Four former Blackwater (renamed Xe, then Academi) security guards were convicted on Wednesday for the 16 September 2007 shootings of more than 14 Iraqis and wounding 20 others in Nisour Square massacre, Baghdad. Their convictions are in stark contrast to the injustice dished out to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who is serving decades in prison for merely revealing war crimes in Iraq similar to those carried out by Blackwater killers. The campaign to liberate Manning must never cease and the world’s media, which co-published Manning’s leaks, have a particular responsibility to ensure his plight is not forgotten.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated 27 days before convicting Nicholas A. Slatten, of Sparta, Tenn., of murder. The panel also convicted Paul A. Slough of Keller, Tex., of 13 counts of manslaughter and 16 counts of attempted manslaughter; Evan S. Liberty of Rochester, N.H., of eight counts of manslaughter and 12 counts of attempted manslaughter; and [Dustin] Heard of Knoxville, Tenn., of six counts of manslaughter and 11 counts of attempted manslaughter. Slough, Liberty and Heard were also convicted of using military firearms while committing a felony. Slatten could be sentenced to life in prison, while the others face a minimum of 30 years. Another Blackwater employee, Jeremy Ridgeway, previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter and testified for the prosecution in this trial.
Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men…It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” he added as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors. “There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene. None of these people were armed.” After he described at length the harrowing fate of individual Iraqi civilians attacked by the Blackwater convoy. One witness to the massacre described how after the gunfire had ceased he opened the door to his car and his son’s brains fell out at his feet.
The trial, which began in June, had been delayed for several years because the George W Bush administration had ordered that the accused guards were immune from prosecution.
In contrast… Last year Bradley Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, stealing government property, and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Leaked material by Manning included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 500,000 Army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. Manning was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment, with a possibility of parole after 8 years have been served. In reality, Manning’s ‘crime’ was to expose crimes committed during war. Manning’s prosecution, conviction and sentence are widely viewed as an absurdity, particularly as much of the information Manning released was published by leading newspaper such as The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The Washington Post.
In 2012 Manning was awarded People’s Choice Award by Global Exchange; in 2013, the Sean MacBride Peace Prize by the International Peace Bureau; and in 2014 the Sam Adams Award by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
Here is a transcript of Manning’s statement to the court prior to final judgements.