Trump’s recent pardons have followed form – a cot-throwing, screw you attitude towards his election loss, still unaccepted, and his congenital inability to accept reversal.
The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg reviewed his most disgusting pardons, including the Blackwater mercenaries who participated in the 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Among the victims was a 9-year-old boy named Ali Kinani.
In a 2010 documentary, the journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed Ali’s father, Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, who spoke of how he’d welcomed the American invasion of his country and brought along his son to greet U.S. soldiers.
“The first day the American Army entered Baghdad, I handed out juice and candy in the street to celebrate our liberation from Saddam,” said Kinani. Scahill called him “that rare personification of the neoconservative narrative about the U.S. invasion.”
On Sept. 16, 2007, Kinani was driving toward the traffic circle at Nisour Square with his sister, her children and Ali when guards from Blackwater opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers. (Blackwater, a private security company, has since changed its name to Academi.) Ali was one of 17 people killed. According to The Washington Post, a U.S. military report found that there had been no provocation. “It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” a military official told the paper. An F.B.I. investigator reportedly described it as the “My Lai massacre of Iraq.”
The U.S. Embassy offered Ali’s family a $10,000 condolence payment. After initially refusing the money, they donated half of it to the family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. “They wanted to do that to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice of those men and women that had come over to Iraq to fight for them and free them from Saddam Hussein,” Paul Dickinson, a lawyer who represented Kinani and others in a civil suit against Blackwater, told me.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, then the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, wrote to Ali’s mother, “In the face of your family’s own personal tragedy, your act of kindness and compassion for grieving American families is truly remarkable.”
Until Tuesday, the American system worked to give Ali’s family a modicum of justice. Blackwater settled with the family. The guards were prosecuted criminally. The process was torturous, with several roadblocks, but powerful figures in the United States were determined to see it through. After a judge dismissed the charges on procedural grounds, Vice President Joe Biden promised, in a 2010 news conference in Baghdad, that there would be an appeal. “The United States is determined, determined to hold accountable anyone who commits crimes against the Iraqi people,” he said.
Eventually three of the Blackwater guards, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and other charges. A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of murder and last year sentenced to life in prison. Kinani moved to America and became a citizen, though he was back in Iraq when the BBC reached him on Wednesday. Until just days ago, he’d felt that the legal system in the United States had been “very fair with me,” he said.