October 28, 2007

Andrew Moonen Should Be Charged With Murder

Filed under: Literature, Politics — duncan @ 6:11 pm

Limited Inc. suggests that bloggers spread the word, helping move us towards the outside chance that Andrew Moonen, and the U.S officials protecting him, will face criminal prosecution. Andrew Moonen’s the Blackwater contractor who, on Christmas Eve 2006, got drunk at a party and killed one of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi’s bodyguards, Raheem Khalif Hulaichi. Moonen was discharged from Blackwater for “violating alcohol and firearms policy”. A cover-up was unsuccessfully attempted, Hulaichi‘s family were given $20,000 [Correction: as of October 7th no compensation had been paid], and Moonen quickly got a job with a Defence Department contractor in Kuwait. No charges have been brought.

On the other hand, I’m not a U.S. citizen. So in the interests of balance, I also want to mention Aegis Defence Services, based right here in London. In October 2005 a video was posted on a website run by a disaffected company employee. It showed Aegis contractors shooting, apparently at random, into civilian vehicles. At first Aegis denied that the video, or the website, were anything to do with them; then both Aegis and the U.S. Army conducted investigations. They concluded that the contractors in question were operating within the rules for the legitimate use of force. Aegis got a high court injunction to shut down the website, and no charges were brought.

Last month, Aegis’s contract with the U.S. State Department was renewed. They now have a two year contract in Iraq for $475 million.

In 1917 A.E.Housman published a poem about the battle of Ypres. He called it ‘Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries.’ He wrote that the British Expeditionary Force “held the sky suspended”; they “saved the sum of things for pay.” In 1935 Hugh MacDiarmid published a slightly belated response.

Another Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries

It is a God-damned lie to say that these
Saved, or knew, anything worth any man’s pride.
They were professional murderers and they took
Their blood money and impious risks and died.
In spite of all their kind some elements of worth
With difficulty persist here and there on earth.

The corporate armies currently operating in Iraq are not regulated, and they are not subject to the law. Nobody knows how many private military contractors are in Iraq; nobody knows how many have died; nobody knows how many they’ve killed. In the absence of a victim connected to a high-profile figure, an incriminating video, or an especially brutal massacre with multiple credible witnesses, their crimes go unreported. And since Paul Bremer’s Order 17, no coalition forces or contractors in Iraq can be prosecuted by anyone other than their “sending states” – who refuse to do so.

Why isn’t Andrew Moonen being charged with murder?


  1. Excellent!
    Justice for Raheem Khalif!

    Comment by roger — October 28, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  2. We had a similar incident here in the States about a decade ago that involved a foreign diplomat
    who killed a pedestrian while he was driving drunk. There was an outcry for justice but since diplomats
    have immunity the person could not be charged with any crime. Celebrities seem to be above the law as
    well in the U.S.A. You may recall that OJ Simpson and rapper Snoop Doggy Dog both got away with murder.
    And, of course, our president has committed genocide. Will he be tried in the Hague for war crimes? Maybe
    when pigs fly.

    Comment by robertjerome — October 29, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

  3. The NY Times reported this:

    Accounts of the Sept. 16 confrontation in Baghdad differ widely, with Blackwater executives saying that their guards came under attack, while Iraqi government officials and civilian witnesses say that the Blackwater gunmen opened fire without provocation. There are several investigations of the shootings, including one by the F.B.I. that has the potential to result in criminal charges.

    And last year an American newspaper reported this:

    A string of alleged atrocities by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is testing the military justice system and raising the possibility that American soldiers may face the death penalty for acts in countries where every street can be a battlefield.

    The Defense Department’s modern-day criminal justice system has little experience with the death penalty and allegations such as the war crime charges that have surfaced in Iraq. There are just six men on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; no one has been executed since 1961.

    If a commander recommends the death sentence in any of the cases, the final decision on its imposition would require presidential approval. Such a choice could present a political dilemma for the commander in chief, who might face conflicting pressures to show support for troops yet not condone atrocities.

    I saw an ad on the bus today for the military that promised a sign on bonus, salary plus money for college for joining. The ad didn’t say anything about free legal services in the event that you lose your mind and indiscriminately rape and kill unarmed civilians.

    I have confidence that justice will be served in the Moonen case just as it was served in the many cases that involve attrocities committed by American soldiers. I really doubt these private security guards have total immunity. It is in the government’s best interest to prosecute Moonen if we want to maintain our integrity in the eyes of the new Iraqi government.

