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Biden's false hope

January 25, 2010 |  2:59 pm

Iraqis were understandably aghast when a federal judge recently dismissed weapons and manslaughter charges against five Blackwater guards accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. So it might seem like smart diplomacy for Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Iraq, to announce that the Obama administration would be appealing the dismissal. Biden insisted that the United States "is determined to hold to account anyone who commits crimes against the Iraqi people."

The problem is that Biden can't deliver on that promise, any more than former President George W. Bush was able to redeem his commitment to Mexico that state authorities would reconsider the death sentences of Mexicans who had been denied their rights under an international treaty. 

In the Blackwater case, a judge dismissed the charges because the Justice Department's case relied on incriminating statements the guards had made after being assured by the State Department that they wouldn't be punished for telling the truth. This is no mere technicality, and the government's appeal -- which the Justice Department says it decided to file on its own without White House pressure -- seems like a long shot.

So why encourage the Iraqis, many of whom are not sophisticated about the American legal system, to hope that the Obama administration can make things right? It will only deepen the disappointment and suspicion if the appeal fails.

-- Michael McGough

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