Monday, September 17, 2007
Bush's mercenary army to be kicked out of Iraq? Well, not likely...
America has two armies in Iraq: one is the official one, subject to US military rules and accountable to military justice, and another one, fully armed but composed of civilian contractors and completely outside the system. Today, following an incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed, the Iraqi government moved to expel the largest of these contractors, Blackwater USA.
Private contractors including Blackwater are reported to number approximately the same as the "official" military, and without their assistance US forces would likely be unable to survive against insurgent forces.
The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.
The Iraqi government announced Monday it was ordering Blackwater USA, the security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, to leave the country after what it said was the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy.
The order by the Interior Ministry, if carried out, would deal a severe blow to U.S. government operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats, engineers, reconstruction officials and others of their security protection. [AP Sept. 17, 2007]
Trust the AP to report only part of the story, omitting a full statement of how deeply these contractors are involved in the war.
Will Blackwater actually get kicked out? Probably not. The US will certainly move to bring the errant Interior Minister around to a different point of view.
It started with Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld put a long-cherished program into effect in Iraq: the privatization and outsourcing of military and policing. He did this by employing civilian contractors such as Blackwater. It's no stretch calling Blackwater a "mercenary army"—it draws its personnel from several countries, according to Wikipedia:
For work in Iraq, Blackwater has drawn contractors from their international pool of professionals, a database containing "21,000 former Special Forces troops, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents," overall. For instance, Gary Jackson, the firm's president, has confirmed that Bosnians, Filipinos, and Chileans (many trained under Augusto Pinochet), "have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority."
Although the Iraqi government would like to hold these folks to account, it probably can't. According to a decree issued 2004 by the Coalition Provisional Authority, security contractors are immune from Iraqi prosecution. Nor will the US take action, most likely, or at least no action that will remove Blackwater from the scene:
American officials refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with the [Iraqi] order. It also was unclear whether the contractors involved in the shooting were still in Iraq. [AP]
From the Washington Post:
"The security company contractors opened fire randomly on the civilians," [Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman] said. "We consider this act a crime."
Early Monday, Iraqi state television reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had condemned the "criminal operation" in Mansour and said he would "punish" the private security company and shut down its operations.
A Washington Post employee in the area at the time of the shooting witnessed security company helicopters firing into the streets near Nisoor Square in Mansour. Witnesses said they saw dead and wounded people on the pavement.
It will be interesting to see if the mainstream media report in detail on the role these contractors have been playing in the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war. Many if not most of their readers may not even be aware that contractors are operating in Iraq.
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