An FBI investigator of the 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad involving four American mercenaries who have been recently pardoned by outgoing President Donald Trump, likened the massacre “along the lines of My Lai in Vietnam” .
John M. Patarini who was FBI’s lead investigator of the Blackwater case said he was “disgusted with the president’s actions”, in a letter published by the New York Times on Friday.
In 2007, 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, among them a nine-year-old child, were killed when American mercenaries, acting as bodyguards, opened fire with weapons including machine guns and grenade launchers at unarmed civilians.
Blackwater operatives Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder and Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter over the shooting, which happened in heavy traffic in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Security firm Blackwater is owned by Erik Prince, brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
The four convicted men were included in a wave of pre-Christmas pardons announced by the outgoing White House administration.
“We originally went to Iraq thinking this shooting was some form of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between Blackwater guards and insurgents,” Patarini said.
“After only one week, we determined that this incident was not as presented by Blackwater personnel and their state department lackeys, but it was a massacre along the lines of My Lai in Vietnam.”
The My Lai massacre took place on 16 March 1968 in Vietnam, when as many as 504 children, women and older men were killed by a US infantry company, members of which also raped numerous women and girls.
Trump, who will leave office on 20 January, has issued pardons or acts of clemency in cases in which US troops were accused or convicted of war crimes. Presidential pardons do not mean or imply innocence.
Patarini wrote that he “only recently became aware of the concerted effort for the pardons” of the four mercenaries who perpetrated the Nisour Square massacre, “which I understand started with a political push by members of Congress”.
“President Trump should have had staff members review the trial evidence that led to the convictions and read the judges’ opinions and sentencing statements. I’m so disgusted with the president’s actions!”
After the pardons were announced, Adil al-Khazali, an Iraqi citizen whose father, Ali, was killed in Nisour Square, told the Guardian: “Justice doesn’t exist.”
“I ask the American people to stand with us. I lost my father and many innocent women and children also died. I ask the US government to reconsider, because by this decision US courts are losing their reputation. Trump has no right to pardon killers of innocent people.” (Source: The Guardian)