01 January 2010



1) The fact that the court returned this verdict should not be seen as "protecting Blackwater/US" with legal immunity so much as a bad prosecution. Our courts tend to have some "unfortunate" tendencies to be somewhat independent of central authorities. I usually find this okay and have to live with the incidences of letting the guilty go free to save the innocent. I am aware that there are a good many people in America and elsewhere who prefer it the other way around (sacrifice the innocent to save us from the few guilty). I am also aware that it's less than likely that in a country like Iraq that the courts would have the ability to exercise some independence and a verdict like this will be seen as protecting the US interests. I don't think that's the job of the court to focus on the international or national political considerations so much as the actual legal facts available. The flip side of this is that where we DO have evidence of misconduct sufficient for trial, we ought to pursue it. Like say, the regime of torture and illegal detention over the past 8 years. (It is still conceivable that these kinds of cases can be "tampered" with by other branches in the sense of what evidence will be introduced, or by creating new legal thinking as protections for people doing the dirty work. At some level, it does make more sense to trade such protections to go after bigger fish. In this particular case, I'd rather they had indicted Erik Prince or other higher-ups for systemic policy choices in who they hired and sent off to go fight a holy war over the people who are accused of these atrocities on the ground. But that still doesn't pre-determine what our verdicts will be in a court case and doesn't excuse sloppy work to try to achieve them. In fact, I would argue we should encourage far more exacting standards on our courts to DEFEND people like this more generally, even though if they are indeed guilty they should be punished, on the theory that we must be held to account for the actual certainty of guilt before acting upon it.)

2) The "verdict" doesn't mean that justice was served by vindicating their actions (to dismiss the case). Iraqis who know people who were killed there, know of the circumstances or the situation at hand, and prosecutors here and there seem to be of a belief that something wrong did happen. The problem seems to be that there's weak evidence in support of it. I have trouble reconciling that with the fact that there would have to be a rather large fire fight involved (although it appears the site was scrubbed, probably by the company). I'm all in favor of leaving a few people out to dry when they screw up or decide that their being entrusted with guns and weapons (tasers count in my book) is a license to kill or to otherwise abuse that trust (whether they are private mercenaries, cops, or soldiers) if it means that legitimate uses of force, things that protect/defend national or public interests, would make more sense to allow under the logic that people who do them have to have a pretty damn good reason left to them.
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