Witnesses testify in Blackwater lawsuit

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury investigating Blackwater Worldwide heard witnesses Tuesday as a private lawsuit accused the government contractor’s bodyguards of ignoring orders and abandoning their posts shortly before taking part in a Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.Filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington, the civil complaint also accuses North Carolina-based Blackwater of failing to give drug tests to its guards in Baghdad – even though an estimated one in four of them was using steroids or other “judgment altering substances.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman said Tuesday its employees are banned from using steroids or other enhancement drugs but declined to comment on the other charges detailed in the 18-page lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of five Iraqis who were killed and two who were injured during the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The shootings enraged the Iraqi government, and the Justice Department is investigating whether it can bring criminal charges in the case, even though the State Department promised limited immunity to the Blackwater guards.

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American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq

IT WAS 9.30am when three men entered Haidar Musa’s sweet-shop and shot him repeatedly in the head as his eight-year-old daughter Zainab crouched in terror behind the counter.

By midday his stricken wife Kahiriya had packed Zainab and four other children into a car with a few possessions and fled their home town of Abu Ghraib for a life of penury in Baghdad, 20 miles to the east.

Eighteen months later, the six of them are living in a room that measures 12ft by 12ft, with a concrete floor. Its contents include a cooking pot, a sewing machine and thin sponge mattresses because this is their kitchen, sitting room and bedroom.

Asked when she intended to leave this squalor and return to the comfortable family home, Kahiriya Musa, 30, is emphatic. “Never,” she declares. “They will kill me if I return.”

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Baghdad Bonanza

KBR, Inc., the global engineering and construction giant, won more than $16 billion in U.S. government contracts for work in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006—far more than any other company, according to a new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. In fact, the total dollar value of contracts that went to KBR—which used to be known as Kellogg, Brown, and Root and until April 2007 was a subsidiary of Halliburton—was nearly nine times greater than those awarded to DynCorp International, a private security firm that is No. 2 on the Center’s list of the top 100 recipients of Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction funds.

Another private security company, Blackwater USA, whose employees recently killed as many as 17 Iraqi civilians in what the Iraqi government alleges was an unprovoked attack, is 12th on the list of companies and joint ventures, with $485 million in contracts. (On November 14, the New York Times reported that FBI investigators have concluded that 14 of the 17 shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, and that Justice Department prosecutors are weighing whether to seek indictments.) First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, which immediately precedes Blackwater on the Top 100, came under fire in July after a pair of whistleblowers told a House committee that the company essentially “kidnapped” low-paid foreign laborers brought in to help build the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad. First Kuwaiti and the U.S. State Department denied the charges.

Other key findings from the Center’s analysis:

Prasquier: Sarkozy’s US visit ‘very successful’

For the first time, the president of CRIF, the umbrella group of Jewish organizations, has accompanied a French President during his 36-hour official visit to the United States last week.

Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, was invited by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to join the official delegation fior the November 6-7 whirlwind visit which marked a new era of friendship between the US and France after years of strained relations over the Iraq war.

Sarkozy, who was elected in May, said he wanted “to reconquer the heart of America in a lasting fashion.”

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Bush will be held responsible for world war if Iran attacked: diplomat

TEHRAN, Nov. 27 (MNA) — Iran can not ignore the fact that U.S. President George W. Bush’s mania for waging war could go to extremes, Iranian Ambassador to Paris Ali Ahani said in an interview with the French weekly Challenges published on Tuesday.
On the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran, Ahani said, “We are prepared to face the worst scenarios. In that case, the U.S. president will have to claim the responsibility for a conflict that will influence the entire world.”Asked about the U.S. president’s stance on IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei’s recent report on Iran’s nuclear program, he said Bush does not know how to justify his belligerent attitude toward Iran.

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I have to admit that I was taken in by Powells pleasant demeanor, but I never understood why he sold the Iraq invasion to the UN. I should have known better, you don’t get to be a 5 star general without selling your soul to the devil.(travellerev) 

On January 17, 1963, in South Vietnam’s monsoon season, U.S. Army Capt. Colin Powell jumped from a military helicopter into a densely forested combat zone of the A Shau Valley, not far from the Laotian border.

Carrying an M-2 carbine, Capt. Powell was starting his first – and only – combat assignment. He was the new adviser to a 400-man unit of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

Across jungle terrain, these South Vietnamese government troops were arrayed against a combined force of North Vietnamese regulars and local anti-government guerrillas known as the Viet Cong.

The 25-year-old Powell was arriving at a pivotal moment in the Vietnam War. To forestall a communist victory, President John F. Kennedy had dispatched teams of Green Beret advisers to assist the ARVN, a force suffering from poor discipline, ineffective tactics and bad morale.

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