If Blackwater Is Kicked Out Of Iraq, Who’s Next?

This post, written by Scarecrow, originally appeared on FireDogLake

If al Qaeda in Iraq is the central problem we face, then this WaPo story suggesting we've beaten AQI means we can declare victory and start withdrawing. Right?

Of course, if the Administration's focus on AQI was just self-serving misdirection, or if Bush/Cheney have other reasons for building the largest embassy in the world and several permanent bases in Iraq, then it matters that Blackwater may soon be expelled from Iraq:
The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action. Point No. 2 in the report says:
"The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws."
Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.
"I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The government has given six months for its expulsion and it's left to the U.S. Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company," he told AP.
Last night, CBS' Lara Logan interviewed Blackwater CEO Erik Prince on 60 Minutes. Prince was unapologetic, sounding like Ollie North in defending his patriotic war against America's enemies. Prince claimed that Blackwater armored vehicles had been fired on, a claim Logan said CBS had no way to confirm. The AP story, however, suggests a State Department coverup:
One [witness who reported Blackwater helicopters opening fire] was 20-year-old Ahmed Abdul-Timan, who works as a guard at the tunnel that runs under the square. He told AP that the initial U.S. investigative team tried to intimidate him into changing his story about the helicopters firing. He said the interrogation lasted three hours.
"Four or five days after the incident," Abdul-Timan said, "there was a second investigation but the questioning was done by a U.S. Army major. It was much easier. They videotaped what I said, took my phone number and address. The major tried to comfort us, saying he and his men love the Iraqi people and want to help them."
Abdul-Timan's account squares with others that indicated the first investigation by State Department personnel appeared to be an attempt to vindicate the Blackwater guards. The U.S. military conducted the second investigation and was more sympathetic.
The Blackwater incident is just part of a larger pattern of US devaluing the lives and rights of Iraqis. US military forces have recently killed dozens of Iraq civilians in situations that had equally unsatisfactory explanations.
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