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Update on the prosecution of Andrew Moonen for murder

For those interested in justice for the murdered Iraqi bodyguard, Raneem Khalif, the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung runs a shocker today. Apparently the State Department people in Iraq promised Blackwater guards involved in mowing down Iraqis in Nisoor square in September 'immunity.' As I said in a previous post, the comparison of Bush's administration to some European fascist regime is truly off base - it is much more like a Cold War classic kleptocracy, Argentina in the 80s, the Philippines under Marcos - a place in which the air of impunity that hangs over the elite allows them maximum leaway to flout the law until the stones cry out in the street and some crystallization of all discontents emerges. Of course, given the cholesterol around the American householders sense of justice, that crystallizing moment will have to be something that especially strikes them - perhaps a speech by the President that pre-empts a really exiting episode of American Idol. At that moment, I wouldn't be surprised to see marching in the street!

In any case, the unhappy few that are interested in the mundane workings of justice should look at DeYoung's article. Here's what it reports about the homicide committed by Andrew Moonen:

The FBI investigators sent to Baghdad are due to return to Washington early this week and will then turn the information they gathered over to the Justice Department, which will decide whether prosecution is warranted. An earlier case, involving the shooting of a bodyguard of an Iraqi vice president by a Blackwater contractor last Christmas Eve, was referred to Justice months ago, but there has been no prosecution.

Law enforcement officials have said it is unclear whether the contractors are liable under any U.S. law. The administration has said it opposes a bill passed by the House last month that would place State Department contractors under laws that currently apply only to Pentagon contractors.

Administration officials have said that the Christmas Eve case has languished because of the legal uncertainties. But in congressional testimony last week, Rice said that the holdup was "not the absence of law . . . it's a question of evidence."

Karen DeYoung is one of the good Washington Post reporters. She is having a discussion today about the crimes of Blackwater, among other things. Go to the Q and A here
and drop her a question about Andrew Moonen. Ask why he is not being prosecuted. Ask why Margaret Scobey is not being prosecuted as an accomplice. Ask politely but firmly. Although we can say, of the American relation to Iraqis, what Gloucester says in Lear about the relation of gods to humans - Iraqis are to Americans as flies are to wanton boys, they kill them for their sport - let's try to kick the habit. Let's do it by honoring at least one Iraqi murdered, indeed, for sport.


Well, for what it is worth, this is the question I sent in, and this is De Young’s answer:

Austin, Texas: In your article today, there is a puzzling paragraph about Andrew Moonen, the Blackwater guard who killed Raheem Khalif, President Maliki's bodyguard, last Christmas. Condi Rice seems to claim that the case has languished not because of an absence of law but because of "a question of evidence." But do we have any evidence that the Justice Department even has questioned Moonen after he was sent back to the U.S.? And if Moonen is prosecuted for the murder of Raneem Khalif -- which seems like an open-and-shut case to me -- will they prosecute Margaret Scobey, the acting ambassador in Iraq at the time, as an accessory? After all, she knew that Moonen killed Khalif while drunk and apparently approved -- or even decided -- the day after to help him escape back to the States.
I would think that this case is tailor-made for a special prosecutor, given that there were many people at the State department involved in covering up Moonen's crime. What frustrates people like me, outside the Beltway, is the perception since the Scooter Libby pardon of an air of impunity that seems to cover all wrongdoing by the government elite, even up to accessory to murder.
Karen DeYoung: Although we now know a lot about what happened in this case and actions of Blackwater and the U.S. Embassy in the immediate aftermath, we know practically nothing about the status of the Justice investigation into it or the likelihood of any prosecution. Although I've been told by many here that the problem is one of "what law can be used for prosecution," Rice did, indeed, say the other day that that was not the problem--that it was a lack of evidence. Apparently it is both--there were only two people present when the event occured, and only one of them is still alive.

For a more D.C.-centric view of the case, here’s another question/comment:

Washington: Everyone needs to be realistic about this ... of course these people were offered immunity -- they wouldn't be in Iraq if they weren't. They are there to protect our diplomats in a war zone where people hide behind women and children and use sucicde bombs and other things that we as Americans can't imagine using. Of course mistakes are going to be made ... and innocents are going to be killed. It is a neccesary evil, plain and simple. If we put these guys in jail, good luck getting private contractors into Iraq and other war zones across the world.
Karen DeYoung: More food for thought and comment.

I believe the good folks at UFOB invented a machine that processes lesser evil into rectitudinous squirrels. It has been a smash seller, as you can imagine. Mr. Scruggs was wined and dined extensively at the last Kos convention, where he modestly opined that he was “the Thomas Edison of political apparatuses”. I believe those are his words. Or was it "The demon Belzebuub, come to judge among the quick and the dead"? The vocal distortion on the video I saw made it hard to tell, although the room did, at that moment, grow bloody red, and griffons appeared to hunt among the shrieking members of the audience.

Anyway, UFOB needs to come up with an evil machine 2.0 tout de suite, that can work on ‘necessary evil’. Remember, without necessary evil, ‘good luck getting private contractors into Iraq.” Yikes. A world without mercenaries is like a day without sunshine – or rather, like hell without sulfur.


Arkady said…
Roger, would it be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good to say Blackwater should be charged first, as an accessory to murder? The gated community anomie of the thrill killer runs through the mercenrary outfit from the top down. I think you can bet the top managers would toss Moonen to the prosecutors the day after charges were made. They're all for the code of the warrior, like Maggie Thatcher's brat, until it means doing time for criminal conspiracy. Then they sing.
Roger Gathmann said…
I hate Blackwater, but as far as I can tell they did follow the law re Moonen. They turned him over - or Triple Canopy did - to the State department. Blackwater, farcically, docked his pay, and terminated his contract.

Now, I'm all for a separate, RICO charge against Blackwater and the State Department. But that is, let's say, a more fantastic wish, and there is no political will to do it.

On the other hand, the political will to prosecute for murder would emerge as soon as the charges were lodged - which is why the Justice department isn't lodging them. Even rightwingers would support the case. It would be hard to make a better case, actually. An armed man gets drunk and goes looking for trouble and shoots and kills a body guard on "our side."

It is fearfully easy to understand this story, which is why they want it buried, and why DeYoung says, probably reflecting what she has heard in D.C., that there are no eyewitnesses. Well, I have heard different - not from any special source, but from reading around the Iraqi blogs. The FBI is there right now. And I would bet my eyeteeth that the Justice department has not instructed them to interview witnesses to the Khalif killing. Like the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi in the sixties, the problem for the authorities, here, is that it would be hard to bungle the prosecution of this crime, but... that prosecution would lead to others.
Roger Gathmann said…
ps - further news from wired, which has an excellent blog about blackwater:

"The New York Times is reporting today that the Department of Defense is taking control of the State Department's convoys of security contractors, like Blackwater. The Pentagon already coordinates its outsourced security details through a single, Defense Department entity, the Reconstruction Operations Centers, which tracks movement of security convoys to make sure they and the military don't trip over one another. Most likely this existing mechanism will be expanded to monitor Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp convoys for the Department of State.

But here's the interesting twist: The Reconstruction Operations Centers are themselves outsourced, through a recently renewed $475 million contract to the British firm Aegis. And Aegis is run by the infamous old-school gun-for-hire, Tim Spicer. He's the guy, you may recall, who tried to use his mercenary army to launch a counter-coup of the government of Sierra Leone -- and plotted the overthrow of the authorities in Equatorial Guinea. Later, in Iraq, his boys filmed a rather nasty “trophy video,” in which contractors took video of themselves shooting at civilians, set it to the Elvis song "Runaway Train," and put it on the Internet. "