September 20th, 2007 by jpeters
Former U.S. Senator and current Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel is calling on Congress to support the Iraqi government’s appeal to ban the private military firm Blackwater, thus halting the security contractor’s operations in Iraq.
“It’s time to bring our troops and the private contractors home,” said Gravel while campaigning in California and Nevada. “If the United States is truly interested in a sovereign Iraqi government, then recognizing Iraq’s right to evict Blackwater would be a step in the right direction.”
Gravel opposed the war – even before it started in March 2003 – saying that a preemptive attack on the Middle East country was not in America’s interests. Since that time, he has advocated an immediate and orderly end to the occupation. Under his withdrawal plan, U.S. troops would be home by Christmas 2007.
“The sooner our men and women in uniform are out of Iraq, the sooner we can move toward a diplomatic solution to the civil war,” he added. “We know that there is no military solution, and we are denying the Iraqi government the right to move away from occupation.”
Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi spokesman, reported on Tuesday that 20 people died and 35 were wounded when Blackwater employees opened fire on a crowd in the Mansour district of Baghdad. Blackwater has insisted that they opened fire in response to an ambush from insurgents. However, Arab press reports dispute this claim. As a result, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called for the U.S. government to fire Blackwater, which has government contracts worth over $300 million.
“Stop and think: Our soldiers are targets in Iraq,” said Gravel. “Polls show that Iraqis overwhelmingly want the United States out of their country. It beggars logic to force protection on a people who do not want it.”