House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Henry Waxman finally got to the heart of the Blackwater contract-killing scandal when he reviewed emails detailing how the U.S. State Department worked with the private security firm to hide bloody trail of its mercenaries.
Noting that after an intoxicated Blackwater thug shot and killed an Iraqi guard last December, the State Department counseled the corporation on how much to pay the family of the Iraqi to keep silent and then arranged for the Blackwater employee to exit Iraq without facing any consequences for his actions, Waxman produced records of internet communications detailing the cover up.
"It’s hard to read these e-mails and not come to the conclusion that the State Department is acting as Blackwater’s enabler," Waxman told a hearing that saw Blackwater founder Erik Prince claim with a straight face that his company "acted appropriately at all times" during an incident last month that left 11 Iraqis dead and inspired an effort to force the country to withdraw its mercenaries from Baghdad.
Prince’s brazen claim that his teams of paid killers "acted appropriately" begged the question: Who is defining the word "appropriately"?
Waxman pointed to the answer. Blackwater, which has collected more than $1 billion in U.S. government contracts since 2001 to do security work once assigned to Marines, may be indefensible operation. But the firm has not operated in a void.
Blackwater is an extension of the U.S. government.
Blackwater operates at the behest of the U.S. departments of defense and state.
And when the State Department helps the company pay off the families of its victims and helps to extract killers from circumstances in which they might be arrested and prosecuted, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her cronies become for more appropriate subjects of scrutiny than Erik Prince.
Every indication is that Prince is a very bad man.
But evil done by Prince and his employees has been committed on the government dime, and with the advice and consent of the government.
How interwoven are the operations in Iraq of the Department of State and Blackwater? The initial State Department report of last month’s killing spree involving Blackwater employees was written by a Blackwater contractor working in the U.S. Embassy’s Tactical Operations Center in Baghdad. The report was distributed under the letterhead of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The lines of distinction between the State Department and Blackwater no longer exist.
Yes, of course, it is appropriate to hold Erik Prince to account.
But it is even more appropriate to ask: What did Secretary of State know and when did she know it?
Waxman opened Tuesday’s hearing by declaring, "I know many of you believe that Blackwater has been unaccountable to anyone in our government. I want you to know that Blackwater will be accountable today."
That’s a great start. But this investigation will not be done until Condoleezza Rice and her top aides have been placed under oath and required to testify about the high crimes and misdemeanors that enabled Blackwater and its employees to kill without consequences.