Blackwater Authorized $1 Million in Secret Payments to Silence Iraqi Officials

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To buy their silent support. The NYTimes:

Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company’s president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.

Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives. They said that Cofer Black, who was then the company’s vice chairman and a former top C.I.A. and State Department official, learned of the plan from another Blackwater manager while he was in Baghdad discussing compensation for families of the shooting victims with United States Embassy officials.

It gives new resonance to Facing South’s ACORN, Blackwater accountability disparity:

On Oct. 4, 2007, following the adoption of an amendment designed to ensure the action would not interfere with U.S. intelligence, the House passed Price’s bill by a vote of 389 to 30.

If we look at the list of the 30 lawmakers who voted against Price’s bill, we see that 23 of them voted for cutting off funds to ACORN.

In other words, 23 lawmakers were willing to hold ACORN accountable — but not Blackwater.

Those 23 lawmakers, 13 of whom hail from the South, are:

* Rodney Alexander (R-La.)
* Joe Barton (R-Texas)
* Charles Boustany (R-La.)
* Paul Broun (R-Ga.)
* Michael Burgess (R-Tx.)
* Steve Buyer (R-Ind.)
* Nathan Deal (R-Ga.)
* Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
* Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.)
* Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)
* Sam Johnson (R-Texas)
* Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)
* John Linder (R-Ga.)
* Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)
* Gary Miller (R-Calif.)
* Joe Pitts (R-Pa.)
* Tom Price (R-Ga.)
* Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
* Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
* Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
* John Shadegg (R-Ariz.)
* Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)
* Don Young (R-Alaska)

The other seven lawmakers who voted against Price’s bill are no longer in Congress. They are Reps. Richard Baker (R-La.), Chris Cannon (R-Utah), John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Jim McCrery (R-La.), Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), and Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.).

While it would also be interesting to extend the comparison to the Senate, it’s not possible: A companion bill to Price’s legislation sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama stalled in that chamber due to Republican opposition.

In other Blackwater news, a settlement in a civil suit against the company, now known as Xe, brought by dozens of Iraqis, including the estates of victims allegedly killed by Blackwater employees, has apparently fallen apart.

Then there are the reports that Blackwater used child prostitutes in Iraq. And State Department efforts to cut ties with the company (in Iraq, ties continue in other parts of the world) have been unsuccessful.

All of this will be interesting to follow going forward.