The Washington Post reported this week that the U.S. Embassy had begun "offering tens of thousands of dollars in payments to victims and families of victims" of the Nisoor Square shootings perpetrated by security guards from Blackwater Worldwide on September 16, 2007.
Naturally, there was some haggling over the price. "Like Lockerbie" was the suggestion from Haitham Ahmed, whose wife and son were killed in the incident, referring to the $8 million settlement obtained by the families of the victims from the Libyan government after the infamous Pan Am bombing. The Embassy, however, fell a little short of meeting the victims' families halfway, offering "in some cases" only $12,500 for a death -- a figure deemed by at least one person involved as "an insult."
What goes unmentioned by the Post is a previous case in which U.S. officials negotiated a bargain-basement price for a Blackwater casualty. On December 24, 2006, a security guard of Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi was shot and killed by a drunken Blackwater employee. Handwringing over price points ensued thereafter, as Spencer Ackerman at TPM Muckraker reported eariler this month:
In State's defense, an embassy cable from Secretary Condoleezza Rice argued "strongly" that "justice had to be done." But justice is a relative thing. When embassy officials proposed the price for the guard's life be pegged at either $100,000 or $250,000, a State diplomatic-security official countered with $15,000. The figure needed to be lower, the diplomatic-security official contended, so Iraqis wouldn't "try to get killed to set up their family financially." Two days after the shooting, Blackwater and State agreed that the guard's family should receive $15,000. Ultimately, Blackwater got the shooter out of Iraq and back to the U.S., with the assistance of State's diplomatic security service.
Based upon the Post's reporting, its unclear whether the Embassy's decision to cap payouts at $12,500 came about from this earlier contretemps between them and State. The Iraqi officials who investigated the Nisoor Square incident for the Defense Ministry agreed with the aforementioned Mr. Ahmed, suggesting a Lockerbie-like $8 million settlement.
It's also worth noting the connection between the two incidents made by the blog 1115.org:
If you kill one solitary Iraqi for no good reason (since even the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad does not yet consider "being drunk" as a good reason), it sets you back $15,000.
If you kill 17 Iraqis at one time, then the rate drops to $12,500 per. That's a roughly 17% discount. What a lovely coincidence!