Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blackwater Used CS Gas to Clear a Traffic Jam

The New York Times reported this morning that in 2005 a Blackwater helicopter dropped a tear gas substance on Iraqi civilians and US military personnel in Baghdad. “The American military in Iraq can use CS gas only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders,” the NYT said. “An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint...Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins’ Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead,” the NYT report said. “This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene said online later that day. Uncool? I would say so. But the real kicker was the information that there was no violence at the checkpoint where the CS gas was dropped. The Blackwater convoy was stuck in traffic and used the tear gas to clear the traffic jam. Guess what Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater said about the incident? The CS gas was dropped by mistake. “Blackwater teams in the air and on the ground were preparing a secure route near a checkpoint to provide passage for a motorcade. It seems a CS gas canister was mistaken for a smoke canister and released near an intersection and checkpoint.” Blackwater says it is permitted carry CS gas under its contract at the time with the State Department. But a State Department official says the contract did not specifically authorize Blackwater personnel to carry or use CS gas, but it did not prohibit it. The NYT said, “The military tightly controls use of riot control agents in war zones. They are banned by an international convention on chemical weapons endorsed by the United States, although a 1975 presidential order allows their use by the United States military in war zones under limited defensive circumstances and only with the approval of the president or a senior officer designated by the president.” Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. said, “It is not allowed as a method or means of warfare...There are very, very strict restrictions on the use of CS gas in a war zone.” While standing at the checkpoint Captain Clark said he saw a Blackwater helicopter overhead. In a personal journal posted online the day of the incident, Captain Clark wrote: “We noticed that one of them was hovering right over the intersection in front of our checkpoint. There was a small amount of white smoke coming up from the intersection. I grabbed my radio and asked one of the guard towers what the smoke was. He answered that it looked like one of the helicopters dropped a smoke grenade on the cars in the intersection. I asked him why were they doing that, was there something going on in the intersection that would cause them to do this. He said, nope, couldn’t see anything. Then I said, well what kind of smoke is it? “Before he could say anything, I got my answer. My eyes started watering, my nose started burning and my face started to heat up. CS! I heard the lieutenant say, “Sir that’s not smoke, it’s CS gas.” Captain Clark’s wrote, “the gas caused a complete traffic jam in front of our checkpoint, armored cars in the convoy made a U-turn — and threw another CS grenade...it just seemed incredibly stupid...the only thing we could figure out was for some reason, one of them figured that CS would somehow clear traffic. Why someone would think a substance that makes your eyes water, nose burn and face hurt would make a driver do anything other than stop is beyond me. Army Staff Sgt. Kenny Mattingly said he was puzzled. “We saw the Little Bird (Blackwater helicopter) come and hover right in front of the gate, and I saw one of the guys dropping a canister...There was no reason for dropping the CS gas. We didn’t hear any gunfire or anything. There was no incident under way.” And Blackwater thugs are still making their incredibly stupid, arrogant mistakes in Iraq, and lying about it while the State Department covers up for them and claims an investigation is going on when no investigation is going on. The war in Iraq is not going well or even better, it is simply stagnating. As of January 9th 3921 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq for no reason other than to keep the Bush administration's ego war going on and on and on. But Blackwater, and all of Vice President Cheney’s companies (Halliburton and offshoots and branches of Halliburton) are making tons and tons and tons of money.

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