What happened
Iraq’s official investigation concluded that Blackwater USA guards opened fire without provocation in a September shootout that reportedly killed as many as 17 civilians. The Iraqi prime minister’s office said the shootings were “deliberate murder,” and that the guards should be punished as severely as any killer.

What the commentators said
Blackwater has clearly “run amok,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). It’s time to hold them accountable. The Senate should quickly pass a bill that has already cleared the House to put private security contractors in the war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal courts, although the goal should be to stop using them for “combat-type tasks” altogether.

A “serious inquiry” into how private firms are used to relieve our “overburdened military” would be terrific, said Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times. But Democrats and their buddies, the trial lawyers, have hijacked the Blackwater case for their own purposes. The Democrats are exploiting the issue for “political advantage,” and the lawyers just want money.

Blackwater is the one “getting rich off the war,” said Carl Hiaasen in The Miami Herald (free registration). In 2001, the company had $1 million in government business; since then, it has collected “more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds.” Blackwater’s chairman, Erik Prince, says his firm won its “juicy” no-bid contract to protect State Department personnel because of “its professionalism and competence,” not “his family’s ardent” fundraising for the Bush-Cheney campaign and other Republicans. The deadly Sept. 16 shootout suggests otherwise.