It's not only the Iraqi government that wants North Carolina-based security firm Blackwater USA kicked out of Iraq for its involvement in the recent shooting deaths of eight Iraqi civilians. CODEPINK, a national women's peace group, will second the call at a protest that will take place at 3 p.m. today in Washington, D.C.
The action comes in response to an incident that took place on Sunday, Sept. 16 in Baghdad, when an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade led employees of the security contractor to begin shooting indiscriminately, resulting in the civilian deaths. The Iraqi government has revoked Blackwater's operating license, but the Bush administration is trying to reverse the decision.
The protest will begin at the headquarters of the International Peace Operations Association, which has been defending Blackwater, one of its members. It will make its way to the State Department, where participants will demand it cancel all contracts with the company. According to a CODEPINK statement:
"As a private contractor, Blackwater is subject to virtually no oversight and its employees literally get away with murder," said retired colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, who will lead the march. "The State Department has given Blackwater $678 million in contracts since 2003 to guard U.S. personnel in Iraq, instead of using the State Department's internal Diplomatic Security. We demand that the State Department cancel its contract with Blackwater and instead hire government employees for security who can be held accountable for their actions."
The State Department says it is investigating the incident, but U.S. lawmakers including Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) have raised questions about whether the agency has the authority to take action, the Raleigh, N.C. News and Observer reports:
Price has been trying to figure out for two years which U.S. or international laws might apply to private security contractors working in Iraq. The answer is important, he said, because if the United States has a way to prosecute suspected crimes, that helps its case that the Iraqi government need not bring suspects to court.
"There seems to be a potential conflict brewing about the applicability of Iraqi law," Price said in an interview. "So assuming that there is something here that deserves investigation, and possibly prosecution, then how willing and able the United States is to deal with it is a very important issue and will have a lot to do with the credibility of any case we make against Iraqi prosecution."
Price has sponsored legislation that would clearly place private contractors under the aegis of military law overseas and strengthen congressional oversight of security contractors.