All Quiet on the Blackwater Front. Aftermath of a Massacre.

An Iraqi official inspecting the car that was destroyed during the inspects a car destroyed four days earlier by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad. As terrible as the event was, I fear the aftermath may hit closer to home.

I’ve been writing a series of posts about Erik Prince and the Blackwater controversies. I’ll post the links for reference.

In this post I intend to share the immediate result of the Al-Nisoor massacre, and share other instances where Blackwater hurt American interests.

An Iraqi woman looking inside the bloody wreck of a car shot up by Blackwater employees during the Nissour Square Massacre. I wonder what her daughter is thinking about. That little girl would be grown up now, if she has survived the chaos. I wonder did we help her and her mother? Or were they better off before?

Al-Nisoor Massacre

I’ll post the links to the sites I’ll be drawing my information from.

The image from the website I think I see some of my old school buddies in this photo…I might need to update my rolodex…

The immediate upshot of the massacre was confusion, and a deepening of the rift between the never-very-sturdy post Hussein government of Iraq, and the evidently-not-bright government of the US. Let’s start with what Brookings Institution has to say about it all.

The first aspect of the aftermath was that Blackwater was exposed to the public. Very few new of its existence before the massacre (frankly, I just learned about it recently).

Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution indicates that there have been private contractors working with the military for decades, and many of them have been both helpful to America and professional toward the soldiers they support. Blackwater is pointed out for having a very different attitude. While he does not imply that Blackwater was utterly alone in their cavalier attitude, he states that “They use military training and weaponry to carry out mission-critical functions that would have been done by soldiers in the past, in the midst of a combat zone against fellow combatants.”

Another consequence of the massacre was that Americans were given a more accurate picture of what was going on over there. We had (and still have) a minimized image of how many American casualties there were because Private Contractors were not counted as casualties. Singer continues:

“That is, there was no outcry whenever contractors were called up and deployed, or even killed. If the gradual death toll among American troops threatened to slowly wear down public support, contractor casualties were not counted in official death tolls and had no impact on these ratings. By one count, as of July 2007, more than 1,000 contractors have been killed in Iraq, and another 13,000 wounded. (Again, the data is patchy here, with the only reliable source being insurance claims made by contractors’ employers and then reported to the U.S. Department of Labor.) Since the troop “surge” started in January 2007, these numbers have accelerated — contractors have been killed at a rate of nine per week. These figures mean that the private military industry has suffered more losses in Iraq than the rest of the coalition of allied nations combined. The losses are also far more than any single U.S. Army division has experienced.” To put this into perspective for us civilian types, a division is typically somewhere between 6000 (a large Roman legion) and 25,000 people.

An injured Blackwater employee in Iraq. His injury though did not count towards the tally of casualties.

Another consequence of the massacre was that it increased the hostility of the Iraqis. Singer relates:

“They seal off the roads and drive on the wrong side. They simply kill,” Um Omar, a Baghdad housewife, told Agence France Press about Blackwater in a report in mid-September. A traffic policeman at Al-Wathba square in central Baghdad concurred: “They are impolite and do not respect people, they bump other people’s cars to frighten them and shout at anyone who approaches them … Two weeks ago, guards of a convoy opened fire randomly that led to the killing of two policemen … I swear they are Mossad,” he said, referring to the Israeli spy service, which is a catch-all for anything perceived as evil in the Arab world.

“It is also important to note that Iraqi civilians do not differentiate the acts of the private military contractors from the overall U.S. military effort, just because they are outside the chain of command.

“The point here is not that all contractors are “cowboys,” “unprofessional” or “killers,” as Blackwater…contractors are often described. Most are highly talented ex-soldiers. However, their private mission is different from the overall public operation. Those, for example, doing escort duty are going to be judged by their corporate bosses solely on whether they get their client from point A to B, not whether they win Iraqi hearts and minds along the way. Ann Exline Starr, a former Coalition Provisional Authority advisor, described the difference between when she traveled with a U.S. military escort and with guards from Blackwater and another State Department-contracted security firm, DynCorp. While the uniformed soldiers kept her safe, they also did such things as playing cards and drinking tea with local Iraqis. The private contractors had a different focus. “What they told me was, ‘Our mission is to protect the principal at all costs. If that means pissing off the Iraqis, too bad.’”

The US military honestly does have flaws, having said that, they are still one of the most honest, capable, and compassionate armies of all time, IMHO.
Likely there were a lot of honest, decent, and capable people with Blackwater, but at the end of the day, was Blackwater helping America, or just helping themselves?

