On Monday, the State Department announced that it is extending its contract with Blackwater for an additional year. Under the contract, the private military company will continue its role protecting State Department delegations in Iraq despite its involvement in several controversial incidents, including the killing of seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. Despite an ongoing investigation by the FBI and the military’s labeling the killing “a criminal event,” there have been no charges against Blackwater and many have argued that contractors–who operate outside of Iraqi law and are not covered by US military tribunals–are largely exempt from any oversight. Still, the Pentagon recently charged one contractor in Iraq under military law–a Canadian-Iraqi citizen who worked as a translator and is accused of stabbing another contractor in Iraq. Two other contractors have been punished under US civilian law, but no contractors have been punished for crimes harming Iraqis.
Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, who is a native of West Michigan, will be speaking in Grand Rapids on May 19 to the Grand Rapids Economic Club. Prince will speak at a luncheon open to members–who pay between $150 and $380 per year–of the Club. The general public, despite paying millions to Blackwater since its founding, is not invited.