Obama Administration to Appeal Blackwater Dismissal
by Nathan Empsall, Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 03:24:08 PM EST
Earlier this month, when a federal judge dismissed manslaughter judges against five Blackwater (now Xe) operatives for the brutal killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, I had this to say:
This is the face of the United States to the rest of the world: A nation that will beat up on weaker states. A nation that can’t do its own dirty work, pretending instead that the perpetrators are rogue contractors and thus shifting the blame. A nation that refuses to hold itself accountable and puts potential legal loopholes ahead of justice. THIS is the example we set for the fledgling democracies we claim to have created? This is how we teach republican principles? …
Most importantly, Blackwater is quite literally getting away with murder. Or as the rest of the world will see it, especially in Baghdad, America is letting Blackwater get away with murder. And to the rest of the world, that’s you, and that’s me. I don't know who to be more ticked at – the Justice Dept. lawyers [who bungled the case, ala Ted Stevens] or the judge. No matter who's at fault, however, this is about the worst possible note on which to begin a new year.
Well here’s some good news: Vice President Joe Biden announced today that the government will appeal the dismissal. I’m not the law student on this blog so I don’t have the wherewithal to know if the case for the appeal is strong enough, but I do know that true justice isn’t always a legal thing, and at least today our administration is pursuing true justice.
Blackwater security contractors were guarding U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a crowded Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq... The case fell apart when a federal trial judge in Washington, Ricardo Urbina, said in a Dec. 31 ruling that the Justice Department mishandled evidence and violated the guards' constitutional rights. Prosecutors now face difficult odds getting an appeals court to reinstate the case.
The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed the Americans considered themselves above the law. The Iraqi government began collecting signatures for a class-action lawsuit from victims who were wounded or lost relatives.
Lawyers for two of the Blackwater guards — Donald Ball, a former U.S. Marine from West Valley City, Utah, and Dustin Heard, a former U.S. Marine from Knoxville, Tenn. — sharply criticized the U.S. government's planned appeal.