Pardoning monstrous criminals will leave a dark mark on the history of presidential pardons. — Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
Pardoning monstrous criminals will leave a dark mark on the history of presidential pardons. — Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
The former Blackwater guards Trump pardoned were convicted of killing 14 Iraqi civilians, including 2 children
  • President Donald Trump pardoned four men convicted over an infamous 2007 massacre of civilians in Iraq on Tuesday night.
  • Blackwater guards Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard opened fire in a busy section of Baghdad during an incident that resulted in the unjustified killings of 14 civilians, including two children.
  • The youngest victim was a 9-year-old boy named Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq.
  • A top Democratic senator decried the pardons as a "disgrace," and an Iraqi man shot in the incident questioned why he bothered testifying against the men.
Trump pardoned Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, military veterans who previously worked for Blackwater Worldwide. The security firm, which now exists under another name, was previously contracted by the State Department to provide protection for diplomats in Iraq. The company was founded by Erik Prince, Trump's education secretary's brother.

Slatten, Slough, Liberty, and Heard were involved in a tragedy of the Iraq War known as the Nisour Square massacre. They were part of an armored convoy that opened fire in a crowded area of Baghdad, using machine guns, sniper fire, and grenade launchers against civilians.

The incident took place on September 16, 2007 and resulted in 14 deaths that FBI investigators determined were unjustified. Seventeen people were killed in total.

"Many were shot while inside civilian vehicles that were attempting [to] flee from the convoy. One victim was shot in the chest while standing in the street with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a nearby girls' school," US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said of the killings in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

One FBI agent referred to the incident as the "My Lai massacre of Iraq," referring to the 1968 massacre of civilians by US soldiers in Vietnam.

The killings, which escalated tensions between the US and Iraq, were condemned around the world and pushed the US to reassess its use of private contractors in war zones.

A statement from the White House suggested the pardons for the four former Blackwater guards were "broadly supported by the public," pointing to approval from people like Fox News' Pete Hegseth and a list of Republican lawmakers in Congress.

Meanwhile, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, said the president had "hit a disgraceful new low with the Blackwater pardons."

"Pardoning these murderers is a disgrace," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a tweet.

"They shot women and kids who had their hands in the air. But it's all part of a plan to limit Biden's national security tools. These pardons will greatly damage US-Iraq relations, at a critical moment," Murphy added.

Haider Ahmed, a former taxi driver who was shot four times in the leg during the 2007 incident, on Wednesday questioned why he bothered testifying given the pardon.

"I went to that court because I thought there is a real law there. A law where I could take my rights, regardless of my color or religion," Ahmed said, according to the Washington post. "I told the court the truth. I told them how they were just shooting at us randomly."

"Why did I bother?" he added.

Responding to the pardons, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said, "Pardoning monstrous criminals will leave a dark mark on the history of presidential pardons."

... The US Embassy in Iraq offered the families of the victims $10,000, acknowledging that this could not truly compensate them for their loss. After initially refusing to take the money, Ali's parents agreed to accept it on the condition that half of the money be donated to the family of a US service member killed in Iraq. The boy's mother personally delivered the money to the embassy, according to The Nation.

When Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, Ali's father, was called to testify against his son's killers, he cried uncontrollably in the courtroom, according to The New York Times. The testimonies presented during the 2014 trial haunted some of the jurors, who said they were unable to sleep afterwards.

During the sentencing of the Blackwater guards, Ali's father said: "Today we see who will win. The law? Or Blackwater?"

The latest Trump pardons follow a pattern. Last year, the president pardoned Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, both of whom had been charged with or convicted of war crimes. He also interfered in the war crimes trial of former Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher.