The Washington Post reports that U.S. military officials are blaming the State Department for letting Blackwater operate lawlessly in Iraq:
In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department’s authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. “The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they’ve built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event,” the official said.
“This is a nightmare,” said a senior U.S. military official. “We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we’re trying to have an impact for the long term.” The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis.
Military officials also summed up how detested Blackwater is in Iraq:
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don’t particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone — even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis.”
Pushing back, the State Department told the Post that the Pentagon has more contracts with Blackwater than Foggy Bottom.
Yesterday, the office of Congressman Henry Waxman informed the press that Blackwater indicated it was being ordered by the State Department to withhold documents from his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Here is the letter from Blackwater’s attorney to Waxman’s committee indicating the State Departmtent was ordering it to withhold cooperation (.pdf), and here is the State Department letter to Blackwater ordering it to not turn over requested documents (.pdf; it’s worth noting that the name of the State Department Security Office contracting officer who signed the letter ordering Blackwater to stay mum is, in one of those out-of-central-casting events, named Kiazan Moneypenny).
All in all, the mercenaries who provide security to the US embassy in Iraq may be looking for their own sort of protection in Washington.