Three former employees of the US private military contractor once known as Blackwater were sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday and a fourth received a life sentence, closing a sordid chapter of the Iraq conflict relating to the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad.
Judge Royce Lamberth denied a request by the defense for leniency in sentencing on Monday, and, as expected, his sentences followed the 30-year mandatory sentence guidelines for the crimes.
The four, who were part of a tactical support team called “Raven 23”, opened fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians from an armoured convoy with machine-guns and grenade launchers in September 2007.
In October 2014, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were found guilty of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and 17 charges of attempted manslaughter, while Nicholas Slatten, the team’s sniper who was the first to open fire, was convicted on a separate charge of first-degree murder.
But while these mercenaries have met with justice, it simply highlights the fact that so many other American war criminals haven't. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr was convicted of negligent homicide for torturing a captured Iraqi general to death. His sentence? A reprimand. Marine Trent Thomas was convicted of kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi civilian. He got 14 months. The difference? Those sentences were passed by military courts. When soldiers have been tried in civilian courts, they've received normal justice. The upshot: US military courts clearly condone and excuse war crimes by their own (see also: the laughable sentences they give out for torture, not to mention all the cases they didn't even bother to bring to trial). The US military simply cannot be trusted to judge its own.