While the State Department has frequently covered for Blackwater, particularly over the Nisour Square incident, the military has tended to be more candid. "It may be worse than Abu Ghraib," a senior officer said last week, at a time when diplomats were, at most, conceding "there's an issue here" and urging calm in the aftermath of the shooting. That shouldn't be surprising: after all, it's the 160,000 troops in Iraq who suffer by association with reckless contractors.
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Now, after Blackwater got off lightly at a Congressional hearing Tuesday -- in which Nisour Square was not explored -- the military is pressing the point harder. U.S. military reports from the scene at Nisour Square, separate from the initial Blackwater-penned "first blush" inquiry, portray Blackwater guards as out of control and trigger-happy, firing on Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces almost indiscriminately. "It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong," a U.S. military official tells The Washington Post.
The most significant new detail added by the U.S. military account about the chaos at Nisour Square on September 16: Contrary to Blackwater's frequently-repeated account, no Iraqi civilian or policeman fired upon its guards. The small-arms fire was, in other words, all coming from the contractors.