Four Blackwater security personnel were killed by Iraqi insurgents while escorting a small convoy through Fallujah.

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Blackwater in Fallujah

On 31 March 2004 an incident occurred in Fallujah. Four security personnel from Blackwater (a security firm) were ambushed and killed by insurgents in Iraq. Their bodies were dragged through the streets by jubilant fanatics.

At the time, Fallujah was considered hostile territory by the United States Military. U.S. forces were not stationed in the town. However, traffic control points and military posts were situated near the city in order to control movement in and out of the area. Four Blackwater security personnel in two SUVs had been assigned to protect a small convoy which was to go through the city. Its object was to bring three flatbed trucks through Fallujah to get old kitchen equipment from a base east of Fallujah.1

The Blackwater employees were Wesley Batalona, Jerry Zovko, Scott Helvenston, and Michael Teague. All had been members of U.S. special forces. They met up with Iraqi guides at TCP-1 (Traffic Control Point) that were to lead them through the city. At a point two-thirds through the city, the guides came to a screeching halt, forcing the column to stop. Gunfire immediately hit the escort SUVs. The contractors were killed through the lightly armored vehicles before they ever had a chance to defend themselves. The dead bodies of the men were beaten by a mob and dragged through the streets of the city.

Soon after the incident occurred, U.S. Marine forces stationed outside the city knew what had happened. Pictures from cell phones were already appearing on the internet and on TV. Since it was evident that the U.S. citizens were already dead, no immediate action was taken. The riot ended in the wee hours of the morning.

A congressional committee later determined that Blackwater personnel had insufficiently prepared for the threat to the convoy. Inadequate maps were provided. Insufficient personnel and inadequate weaponry were provided. It is arguable that the priority of the mission made the risk reward ratio of the mission too low to have ever undertaken the convoy through the city.2

The incident pointed to Fallujah as a center of insurgency in Iraq. But it also highlighted the serious and fanatical nature of insurgent forces. For the United States and the Iraqi government to pacify Iraq, it would not only have to contend with sporadic violence, but it would have to win the hearts and minds of the people. This meant not only building infrastructure, but letting the people willing to cooperate know that the U.S. would be in the struggle for the long haul. This would only occur later with the surge.

  1. New Dawn, by Richard S. Lowry (pp 1-3)
  2. Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

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