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Earlier this week, Fox News host Pete Hegseth asked God to bless President Donald Trump for showing “the courage” pardon The former Blackwater contractors were convicted in 2007 of the murder of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians New account by Thomas O’Connor, one of the FBI agents who investigated the murders, shows what God is asked to give his blessing.
The Blackwater guards, pardoned by Trump, were convicted of opening fire on and killing Iraqi civilians, including children, in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad.
Today’s Pete Hegseth of Fox News says, “God bless the President for having the courage … to forgive these men.” pic.twitter.com/KWQcua7J3r
– The recount (@therecount) December 23, 2020
In 2014 there were four guards – Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, and Paul Slough – sentenced for their role in the massacre. Slatten was convicted and convicted of first degree murder Life in prison. The other three were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years.
As O’Connor explained in a comment published by CNN, “I know these men deserved no pardon because I was on the FBI Evidence Response Team that went to Iraq investigating the location of these murders.”
The location of the murders was Nisour Square, and they took place after a Blackwater team leader asked permission to leave the Protected Green Zone to bring back a U.S. official guarded by other contractors nearby. The request was denied, but he and his fellow mercenaries left the Green Zone anyway and took up positions in the square in their combat vehicles. From there, O’Connor explains:
Two Iraqi traffic officials stopped traffic in the direction of the four armored vehicles. One of the first cars in this traffic was a white KIA, which was occupied by a woman and her son. The woman was a local doctor and the son who drove the car went to medical school to follow in his mother’s footsteps.
What happened next, the shootings began in Nisour Square.
A sniper [Slatten] The Raven 23 team stuck their rifle out of a porthole on the Bearcat armored vehicle and fired at the driver of the white KIA. The man was hit by the bullet and killed.
After Slatten killed the doctor’s son, his team members also opened fire:
The gunfire was aimed at the white KIA, killing the women in the passenger seat. These cartridges came from a rifle and a large revolver cannon. A grenade was fired from the gun thrower of the revolver guns. The grenade jumped off the floor under the exploding driver’s door, bursting the gas pipe and setting the car on fire.
A couple of cars behind the white Kia, a 9 year old boy was killed while sitting in the back seat of a Suzuki SUV:
When the shooting stopped and the Blackwater team started moving, Mohammed left the driver’s door and opened a rear passenger door. Ali, slumped against the door, fell into his father’s arms. Ali had been hit by a Blackwater lap that went into the back driver’s door and hit the boy in the head. When his father reached for his 9-year-old son, Ali’s brain fell in the street and on his father’s feet.
These were the stories of only three of the 14 people convicted of murder. O’Connor and other FBI investigators found no forensic evidence that the Blackwater guards had been shot. Instead, they found evidence of a cover-up. The president has now responded by firing her.
This is not the first time Trump has intervened on behalf of those accused or convicted of atrocities during the war. Last year, Trump restored former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s rank after he was acquitted of the murder of a captured teenager. Fellow SEALs who had served at Gallagher had labeled him “damn bad,” “poisonous,” and “perfectly okay to kill someone who moved.” In 2019, Trump also pardoned an Army lieutenant convicted of the murder of two Afghans and an Army major who was charged with murder.
Hegseth, a veteran of the Iraq war, had pressed for this pardon. He also stood up for the Blackwater killers. In a statement earlier this week, the White House claimed that the pardons for these guards were “largely publicly supported”. Though nothing to suggest, the first evidence it cited was that Hegseth supported it.
Taken together, the episode put some of Trump’s worst habits into a single package. Trump associated himself with an act of cruelty that his mind sees as a strength. A Fox News host’s opinion became the supposed arbiter of what the average American believed. And Trump had the opportunity to turn on the television and hear the network give him God’s blessings on delivering men who his fellow citizens found guilty of slaughtering children.