Singer goes on to share at length other atrocities performed by other companies (though there are other companies that I notice are not mentioned, I bring this up to point out that you can’t paint the contractors with a broad brush. Many of them served with as much professionalism as the soldiers themselves, there was a camaraderie, after all, since the firms and the military often recruited from and relied on each other). I won’t share those stories here, my point is not to trash contractors, or the troops that were in the front lines battling to keep us free. I’m trying to force my ADD to stay focused on a specific man, his specific company, and there is a specific reason I’m sharing all this that hopefully will be plain before all is over. By all means though, this article gives a brutal (though I fear deserved) criticism of some bad apples in the industry and makes me doubt many of the things I had been told about what happened in Iraq.

He points out that in the critical War on Terror, where we were claiming to have the moral high ground and to be the good guys, this massacre was one more incident that the Muslims felt gave them justification to hate us. “The Blackwater episode resonated negatively not merely inside Iraq, but throughout the Muslim world. Every single media source led with the episode in the days that followed, focusing on how the U.S. could hire such “arrogant trigger-happy guns for hire, mercenaries by any other name,” as UAE-based Gulf News put it. The Al-Jazeera satellite news channel reported on the U.S. hired contractors as “An army that seeks fame, fortune, and thrill, away from all considerations and ethics of military honour … The employees are…famous for shooting indiscriminately at vehicles or pedestrians who get close to their convoys.” In the leading newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Fahmy Howeydi, one of the most influential commentators in the entire Arab world, compared Blackwater “mercenaries” to al-Qaida, coming to Iraq’s chaos to seek their fortunes. Even the Daily Star, which is a regional English-language newspaper considered the most moderate voice in the region, wrote how “At least irregular formations like the Mehdi Army [Sadr’s militia] can plausibly claim to be defending their communities. No foreign mercenary can plead similar motivation, so all of them should go.”

Are they wrong to feel this way?

Former Blackwater security contractor Nicholas Slatten was sentenced to life in federal prison for the al-Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad.

Was there any justice for the massacre? According to “Nicholas Slatten, 35, a former security guard for Blackwater USA, was sentenced…to life in prison without parole for committing first-degree murder in the killing of Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, one of 14 unarmed civilians who were killed in a shooting by Blackwater guards that took place at Nisur Square in Bagdhad on Sept. 16, 2007.”

“Slatten was among 19 Blackwater security contractors assigned to a convoy of four heavily-armed trucks known as a Tactical Support Team, using the call sign “Raven 23.” Shortly before noon, Raven 23 learned that a car bomb had detonated in central Baghdad near a location where a U.S official was being escorted by a Blackwater personal security detail team. Raven 23 team members promptly reported to their convoy vehicles, and the convoy drove to a secured checkpoint between the Green Zone and Red Zone.

           “Once there, in disregard of an order from Blackwater’s command, the team’s shift leader directed Raven 23 to leave the Green Zone and establish a blockade in Nisur Square, a busy traffic circle that was immediately adjacent to the Green Zone. All told, seven of the 19 members of Raven 23 fired their weapons.”

Slatten was the first to fire.

In my next post, I intend to share what happened to Prince, and possibly share more about why this stuff matters to Oklahoma. Stay tuned for more tired blogging.


  1. Xman says:

    Looking forward to the Blackwater-DeVos-…Oklahoma(?) connection

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep posting, while I’ve been aware of this for a while I enjoy your take! I worked off and on for a series of PC’s and their subsidiaries, but I never worked directly with Blackwater or what followed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtiswselby says:

      I work with and am a good friend with someone who was in Iraq both as a PC and as an officer in the military. I knew (and honestly still know) squat about what happened. I hope this series isn’t trashing the military or the PCs who served honorably and really did contribute to the overall mission. But as I research, I’m leaning that Blackwater and others like them were a big reason why we failed

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our politicians are why we failed, that and invading not one but two sovereign nations that had exactly jack and shit to do with 9/11

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Btw, all politicians, all sides anyone who at any point voted to fund, continue or promote this war – is at fault.

        Democraps are as bad if not worse than Repukes-

        Everyone was protesting when Bush ran it, the same people stopped when Obama escalated it, and so on. I am done with our government and politicians I will never vote again. It does nothing at a federal or state level

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Curtiswselby says:

        Sadly, I agree. I keep voting out of stubbornness. I know it is futile, Thoreau wrote about it in his work, but I guess my OCD won’t let me stop

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Curtiswselby says:

        What the military accomplished in such short order before the politicians fucked it up was amazing. The fact that things were mishandled so badly breaks my heart

        Liked by 1 person

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