People Are Finally Going To Jail For Iraq War Crimes. No, Really!

Four Blackwater mercenaries were sentenced Monday for the 2007 massacre of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, with three of the thugs getting 30-year sentences and their leader getting a full life in prison, which as of today makes them the only people to have gone to jail for the clusterfuck of horror that was the Iraq War. Small victory? It might have seemed like a slam dunk case for just about anyone who has ever even heard of the word "murder," but would you like to learn all about how the Bush administration tried their absolute hardest to fuck it all up? Let's Wonksplore.

Dustin L. Heard, Nicholas A. Slatten, Paul A. Slough, and Evan S. Liberty (also Rand Paul's porn name) gunned down seventeen Iraqis back in 2007. They were convicted last October of the brutal slaying that killed 17 and maimed 24 others:

A deadly cascade of events began when a single bullet apparently fired by a Blackwater guard killed an Iraqi man whose weight probably remained on the accelerator and propelled the car forward as the passenger, the man’s mother, clutched him and screamed.

The car continued to roll toward the convoy, which responded with an intense barrage of gunfire in several directions, striking Iraqis who were desperately trying to flee.

Minutes after that shooting stopped, a Blackwater convoy — possibly the same one — moved north from the square and opened fire on another line of traffic a few hundred yards away, in a previously unreported separate shooting, investigators and several witnesses say.

Nicholas A. Slatten is the fuckfaced ratboy who first opened fire, so he was convicted of murder, while his compatriots were convicted of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and use of a machine gun in a violent crime, which earned them each 30 shiny happy years in the slammer, thanks to the fact that the machine gun charge has a minimum 30 year sentence thanks to a War on Drugs-era law -- that era still ongoing, of course -- that aimed to punish crack cocaine dealers. So there is at least one thing we can thank the Drug War for accomplishing, we guess? The prosecutors, of course, wanted much longer sentences.

If it seems strange that it took seven years to finally convict these monsters, it's because of the superlative efforts of the Bush-era Department of Justice to stymie the investigation and downplay the magnitude of the crime:

The F.B.I. had wanted to charge the American contractors with the type of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and weapons charges that could send them to prison for the rest of their lives for the shooting, which left more than a dozen Iraqis dead and many others wounded in September 2007.

But at the last minute, the Justice Department balked. In particular, senior officials were uncomfortable with bringing two machine-gun charges, each of which carried mandatory 30-year prison sentences.

“We are getting some serious resistance from our office to charging the defendants with mandatory minimum time,” Kenneth Kohl, a federal prosecutor, told the lead F.B.I. agent on the case, John Patarini, as the Justice Department prepared to ask a grand jury to vote on an indictment in December 2008.

Can't imagine why the Bush administration would be uncomfortable prosecuting these guys for exactly the crimes they committed. Something about their hired goons committing an unprovoked massacre might have made all their decisions up to that point look bad, huh? Instead the DOJ wanted to drop the machine gun charges and get the boys convicted on much less serious charges that would have earned them 5 to 7 years AT MOST, all in the name of their PR campaign to not look like mass murdering monsters.

If there's one hero in this conga line of horrible, it's John Patarini, who sent a message back to the DOJ that maybe this would be the right time for them to quit suckling at that sweet Blackwater teat and do their fucking jobs:

Mr. Patarini was incensed. “I would rather not present for a vote now and wait until the new administration takes office than to get an indictment that is an insult to the individual victims, the Iraqi people as a whole, and the American people who expect their Justice Department to act better than this,” he replied.

Not only did he slam them for their cronyism, but he hit Forward All like a boss and sent that email chain around to his entire department, determined to shame Michael Mukasey and his toadies into actually sending war criminals to jail. The response was immediate, with FBI agents barraging the DOJ with outrage for their naked attempts to get these monsters off lightly.

It says a lot about the state of the DOJ in the wake of the Ashcroft and Gonzales years that the prosecutor's office needed to be publicly humiliated into going for a proper indictment. Even after their public shellacking by the FBI, the DOJ still tried their damnedest to fuck this up. They missed filing deadlines, let statutes of limitations expire, and faced repeated accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. They REALLY wanted to get these mercenaries off on lesser sentences. The FBI was so frustrated they were even determined to wait out the end of the entire Bush administration rather than deal with their roadblocks anymore.

“I would rather wait for a new administration than go forward without those charges,” Carolyn Murphy, an F.B.I. agent, wrote.

And Michael Posillico, a State Department investigator assigned to the case, said, “It’s hard for me to say we should wait for the Democrats, but this is one such time I have to.”

The FBI would rather work with Democrats! The horror!

As if you needed another reminder of why the Bush years were just the absolute worst, remember that the administration tried to get their private contractor buddies a slap on the wrist for the murder of 17 people. Let it sear itself into your brain.

[New York Times]


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