Blackwater Draws Fire for Plotting $1 Million Bribes in Iraq

What planned payouts to Iraqi politicians could mean in Washington, Iraq, and Afghanistan

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Blackwater, the controversial private security company used extensively by the U.S. in Iraq, may have paid $1 million in bribes to Iraqi officials in late 2007, The New York Times reports. The bribes were intended to hush up Iraqi anger at Blackwater after company employees killed 17 civilians. It would do much to explain how Blackwater (now known as Xe Corp) managed to keep its operating license in Iraq despite being distrusted by some U.S. officials and widely hated by Iraqis at the time.

  • Still in Afghanistan The Nation's Jeremy Scahill says this finally answers how "Blackwater continued to operate in Iraq for a full two years after the Iraqis announced the company would be banned--a fact that has baffled and angered Iraqis." He writes, "To many Iraqis, Blackwater's continued presence was a stark symbol of the country's lack of sovereignty. It is an incredible fact that Blackwater has remained as long as it has in the country given the severity and extent of its alleged crimes and the rhetoric from Iraqi political figures about the company." Scahill notes that Blackwater still operates in Afghanistan, where they are "involved with the security details of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke when they visit the country."
  • Effect On Iraqi Politics "Well, now we know why it took so long for Iraq to kick Blackwater out," writes Spencer Ackerman. "Yet Blackwater didn't actually leave Iraq until earlier this year, and even then it didn't really leave. Many of its security guards were allowed to stay and work under a different name. And the State Department even extended the firm's contract for Iraq. But leave aside the State Department's own questionable judgment for a moment." Ackerman predicts of the bribes that went to Iraqi officials, "Watch this become a major accusation in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections."
  • Ball In Lieberman's Court Digby scoffs that Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, may disappoint in his oversight role. "I don't think he's going to have time. Between digging out terrorists in the Army (should we start calling him Tailgunner Joe?) and getting to the bottom of the Czar scandal, he's going to be pretty busy. of course, that will probably work out just fine as far as the MIC is concerned. Would'nt [sic] want to rock that boat too hard."
  • Not Their First Controversy The Washington Independent's Matthew DeLong reminds us that Blackwater "has repeatedly found itself at the center of controversies, in addition to the [2007] massacre at Nisour Square. The most recent came to light in August, when The Nation's Jeremy Scahill reported that two former employees alleged in sworn statements that Blackwater owner Erik Prince 'may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.' Five Blackwater employees are awaiting trial, scheduled to begin next year in federal court, for manslaughter related to the Nisour Square shooting."
  • ACORN/Blackwater 'Accountability Disparity' The Moderate Voice's Joe Windish passes along the names of 23 lawmakers who voted to protect Blackwater but cut funding to ACORN. Windish also notes Blackwater's other ongoing troubles: "[A] settlement in a civil suit against the company, now known as Xe, brought by dozens of Iraqis, including the estates of victims allegedly killed by Blackwater employees, hasapparently fallen apart. Then there are the reports that Blackwater used child prostitutes in Iraq. And State Department efforts to cut ties with the company (in Iraq, ties continue in other parts of the world) have been unsuccessful."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.