Commentary — April 3, 2012, 1:11 pm

“The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos

The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes “The Warrior Class,” a feature by Charles Glass on the rise of private-security contractors since 9/11. The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq. Clips and photos from the videos are shown below, introduced by Glass’s descriptions:

The first , identified as “Baghdad, Iraq, May–­September 2005,” showed Blackwater convoys racing through town. Suddenly, the door of a Blackwater SUV opened and a rifle fired at passing traffic. “They opened the door,” my companion said. “You should never break the seal.”

 

A still photo showed some graffiti scrawled on a metal beam: THIS IS FOR THE AMERICANS OF BLACKWATER THAT WERE MURDERED HERE IN 2004 SEMPER FIDELIS 3/5 PS FUCK YOU.

graffiti
 

The next tape had been taken by a camera in the turret of an armored vehicle. An [M4A1]

Corrected text. The gun was initially misidentified as an AK47.

fired from the turret at cars that had stopped to let the convoy pass. Whoever was firing the [gun] did so enthusiastically and often, sending rounds into parked cars and an overhead bridge. Another sequence showed a contractor vehicle rear-ending a car, shattering its back windshield.

 

The footage continued. A Humvee smashed into a car to move it out of the way. Guards swore at passersby. More armored vehicles smashed into civilian cars.

 

Blackwater helicopters shot at targets below in a Baghdad street.

 

But what about the tape dated April 1, 2006, which was shot from the front seat of the fourth car in an armored convoy? Driving along a wide boulevard in Baghdad, the lead vehicle swerved close to the curb of a traffic island. A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, “Oh, my God!” Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: “You’ve been . . . thunderstruck!

 

The tape ended with the inscription IN SUPPORT OF SECURITY, PEACE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY EVERYWHERE.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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