September 17, 2007

Privatized War is a Black(water) Box

Guest Writer L. Vincent Sebastian

The expansion of Blackwater USA to new locations in Illinois and California is a grave indicator that America is moving in the wrong direction with respect to private military and security contractors (See ~ Blackwater Grows as Support For Iraq Shrinks). The role of these contractors should shrink, not grow, due to a number of legal and moral problems.

Some of the controversies surrounding Blackwater and other private contractors have been covered here previously this year (see - June 26; March 11 (3-Part Series); and February 9). And today, controversy erupted anew when the Iraqi government ordered Blackwater to leave the country after the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy (see "Iraq expels American security firm" by Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, September 17, 2007).

Questioned in response to this incident, American officials refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with an order. The real problem here is one of accountability: Private security contractors operating on foreign soil are not really accountable to anyone. By and large, they operate beyond the control of U.S. military and are not subject to military law. At the same time, they have immunity from Iraqi law (akin to diplomatic immunity). Apparently, the only thing holding a contractor in check is the prospect that its client (the State Department in this case) will be dissatisfied and not renew its contract. But in the insider game of no-bid government contracts, how likely is this for the politically connected Blackwater?

Ultimately, the biggest problem with private contractors is a moral one that affects us all. As war becomes increasingly privatized (about 129,000 contractors are currently operating in Iraq), it becomes further removed and concealed from the attention of the American people. The historic role of our government as the legitimate perpetrator of a war shifts to one of manager-at-arms-length of a war carried out by third parties, the contractors. This further distances us, the public, from the war and its consequences, and separates us from the sense of buy-in, participation, oversight, and responsibility we all must have if war is to be waged.

1 comment:

Floyd said...

Employees of private security firms are immune from prosecution in Iraq, under an order adopted into law last year by Iraq's interim government. The most severe punishment that can be applied to them is revocation of their license and dismissal from their job, U.S. officials said. Their heavy presence stems in large part from the Pentagon's attempts to keep troop numbers down by privatizing jobs that would once have been performed by American forces.

This concerns incidents back in 2005, they have not implemented anything of how these companies operate they have know it for years.