The other day I wrote a diary entry regarding the outrage from many about the "injustice" of the dismissal of criminal charges against Blackwater employees over the alleged massacre in Iraq. In addition to my diary, teacherken at Blue Commonwealth and Daily Kos also wrote on the issue as well which is linked here Daily Kos diary from teacherken. Both Ken and I share the belief that the judge decided correctly in this case and that we cannot sacrifice the Constitutional rights of anyone no matter how heinous the alleged offense is.
This morning I woke to an e-mail that was sent to New Dominion Project about my diary titled "scahill's hatred"
From: Tom Orange
Subject: for DanielK: scahill's "hatred"
Sent: Jan 1, 2010 2:57 PM
could someone please ask DanielK why jeremy scahill and others "let their hatred (whether justified or not) blind their reasoning in accepting this decision," that is, why is it "hatred" (and hatred of what exactly) that "blinds their reasoning" and could it not be instead and in fact what reason itself enables scahill and others to see clearly, namely that privatized military security forces are deeply and inherently flawed precisely because they are apparently accountable to no legal jurisdiction or process and seem to answer to no one but corporate boards and CEOs?
Since Mr. Orange didn't want to comment on this I decided to write another diary in order to further explain my position and in a more narrow sense.
Since the alleged massacre, and I use the word alleged because they have never convicted in a court of law but convicted in the court of public opinion Jeremy Scahill has been at the forefront of the investigation of Blackwater and their practices in Iraq. Nearly all of what he has reported on and discovered has been an eye opening experience for many Americans, including myself and should definitely not go unnoticed. It is without a doubt that Scahill does not like Blackwater, now known as Xe and Erik Prince based on their previous. Their connections to the Bush administration and contracts raises many questions but this case and decsion is not about that. This case is about the rule of law in our country and our Constitution which is non negotiable and applies equally to all, no matter how heinous the offenses. Now, I will address each point raised by Mr. Orange.
Scahill and others have been focusing incorrectly on the crime when looking at this decision. Their "hatred" for Blackwater is blinding the understanding that Judge Urbina's decision had absolutely nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the involved contractors. Over on RebelReports, Scahill opened an article titled: "Fed Judge Gives Blackwater Huge New Year's Gift, Dismisses All Charges in Iraq Massacre" with the following:
A federal judge in Washington DC has given Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries a huge New Year’s gift. Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed all charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. Judge Urbina’s order, issued late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve is a stunning blow for the Iraqi victims’ families and sends a clear message that US-funded mercenaries are above all systems of law—US and international.
Clearly, Scahill does not attempt to hide a bias again Blackwater in his opinions and writings and that bias is clearly clouding judgment and ability to view this decision rationally. Again, this has nothing to do with the alleged massacre that took place because the 90-page opinion never once referenced it in the reasoning. What the ruling did reference were clear and blatant constitutional violations that could not have been overlooked by even those most law and order, anti-defendant conservative judge. Scahill has continually talked about how this decision sends the message that "mercenaries" are above the law and that statement coming from Scahill is extremely unfortunate. This is not an issue of being "above the law" and to make such a statement would be to equate it when an accused killer or rapist has their charges dismissed because of Constitutional violations by law enforcement investigators. This case correctly does not involve or focus on whether or not private military contractors should be in Iraq and who, if anyone they are held accountable to. The courts must take a narrow focus on the specific issue at hand (whether statements and evidence were obtained in violation of the Constitution) and that narrow focus is what many people, including Scahill refuse to acknowledge or understand. If it is a "gift" that a federal judge did not ignore blatant Constitutional violations by the government against defendants not matter how angry the public and a country (Iraq) will get is a "gift" I'll happily accept.
What Mr. Orange and Scahill refuse to acknowledge also is that this decision had nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the accused Blackwater contractors. I cannot understand at all Mr. Orange's statement that
apparently accountable to no legal jurisdiction or process and seem to answer to no one but corporate boards and CEOs?
That statement completely falls on it's face in failure because the contractors were held accountable in the United States federal court system and had it not been for the blatant and reckless Constitutional violations of investigators they would have been tried before a jury of their peers. Again, this is no different than smaller cases throughout the United States that sees charges dismissed based on Constitutional violations. The only difference is that this decision does not allow for the same verdict the contractors already were convicted of in the court of public opinion which has a substantially lower burden of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt which is the basis of our criminal legal system.
As someone with a pretty deep understanding of the criminal court process and reviewing the facts and decision of the case and initial investigation I cannot imagine a single judge that would have not dismissed the charges based on the violations and taint that resulted. Our judicial system is responsible for upholding the law even if those decisions are unpopular to everyone except the defendant. We would not expect a criminal defendant to have his Miranda or 4th Amendment rights violated without the court remedying the violation so I do not understand why these defendants (No matter how guilty in the court of public opinion they appear) should be held to a different standard.
In closing, I challenge everyone to think of a few things regarding this case. Over the last eight years we heard a lot of criticism of the Bush administration's attack on the Constitution. Much of that criticism in certain instances was substantiated through federal and Supreme Court decisions overturning certain practices by the Bush administration. Keeping that in mind, if we demand that the accused Blackwater contractors are not afforded the same Constitutional protections as all other defendants accused in our court system then we are no different than the previous administration that we were so outraged against.