    Comment by robertjerome — October 30, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

  4. I have confidence that Moonen will face justice for what he did. Take a look at this example of what happened to 7 trigger-happy New Orleans police officers in the months following Hurrican Katrina:

    “Seven police officers were indicted Thursday on murder or attempted murder charges in shootings on a bridge that left two people dead during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Three of the seven New Orleans policemen indicted include Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, and Ofc. Michael Hunter. The district attorney portrayed the officers as trigger happy. “We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification like rabid dogs,” district Attorney Eddie Jordan said. The shootings took place under murky circumstances six days after the storm and became one of the most widely cited examples of the anarchy that gripped new Orleans after Katrina. Two young men were killed and four people wounded on the Danziger Bridge, which spans the Industrial Canal and connects the Gentilly neighborhood with eastern new Orleans. At the time, the sweltering city was littered with corpses. Rescuers were still evacuating flood-stranded residents from the rooftops of their homes, and looters ransacked stores. On Thursday, state district Judge Raymond Bigelow gave the indicted officers 24 hours to surrender. He said there would be no bond for the four accused of first-degree murder, which carries a possible death sentence. For the other officers, the bond will be $100,000 per count, Bigelow said.”

    Comment by robertjerome — October 31, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  5. Robert,

    Thanks for the comments and quotes. Writing and reading about the Moonen case has made me humiliating conscious of how little I’ve been following events in Iraq; I can’t speak with enough knowledge or understanding. But I’ll say a few quick things.

    You write that it is in the government’s best interest to prosecute Moonen if the U.S. or the coalition wants to maintain its integrity in the eyes of the new Iraqi government. I think it’s possible that Moonen will be prosecuted –, but if he is I don’t believe it will be to do with maintaining integrity in the eyes of the Iraqi government. For the U.S. government I think the chief purpose of the war now – almost its only purpose – is to maintain an illusion of control and strength. The Bush administration’s authority is so bound up with the idea that it is successfully prosecuting a war on terror that the administration would destroy itself if it admitted the scale of the catastrophe in Iraq. It’s not just the Bush administration; huge swathes of the American political establishment, including many Democrats, are in the same trap. The war in Iraq is unwinnable, but few people in positions of power can say so. This isn’t necessarily because they’re lying about their real views: it’s just because so much U.S. politics since 9/11 has been about the war on terror, and there’s enormous stigma attached to being seen as militarily weak. Whether politicians believe Iraq is salvageable or not, it’s politically risky to come across as strongly anti-war. (Of course for Democrats wanting to appeal to their party’s grassroots, its politically risky not to be strongly anti-war; but good luck trying to get into the White House on that ticket.)

    In the U.K. the situation’s different (though no better). The main political calculation over Iraq was always the British government’s relationship with the U.S. To put it too simply: for the American government, the war’s audience is the American public; for the British government, the war’s audience is the American government. These audiences are far more imporant in decisions regarding the war than what’s actually happening in Iraq.

    That’s one reason why I don’t think the views of the Iraqi government will influence the decision over whether to prosecute Moonen: the Bush administration don’t really care what the Iraqi government think; they care what the American domestic audience thinks. (Of course they’re pursuing their own agenda, not an agenda set by American public opinion; but they need some level of popular support if they’re going to maintain their power). That’s why the government and the military first of all attempted to cover up the Moonen story; now that the story’s out there, they’ll want to minimise its impact.

    I also think it’s important to remember the relationship between coalition forces and the Iraqi government. Although we’ve ostensibly handed over sovereignty to Iraqis, the country is still under occupation. The Iraqi government is dependent on coalition forces, and coalition forces are not subject to Iraqi law. This is perhaps the main reason why the occupation is self-defeating: you aren’t going to be able to create a legitimate or lastingly stable state in a country that is under occupation – especially when large portions of the population are actively fighting against the occupiers. So that’s another factor in my scepticism about the importance of the Iraqi government’s perspective on the Moonen case.

    Finally (I’m afraid I’m going to get shrill now…): we’ve been in Iraq for four years already. We’ve been bombing cities, destroying infrastructure (there’s still less electricity in Baghdad than there was when Saddam was in power), causing massive outbreaks of disease (because we destroyed many sewerage systems), creating mass unemployment (because the entire state apparatus was dismantled), imprisoning thousands upon thousands of innocent people (at times coalition forces would literally arrest male Iraqis at random, going from house to house in suspect neighbourhoods), torturing many of those we imprisoned… and killing thousands upon thousands more – not just al-Qaeda operatives, or insurgents, or Iraqi nationalists fighting occupying troops – but also civilians – men, women and children. So I don’t think we’ve got any integrity to maintain.

    With regard to the Moonen case: he certainly has immunity from Iraqi law; the question is whether he has immunity from U.S. law as well. Here the situation looks murky. There’s no doubt that the government could prosecute Moonen if they wanted to. But Blackwater contractors in Iraq were told by the State Department that they had immunity from prosecution, not just in Iraq, but in the U.S. And the Justice department doesn’t have much of a record in bringing charges against murderous Iraqi contractors. Condoleeza Rice said the other day that the difficulty with prosecuting Moonen is “not the absence of law… it’s a question of evidence.” In a way this seems to settle the matter – they’re willing to prosecute, in principle. But since Rice also seems to be claiming that there’s insufficient evidence even to bring Moonen to trial… when apparently no one else has any doubt at all that he killed Raheem Khalif Hulaichi… I think there’s reason to be sceptical about Rice’s motives.

