By Cathryn Beeson-Lynch

The conviction of Blackwater mercenaries is a contemporary example of how governing bodies benefit from social perceptions of private contractors. Earlier this year a federal court jury found four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards guilty on charges of manslaughter and murder for their role in the attack in Nisour Square in Baghdad seven years ago. On September 16, 2007, the military contractors stopped traffic with grenade launchers and machine guns before they opened fire on crowds of civilians attempting to flee the scene. Civilian vehicles were bombarded with bullets. A woman was shot dead as she carried her dead son in her arms. A total of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed and 20 more were left wounded.

The former Blackwater security guards, from left: Paul A. Slough, Dustin L. Heard, Nicholas A. Slatten and Evan S. Liberty (source)

The former Blackwater security guards, from left: Paul A. Slough, Dustin L. Heard, Nicholas A. Slatten and Evan S. Liberty (source)

The Obama administration prosecuted the case, and it has attempted to spin the guilty verdict as an example of the United States’ democratic values. However, while the administration has worked to condemn certain individuals of their horrendous crimes, it has simultaneously turned a blind eye to others who are equally at fault: the entire U.S. political and military system continues to stand guilty for the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Furthermore, while the Obama administration has shielded the Bush-era government officials, such as former President George Bush and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, from prosecution, it has also extended the U.S. military’s violent war efforts. The wars in Libya and Syria, use of drones, cruise missiles, and laser-guided weapons all occurred after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The media portrayed the Blackwater convictions as the ultimate goal of U.S. policy. However, the military, government, and court systems made numerous attempts to shield the mercenaries from prosecution: a federal judge dismissed the case in 2009 before it was later reinstated, the State Department allowed the mercenaries partial immunity, and the U.S. refused to allow the men to be tried in Baghdad. Since then, Blackwater, now renamed Academi, continues to be an instrumental agent of U.S. foreign policy; hundreds of its private contractors serve as military personnel for U.S.-supported war efforts around the globe. Thus, the Backwater convictions serve as a poignant example of how modern perceptions of mercenaries allow government and military officials deflect blame that would otherwise fall onto them.

Works Cited:
Gaist, Thomas. “World Socialist Web Site.” Blackwater Mercenaries Convicted for Role in 2007 Iraq Massacre. International Committee of the Fourth International, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.