Thursday, September 27, 2007

Progress Report: Worse Than Abu Ghraib

The reports on the Blackwater affair in Iraq underline the risks of hiring mercenaries to fight our wars. Mercenaries have little interest in the policy concerns that drive conflicts and so no interest whatever in the moral entailments of their behavior in conflict. They are hired guns whose first interest is to shoot first, whatever the issue, so as to survive. Self-interest pervades the whole relationship: to make a lot of money, to protect themselves so they can live well later. There is no interest in the long-term consequences of what they do so long as they can get out with the loot. The moral entailments on a proper military [to represent the long term interests of their government in what they do] are flagrantly abandoned. Again, our government -- our country -- will pay a huge price for a policy that was supposed to save money.

"A shooting at a busy Baghdad intersection nearly two weeks ago that killed 11 Iraqis and wounded 12 has focused much-overdue attention on the role of American private security contractors operating in Iraq. A comprehensive investigation by the Iraqi Interior Ministry concluded that the contractors hired by Blackwater USA fired 'an unprovoked barrage' on the Iraqis, 'while the company says its employees, who were working for the State Department, were responding to an attack on an American diplomatic convoy.' "
" Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently dispatched a five-person fact-finding team to Iraq that concluded 'military commanders there were unclear about their legal authority' over contractors."
"Yet, while the Pentagon is cracking down, the State Department -- under whose authority Blackwater currently operates -- has not taken similar action, opting to side with Blackwater's version of the story while merely hoping the rising tensions will resolve themselves."
"Blackwater, a North Carolina-based company, has 'gained a reputation among Iraqis and even among American military personnel serving in Iraq as a company that flaunts an aggressive, quick-draw image that leads its security personnel to take excessively violent actions to protect the people they are paid to guard.' "
"The shootings of 11 Iraqis have prompted the Iraqi government to aggressively assert its sovereignty. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has 'referred its investigation of the Sept. 16 incident to a magistrate for possible criminal charges.' Moreover, Iraqi officials announced on Tuesday that they were drafting a new law to control private security contractors, which would make them 'subject to Iraqi law' and 'monitored by the Iraqi government.' "
"Blackwater 'enjoys an unusually close relationship with the Bush administration.' It has received 'government contracts worth more than $1 billion since 2002.' And now, it is being protected by the State Department, according to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). The department has ordered Blackwater not to provide Congress with documents that might shed light on its operations."

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