Thursday, October 11, 2007

Our Tax Dollars at Work

You may recall us bitching about the mouth-breathers at Homeland Security harassing our British houseguest over some Syrian stamps in her passport. Among the complicating factors for her - and with US Immigration, everything is a complicating factor - was the fact that her father is Iraqi. One of the good Iraqis, though. It's hard to remember who's side were on there anymore, but certainly a Christian who fled the country in the 1970s, leaving his family behind, counts as an ally, no? So we've got one branch of the government harassing this guy's daughter, while another is spends a billion bucks a day to bring his native country democracy, whisky and sexy! Oh, that wacky federal bureaucracy. No wonder taxes are so high.

So, here's something else we're spending money on: through USAID, we're paying hundreds of millions of dollars to an outfit called Research Triangle Institute International to help clean up the mess we've made over there. But because the troops we've sent over there just don't have what it takes to provide an adequate level of security (oh, fuck you, you support 'em; I'm sick of pretending), RTI is doling out millions more to a gang of trigger-happy Australian Hessians called the Unity Resources Group, to keep themselves from being blown up. Heavily armed, non-American subcontractors of subcontractors, operating in a Mad Max landscape under the jurisdiction of no one except maybe Allah...what fabulous idea! What could possibly go wrong?

An Australian-owned foreign security company admitted that guards working for them shot and killed two Christian women in central Baghdad before speeding away.

It's the second time a private contractor has been accused of killing Iraqi civilians in less than a month, leading to concerns about the heavily armed and some say trigger-happy teams.

One of those women was our friend's aunt, a 48-year-old widow with three children, ages 20, 18 and 13, shot through the head by our paid employees, who fired (depending on the estimate) between 19 and 40 bullets into their car. The neighborhood they were driving in is considered one of the safest in Baghdad. Two children riding in the back were relatively uninjured.

According to CNN, this is how it went down:

One man who said he witnessed the shooting said it appeared that the women in the car were frightened when the people in the security detail fired warning shots.

"What a shame," he said. "Maybe she got confused or she got scared, and when she got scared they frantically started shooting at them.

"Yes, they killed those two women. They were sitting in the front, ... and there were two kids. But the two kids, nothing happened to them," the man added.

Another witness to the shooting said the women were shot from a distance.

"It was a family, two women, one was driving and the second was a passenger," he said. "They killed them and they were at a far distance from them."

RTI has bravely washed their hands of the situation, confirming that, whatever the hell these cowboys were playing at, they were doing it on their own time.

Research Triangle Institute International spokesman Patrick Gibbons said "no RTI staff members were involved or present when the incident occurred."

"URG had completed their transportation mission [of RTI personnel] and were returning to their base of operations at the time of the incident," he said.

So I guess it's up to USAID to take responsibility for this, since they're paying the bills.

"USAID does not direct the security arrangements of contractors," US embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo told AFP.

"Contractors are contractually responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their employees," she said, adding that the State Department was in contact with the Iraqi authorities about the shooting.

Okay, so the Iraqi authorities are all over it. They stand up, we stand down, etc...

Under a provision put into place in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, security contractors have immunity from Iraqi law.

That's the kind of foresight that has made this whole adventure the resounding success it is! Anyway, the Hessians say they're really sorry about the whole thing, so I guess it's all okay now. Meanwhile, a much bigger problem is what will become of our friend's three orphaned cousins, since the US and UK's attitudes towards the refugees they've created is basically, "Wow, that totally sucks for you." In the unlikely event that anyone reading this has some expertise in British immigration law and the feasibility of, say, adopting a 20-year-old, please contact us so we can pass you along to the family.

And if anyone has the slightest idea what the holy living Christ we're still doing over there, feel free to leave an explanation in comments.


radosh said...

I wish I knew what to say other than that this completely sucks.

Burro Hall said...

It took me 500 words to say more or less the same thing.

Julie said...

That is absolutely horrifying. My heart is broken for those women's families. Please pass along our deepest sadness and sympathy to your friend for the shocking death of her aunt. What a disgusting mess....