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State Department halts dignitary visits … for four days

September 21, 2007 | 2008 campaign,Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq,Military,MSM

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pissed. Blackwater USA employees killed one Iraqi police officer and 10 Iraqi civilians and wounded at least 13 Iraqi bystanders in a shootout in Baghdad on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. Maliki called the action criminal, threatened to prosecute those involved, canceled Blackwater’s operating license and ordered the company out of the country on Monday. On Tuesday, the United States suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials in Iraq outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Scratch that. Convoys guarded by Blackwater resumed today after suspending them for only four days. The U.S. embassy struck back at the prime minister, releasing a report that details corruption in his government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got the prime minister to agree to set up a commission to “look into the matter.” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked Blackwater USA founder and owner Erik Prince to appear before the House Government Reform Committeeon Oct. 2, 2007, to determine if private contractors serve U.S. interests in Iraq and whether Blackwater USA “has advanced or impeded U.S. efforts.”

I’m curious. Who were the U.S. diplomats being guarded by Blackwater employees, and will they be required to testify before the committee?

Was it Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and his delegation — Reps. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., and fourth-timer Steve Pearce, R-N.M. — who recently returned from an “intense two-day tour” of Iraq? No. They were there the weekend before last.

Was it Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio, and his delegation — Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., Peter King, R-N.Y., Tom Latham, R-Iowa, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio — who just returned from Iraq? No. They were in Baghdad earlier last week. (Gosh, it’s hard to keep track, isn’t it?)

Was it third-time visitor Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and her delegation — Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., fourth-timer Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and third-timer Ken Salazar, D-Colo.? Maybe. They were on the heels of the other delegation and were in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said Blackwater’s contractors acted lawfully and that the “civilians” who were killed were armed enemies. An Iraqi report said Blackwater guards were not ambushed. Instead, they fired at a car when it did not heed a police officer’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant. In video shot after the episode, the child appeared to have burned to the mother’s body after the car caught fire.

In the meantime, Blackwater remains in Iraq, and Rice is telling everyone she has ordered a “full and complete review” of security practices, including Blackwater, which has a $1 billion, five-year contract with the U.S. State Department.

USA TODAY added an update to its breaking-news blog:

Update at 4:45 p.m. ET:We’ve requested comment from Blackwater USA. In the meantime, campaign finance records show that Prince has been a big donor to the Republican Party. In July, he gave $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Nice try, but that’s just the beginning.

Prince also gave the National Republican Congressional Committee $25,000 in 2005, $25,000 in 2004, $20,000 in 2000, $15,000 in 1989, $1,000 in 1986, as well as $71,950 to the RNC Republican National State Elections Committee in 2000, and the following:

  • $1,000 on Nov. 2, 2004, to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who visited Iraq in September 2006.
  • $1,000 on Sept. 26, 2005, and $1,000 on Nov. 16, 2004, to Rep. Thomas DeLay, R-Texas, who visited Iraq in August 2003.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who visited Iraq in February 2005.
  • $500 on Sept. 21, 1999, $1,000 on Aug. 24, 2004, and $1,000 on March 31, 2005, to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Minn., who visited Iraq in August 2003, September 2003, June 2004 and November 2004.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who visited Iraq at least six times.
  • $2,100 on Aug. 23, 2006, to Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., who visited Iraq in November 2004 and February 2007.
  • $1,000 on Nov. 2, 2004, to Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., who visited Iraq in September 2003.
  • $1,000 on Jan. 4, 2006, and $2,000 on Dec. 19, 2005, to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who visited Iraq in February 2004, September 2005 and April 2007 (his fifth visit).
  • $750 on Oct. 29, 2004, to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who visited Iraq in February 2005.
  • $1,000 on Oct. 31, 2005, and $500 on Sept. 26, 2005, to Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., who visited Iraq in October 2003 and July 2005.
  • $1,000 on March 31, 2005, to Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., who visited Iraq in September 2003.

That’s just for starters. I’ll keep looking. The USA TODAY guy might want to do the same.

Posted by Becky @ 4:36 pm  

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