    The crimes in Iraq are systemic, pervasive, total. Perhaps Moonen will be prosecuted – and will be portrayed as another ‘bad apple’, like Linndie England, sacrificed and pilloried while the war machine moves on. But it seems just as likely he’ll get away with murder – because the Bush administation doesn’t want the nature of its war to come under any further public scrutiny.

    Comment by praxisblog — November 1, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

  6. Well, you’re correct that the Iraq war is a quagmire of shit. I see your point that the current administration has little need to employ any face-saving rhetoric or tactics for the Iraqi government or the American public. Moonen might actually escape justice due to the fact that Bush doesn’t care about anything any more since he’s on his way out. Iraq will be a problem that the next president (or presidents) will have to clean up. It is important to remember that George W. Bush, rather than Moonen, is foremost guitly of the murder of Raheem Khalif Hulaichi since he is the architect of the whole fiasco in Iraq.

    PS- I forgot to mention in my previous responses that NYC cops who murder unarmed black men sometimes only recieve demotions and re-training.

    Comment by robertjerome — November 2, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  7. Yes, I agree – the Bush administration should be the real focus of our fury. The only reason it seems halfway reasonable to believe that Moonen will be tried for murder is that his crime falls somewhat outside the arena of legitimated crime that is the Iraq war. Moonen killed Hulaichi drunk, while off duty – and his victim was an employee of the Iraqi vice president. So there’s just no way anyone can spin this as part of the ‘war on terror’, no matter how deluded or cynical the spin. In this sense, the Moonen case is entirely the wrong target for our polemic. Then again, one reason it’s worth highlighting the case is precisely because the crime is so clear-cut and undeniable – no matter one’s views on the war. The fact that there’s even any doubt over whether Moonen will be prosecuted helps to illustrate the utter fraudulence of the claim that coalition troops in Iraq are helping to establish or enforce the rule of law. And given that there still seems to be some debate over this issue, the case is maybe worth emphasising.

    Not that these comments have a whole lot of influence on American foreign policy. But, as Tesco and democracy put it: every little helps.

    Comment by praxisblog — November 9, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  8. It does not matter what blanket the criminals cover themselfs with….politicians buy it, war mongers buy it, military prostitutes and terrorists buy it all day long but real men do not buy it.
    What do those murderers think they are?
    Who do they think they are?
    Justice works in wonderful ways.
    Humans konw it and humanoids do not.
    The killing machine of murder fanatics is the sign of an evil empire or has Herman created a monster that is out of control and it has to feed blood constantly?
    The fact is that the crooks are still spreading murder,torture and inflicting missery on humans but there is not an army or nuclear power able to defeat the Justice of the ALLMIGHTY.
    Man has proven to be the most sophisticated and intelligent monkey able to climb a tree and cut the branch he is sitting on!
    The hard burning winds, the high waves, the guts of Earth and animals are warning the human kind about the end of human ignorance but yet, man considers to know everything.
    How can man be so intelligent but yet be so stupid?
    Integrity, honesty, morality, respect is not in modern blood thirsty killers and the path they leave behind will be their boomerang.

    Comment by Hells Bells — May 28, 2008 @ 2:09 am

    • what dose this have to do with Andy? are you w/ or against him?

      Comment by Anonomus — March 12, 2010 @ 7:21 am

  9. Andrew J. Moonen is an old family friend. I have met him, Fired his rifels and been in his house. It was in total self defense that he fired at the guard. He is one of the best and bravest men i have had the pleasure to meet. Even though he may have been drunk, it was Christmas for gods sake. He had unknowingly wandered into a red zone (A zone that had hostiles in it.). He had mistaken the guard for a malitiaman. Wouldn’t you have if they were fiering at you? None of the shots where ment to kill, Only to wound. But his animal instints kiked in. I should know. I acidentaly stabbed my buddy in the arm while we where hunting because he swung a 44mag at me thinking i was his trofey elk. And thats all i have to say about that!

    Comment by Anonomus — March 12, 2010 @ 7:17 am

  10. Oh and about the opening of this blog. FUCK YOU!!!!!!!

    Comment by Anonomus — March 12, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  11. Andrew has conducted himself in an honorable manner throughout this horribly difficult situation. His poise and patience with the public and with the media has been remarkable given his youthful age. He has had to suffer silently for several years now while vociferous personal attacks have been leveled at him in a most public way – attacks that are based on absolutely nothing related to the facts of what happened to him in Iraq. Andrew has personally given much to our country through his selfless service in Iraq both as a veteran and through his later security work. I am deeply sorry that his life and the lives of the Iraqi people have been so negatively impacted by war. I wish him all the best as he can now move on to build the kind of life he envisioned before this difficult situation put his dreams on hold. Good luck to you, Andrew, and thank you for your service to our country.

    Comment by Thoughtful Writer — October 19, 2010 @ 8:34 am

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