Blackwater’s reckoning

From an editorial in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times:

In imposing lengthy prison terms on four former employees of the security firm once known as Blackwater, a federal judge has reinforced the message that the American legal system can mete out justice even when crimes are committed in wartime in another country. The fact that the defendants were in Iraq when they killed more than a dozen unarmed civilians shouldn’t have immunized them from prosecution, conviction or punishment, and in the end, it did not.

It is a relief that the actions of these men will not go unpunished and that some semblance of justice at least will be offered to the families of their victims.

Even if the defendants prevail in some or all of their appeals, the Justice Department deserves credit for doggedly pursuing this case. It was important to seek justice for these victims not simply to defuse a diplomatic crisis but also for the reason any prosecution for murder or manslaughter is brought: to punish those who unlawfully take the lives of others.

These killings were horrific. That they took place in a supposed “fog of war” was not an excuse. That is a timely lesson as the U.S. engages anew in Iraq.