by JEREMY SCAHILL
[posted online on April 6, 2008]
For the first time since 1968, the Pentagon has charged a civilian contractor under military law. But the individual in question is not one of the Blackwater "shooters" alleged to have gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square last September, nor is it the Blackwater contractor accused of shooting to death a bodyguard to the Iraqi vice president inside the Green Zone on Christmas Eve 2006. In fact, the contractor is not even a US citizen. Nor is he an armed contractor. And the crime in question was not committed against an Iraqi civilian.
The swiftness of the military's response to this alleged crime, the nature of that crime and the identity of the victim speaks volumes about the priorities of US oversight and law enforcement when it comes to contractor crimes in Iraq. What's more, the news of the prosecution came just days before the State Department announced that despite the serious allegations against Blackwater, it was extending the company's Iraq "security" contract for yet another year.
The accused contractor, Alaa Mohammad Ali, is a dual Canadian-Iraqi citizen who worked for the US corporation Titan as a military translator in the western Iraqi town of Hit. He reportedly emigrated to Canada after fleeing Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's violent suppression of the 1991 Shiite uprising. Now, Ali stands accused of stabbing in the chest a fellow contractor--reportedly another translator--on February 23. The military began the process of charging him four weeks later, on March 27