The Iraqi PM has asked that Blackwater USA and its hired soldiers leave the country immediately. Iraqi officials cite 20 civilian deaths at the hands of the company's employees during last Sunday's incident alone, no clear guidelines as to how or by whom the people who committed these acts of violence might be held accountable, and a history of Blackwater related incidents NOT being prosecuted - it seems like the Iraqi government has made a reasonable request in asking for Blackwater's departure. The US response - we'll investigate. Well, I'm sure that puts everyone's minds at ease.
The problem is that contractors are often used specifically because the are outside of the chain of command. Far from the US courts that would usually try the crimes of US citizens and corporations, granted immunity from the laws of the country in which they operate by CPA Order 17 with the words"Contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal process with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a Contract or any sub-contract
thereto", and outside the military chain of command - mercenaries seem like a quick fix for a government that wants no questions asked and no messy moral dilemmas. Privatization of all aspects of occupation is such a good strategy, in fact, that we have 180,000 private contractors in Iraqi right now. Like Catch-22's Milo, these contractors are paid to do the cooking and the laundry - and some of the shooting too.
Ours should not be a country that hires private companies to do our fighting for us so that we can dispense with the moral high ground. War is terrible and violent and bring violence against the innocent. War fought by mercenaries that act outside the confines of conventions and oversight bring more violence against the innocent. Wars bring violence against women. Wars fought by men acting free from the threat of trial or accountability bring more. The United States should not have a class of unregulated soldiers.
So, what should we do now? The government must honor Iraqis' request that they remove Blackwater USA from their country. We have already been unreasonably slow in doing so - and according to State Department Tom Casey, Blackwater personnel will continue to work and carry guns in Iraq while a commission investigates what changes in policy should be made. A real investigation into this incident, and of past incidents, must be conducted. Clear oversight of and accountability must be instated for all US personnel in Iraq. If we are to continue to say that we are there to provide security for Iraqi citizens, we must do everything in our power to ensure them that they need not fear us. Refusing to let them try or citizens while providing no clear chain of command or accountability for our own forces seems a poor assurance of our good intentions.