed was unfazed by what he considered a grand lie and continued to cooperate with the US investigation. Then, he says, Blackwater stepped in.
In a letter to ABC News threatening a defamation lawsuit for a story the network had done about Nisour Square, a Blackwater attorney denied that Blackwater had killed Ali, claiming instead that he was killed by "a stray bullet" possibly fired by the US military "an hour after Blackwater personnel had departed the scene." The letter claimed Ali was killed by a "warning shot" that "ricocheted and killed the nine-year-old boy." It said it was not "even possible" Blackwater "was responsible."
Then an Iraqi attorney working with Blackwater approached Mohammed. But he wasn't just any lawyer. Ja'afar al Moussawy was the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, which prosecuted Saddam Hussein and other leading officials. He was the Iraqi lawyer.
Mohammed agreed to meet with Moussawy and Blackwater's regional manager. When Mohammed arrived at the Blackwater headquarters in the Green Zone, there was a lunch spread laid out on the table. Moussawy asked Mohammed if he wanted to eat, and Mohammed said he would, "to show you that I have nothing against you personally." Mohammed says he told them, "My problem is not with any of you, rather with the guys who killed my son." After lunch, the manager asked Mohammed to tell him what happened in the square that day. Mohammed did. The manager then said he had an offer for him.