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Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the News or Out of It 

Sometimes I'm reading the paper or subjecting myself to a news outlet and it seems as if I'm In a World Where Everyone Is Embarrassed to Call Anything By Its Name, as it might be in a home for deranged priests or something. “But hush! We never speak of—that, you know.”

Here's a pretty fair news story about two civilians shot to death by security guards in Baghdad recently. It seems to have been a mistake.

According to witnesses and police, the Armenian Christian women died when their white Oldsmobile was struck by bullets from two Unity guards as the convoy was returning to a company compound in the Karradah district.

"We cannot say the guards shot at random, but we rather say that they used deadly force in a situation where they shouldn't have," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

There have been other stories like this, with that phrase “when their vehicle was struck”, but it should be pointed out that people don't die when their vehicle is pierced by bullets; it's the bullets hitting their body that kills them. I guess that's common sense, but then the next bit makes me think the whole thing is an exercise in prissy, dithering, truth-avoidance. “They were not shooting at random, oh my no,” the spokesman seems to be saying, “but rather did they blow away two harmless people withal, so to speak.” I bet a draft of that mockery of a statement was something like: “They had acted rather recklessly where, perhaps, they ought not to have done.”

Of course to be plain, the country is full of highly-paid mercenaries who answer to no authority but some guy in an office, are above any law, and probably hate the place; so most of them are by turns bored, frightened and drunk. So that's what's happening. It's characteristic of the whole misadventure.

And who were the people these guards were protecting? Personnel from RTI International, it seems. And their work? Naturally, they're busy actualising bleeding-edge frameworks for proactive client-oriented election paradigm outcomes, but (from that link)...

Contrary to RTI's and USAID's sunny estimates of RTI's "local democracy" work in Iraq, Pratap Chatterjee reported, "Three former RTI employees who worked on the project told CorpWatch that the company spent 90 percent of the money on expensive expatriate staff, gave out lots of advice and held lots of meetings, but did little to provide support for local community organizations or councils."

So it's hard work and, unfortunately, in the course of it a few innocent civilians must die.



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