NISOOR SQUARE UPDATE….Yesterday the Washington Post reported that an Army investigation of last month’s shooting in Nisoor Square had found no evidence that Blackwater guards were shot at. In fact, just the opposite:
At least two cars, a black four-door taxi and a blue Volkswagen sedan, had their back windshields shot out, but their front windshields were intact, indicating they were shot while driving away from the square, according to the photos and soldiers. The Volkswagen, which crashed into a bus stand, had blood splattered on the inside of its front windshield and windows. One person was killed, soldiers said.
U.S. soldiers did not find any bullets that came from AK-47 assault rifles or BKC machine guns used by Iraqi policemen and soldiers. They found evidence of ammunition used in American-made weapons, including M4 rifle 5.56mm brass casings, M240B machine gun 7.62mm casings, M203 40mm grenade launcher casings, and stun-grenade dunnage, or packing.
A white sedan, carrying a doctor and her son, had not entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle, where the Blackwater vehicles had stopped, when it was fired upon, according to the aerial photos. News reports have said the guards shot at the car because they believed it approached them in a threatening manner.
“I was surprised at the caliber of weapon being used,” said Capt. Don Cherry, 32. “My guys have 203s with nonlethal rounds we use as warning shots. It’s a rubber ball that bounces off the windshield.”
“This is a hand grenade you are flying out there,” he added.
Today, the New York Times gets corroboration from three Kurdish observers who saw the entire incident:
The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.
The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level….The Kurdish witnesses said that they saw no one firing at the guards at any time during the event, an observation corroborated by the forensic evidence of the shell casings. Two of the witnesses also said all the Blackwater vehicles involved in the shooting drove away under their own power.
…. As events unfolded and the Blackwater guards unleashed a storm of gunfire into the crowded square, Mr. Waso and Mr. Ali both said, they could neither hear nor see any return fire. “It was one-sided shooting from one direction,” Mr. Waso said. “There wasn’t any return fire.”
Mr. Waso said that what he saw was not only disturbing, but also in some cases incomprehensible. He said that the guards kept firing long after it was clear that there was no resistance. People were shot while trying to flee, he said. One man ran from a Volkswagen and the guards shot him in the head from behind, Mr. Waso said.
I haven’t yet read a single account that provides any backup for Blackwater’s side of the story. Every single witness and every piece of forensic evidence suggests that the Blackwater guards panicked at a car that got a little too close, and then opened fire on everything they could see. “If our people had done this,” said an American military official, “they would be court-martialed.” The Blackwater guards, conversely, will apparently pay no price at all. All part of George Bush’s freedom agenda, I guess.