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September 16 is the first anniversary of the killing of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square by Blackwater security personnel, and peace groups in states with Blackwater training sites have been marking the occasion with protests (though a Sunday demonstration by the Clearwater Project of Illinois was rained out.)

Despite U.S. and Iraqi inquiries which found the Nisour Square shootings to be unprovoked, no one has been charged in the killings.  With over $1 billion in no-bid federal contracts in Iraq since 2003, Blackwater operates under agreements exempting it from military and civilian law.

The Iraqi government initially ordered Blackwater out of the country.  But in April the U.S. State Department renewed the company’s contract there.

On August 27 the Jo Davies County zoning board approved a proposal to build a new shooting range at the Blackwater training facility in Mt. Carroll, the Galena Gazette reported.  Critics from Clearwater raised zoning issues and warned of future expansion.  (See last year’s Newstip for some background.)

Opponents of Blackwater in Illinois are supporting Representative  Julie Hamos’s Limits on Military Contractors Act (HB 5700), which would ban the use of military weapons and explosives except at government-regulated facilities.  It would also bar state funding for training of law enforcement personnel by private military contractors, and prohibit the use of private contractors to patrol, guard, or arrest Illinois residents.

They’re also supporting U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky’s Stop Outsourcing Security Act (HR 4102), which would phase out private security companies in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Category: human rights, international, peace

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