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The Blackwater Tapes

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

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

The first [video], 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.”

Blackwater in Iraq (1 of 5) from Harper's Magazine on Vimeo.

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

Blackwater in Iraq (2 of 5) from Harper's Magazine on Vimeo.

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 in Iraq (3 of 5) from Harper's Magazine on Vimeo.

Blackwater helicopters shot at targets below in a Baghdad street.

Blackwater in Iraq (4 of 5) from Harper's Magazine on Vimeo.

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!”

Blackwater in Iraq (5 of 5) from Harper's Magazine on Vimeo.

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

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