Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Former Blackwater security guard Nick Slatten and his lawyer Thomas Connolly leave an arraignment hearing at U.S. district court on January 6, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

Former Blackwater security guard Nick Slatten and his lawyer Thomas Connolly leave an arraignment hearing at U.S. district court on January 6, 2009 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Leaving Out Assange, Who Exposed US War Crimes, Trump Pardons Blackwater Guards Jailed for Massacring Iraqi Civilians

"While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, Julian Assange, rots in Britain's Guantanamo."

Jake Johnson

President Donald Trump late Tuesday unveiled a slate of pardons and commutations that includes four Blackwater military contractors jailed for massacring more than a dozen Iraqi civilians—including two children—in Baghdad in 2007.

Absent from Trump's wave of 15 pardons was Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who helped bring to light war crimes committed by the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere.

"Trump could have pardoned whistleblowers Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden. Instead he chose to pardon four Blackwater mercenaries who murdered 17 Iraqi civilians. Disgusting."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink

Observers decried as "grotesque" Trump's full pardon of Blackwater guards Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard, and Nicholas Slatten and failure to pardon Assange as the publisher struggles to survive in a notorious British jail ahead of an expected extradition ruling on January 4. If extradited to the U.S., Assange could spend the rest of his life in prison for the "crime" of obtaining and publishing classified documents—an act of journalism.

In a statement accompanying the new pardons and commutations—a list that also included former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)—the White House described the former Blackwater mercenaries as veterans with "a long history of service to the nation."

The president could still pardon Assange before leaving office next month, and he is being urged to do so by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the U.N.'s top anti-torture official, and many others.

"While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, Julian Assange, rots in Britain's Guantanamo," tweeted Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist and parliamentarian.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald also weighed in on Twitter:

As The Guardian reported Tuesday, Slough, Liberty, Heard, and Slatten "were part of an armored convoy that opened fire indiscriminately with machine-guns, grenade launcher,  and a sniper on a crowd of unarmed people in a square in the Iraqi capital."

"The Nisour Square massacre was one of the lowest episodes of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq," The Guardian noted. "Slough, Liberty, and Heard were convicted on multiple charges of voluntary and attempted manslaughter in 2014, while Slatten, who was the first to start shooting, was convicted of first-degree murder. Slattern was sentenced to life and the others to 30 years in prison each."

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink, tweeted Tuesday that "Trump could have pardoned whistleblowers Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden."

"Instead he chose to pardon four Blackwater mercenaries who murdered 17 Iraqi civilians, including two boys [aged] eight and 11, in an unprovoked attack on a crowd of unarmed people," Benjamin wrote. "Disgusting."

In a statement Wednesday morning, CodePink said Trump's pardons continue "a long tradition of Americans evading accountability for their crimes in Iraq, from policymakers in the Bush administration who gave the orders to invade that country on the basis of lies to politicians like then-Senator Joe Biden who supported this decision to U.S. soldiers, bombers, and private mercenaries who committed reprehensible acts against the Iraqi people and paved the way for the creation of ISIS."

"This pardon gives the world just one more example of the disregard that the U.S. government has towards the lives of the Iraq people, whose country we destroyed," the group added.

This story has been updated to include a statement from CodePink.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·


Looming US Supreme Court Climate Decision Could 'Doom' Hope for Livable Future

"The immediate issue is the limits of the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases," said one scientist. "The broader issue is the ability of federal agencies to regulate anything at all."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo