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The human toll
Civilian Victims of Contractors Want Justice
Kudos to LA Times for Reporting Human Side of Contractor Accountaibility Story
10/08/2007 11:48 AM ET
An Iraqi woman walks past a burnt car at Nisoor Square, at the site where Blackwater guards opened fire, killing a number of civilians.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi woman walks past a burnt car at Nisoor Square, at the site where Blackwater guards opened fire, killing a number of civilians.

While most of the media busies itself plying official sources for new information on the ongoing Blackwater controversy, the LA Times distinguishes itself with important enterprise journalism, making the effort to track down Iraqi victims, and documenting additional incidents of civilian deaths.

Tina Susman and Raheem Salman track down the wife of Raheem Khalif Hulaichi, the Iraqi man fatally shot by an allegedly drunk Blackwater contractor while on guard duty last Christmas Eve at Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi's compound inside the Green Zone

Even though Blackwater and the State Department agreed that the family should receive $15,000 compensation, Hulaichi's wife, Umm Sajjad, said they had not received money because the vice president's office felt the sum was too low.

Azad Jaff, a security official in the vice president's office who has been leading negotiations on the family's behalf, said that Blackwater had sent $20,000, but the VP's office felt that was insufficient and was demanding $100,000.

The 30-year-old mother of two told the LA Times, "The money of the whole world is not able to compensate for my husband, but what I want is enough to guarantee my children's future . . . and to buy a house."

"I don't want them to feel that they lost their father," she said of her sons, 6 and 10. "My responsibilities now are to act as both a mother and a father."

Umm Sajjad did not know that the contractor who had shot her husband had been flown out of the country, but thought that would be put to trial in Baghdad.

Victims of an August 13 shooting incident in Hilla echo sentiments regarding the meaninglessness of money in the LA Times' second important contractor story of the day.

The son of an Iraqi shot by a security convoy recalls his response when a US military officer offered a condolence payment for his loss: "I said, do you think $100 million can return my father? Do you think that can help?"

A man who survived the shooting but who had to pay $3500 to repair the damage of bullets that had peppered his car said he wasn't concerned about his own compensation, "The most important thing is that justice be done, because an innocent man lost his life," he said.

But Tina Sussman's investigation into the August 13 incident, and interviews with the brother of an Iraqi policeman killed in June 2006, illustrate the despair innocent Iraqis face when seeking justice for their innocent relatives killed by private contractors.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince touted his company's perfect record on Capitol Hill last week--saying his contractors had not lost a single client in Iraq--but he couldn't say how many innocent Iraqis had lost their lives at the hands of his employees.

Kudos to Tina Sussman, Raheem Salman, and LA Times staff for taking the trouble to research and report more of the human side to this important story.


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