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Thread: BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Contractors In Iraq Allege Abuses

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    BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Contractors In Iraq Allege Abuses

    U.S. contractors in Iraq allege abuses
    Four men say they witnessed shooting of unarmed civilians
    By Lisa Myers & the NBC investigative unit
    Updated: 7:43 p.m. ET Feb. 15, 2005

    There are new allegations that heavily armed private security contractors in Iraq are brutalizing Iraqi civilians. In an exclusive interview, four former security contractors told NBC News that they watched as innocent Iraqi civilians were fired upon, and one crushed by a truck. The contractors worked for an American company paid by U.S. taxpayers. The Army is looking into the allegations.

    The four men are all retired military veterans: Capt. Bill Craun, Army Rangers; Sgt. Jim Errante, military police; Cpl. Ernest Colling, U.S. Army; and Will Hough, U.S. Marines. All went to Iraq months ago as private security contractors.

    "I went there for the money," says Hough.

    "I'm a patriot," says Craun.

    "You can't turn off being a soldier," says Colling.

    They worked for an American company named Custer Battles, hired by the Pentagon to conduct dangerous missions guarding supply convoys. They were so upset by what they saw, three quit after only one or two missions.

    "What we saw, I know the American population wouldn't stand for," says Craun.

    They claim heavily armed security operators on Custer Battles' missions — among them poorly trained young Kurds, who have historical resentments against other Iraqis — terrorized civilians, shooting indiscriminately as they ran for cover, smashing into and shooting up cars.

    On a mission on Nov. 8, escorting ammunition and equipment for the Iraqi army, they claim a Kurd guarding the convoy allegedly shot into a passenger car to clear a traffic jam.

    "[He] sighted down his AK-47 and started firing," says Colling. "It went through the window. As far as I could see, it hit a passenger. And they didn't even know we were there."

    Later, the convoy came upon two teenagers by the road. One allegedly was gunned down.

    "The rear gunner in my vehicle shot him," says Colling. "Unarmed, walking kids."

    In another traffic jam, they claim a Ford 350 pickup truck smashed into, then rolled up and over the back of a small sedan full of Iraqis.

    "The front of the truck came down," says Craun. "I could see two children sitting in the back seat of that car with their eyes looking up at the axle as it came down and pulverized the back."

    "I said, 'Wow, what hit this car?'" remembers Hough.

    Could anyone have survived?

    "Probably not. Not from what I saw," says Hough.

    The men assume that in all three incidents the Iraqis were seriously hurt or killed. But they can't be sure.

    "It was chaos and carnage and destruction the whole day," says Craun.

    Two of the men — Craun and Colling — say they quit immediately.

    Craun, in an e-mail two days later to a friend at the Pentagon, wrote: "I didn't want any part of an organization that deliberately murders children and innocent civilians."

    Errante says he also quit after witnessing wild, indiscriminate shootings on two other missions.**

    "I said I didn't want to be a witness to any of these, what could be classified as a war crime," says Errante.

    Once back in the U.S., Craun — recipient of the Bronze Star — took the allegations to Army criminal investigators. The Army tells NBC News it's looking into the matter.*

    This is not the firm’s first brush with controversy. Custer Battles is a relatively new company in the booming field of so-called "private military companies" in Iraq providing veteran soldiers from around the world for various security jobs. Named for founders Michael Battles and Scott Custer, who are military veterans, the company quickly nabbed lucrative contracts in Iraq, where U.S. authorities needed firms who were willing to accept high-risk assignments.

    The company is already under criminal investigation for allegations of fraud centering on the way it billed the government. Those allegations are also at the heart of a lawsuit by former associates. In September, the military banned the firm and its associates from obtaining new federal contracts or subcontracts.

    Custer Battles denies it committed any fraud, and says the company has been the target of "baseless allegations" made by "disgruntled former employees" and competitors. It has said it hopes that the government will overturn the suspension on new contracts.

    In any case, the ban didn’t stop the company from fulfilling its old contracts, such as the missions performed by Craun, Hough, Colling and Errante.

    "These aren't insurgents that we're brutalizing," says Craun. "It was local civilians on their way to work. It's wrong."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    This story will do wonders for Iraqi/American relations.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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