Sunday, October 07, 2007

Take Military Powers Away from Blackwater and ilk

389 to 30 last week, the US House voted to extend coverage of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act to cover mercenaries in the employ of the State Department, in a bill cosponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Schakowsky, who began pressuring for greater oversight of war contractors shortly after the invasion of Iraq, wrote into the bill provisions which would "require the Justice Department to disclose to Congress the number of complaints filed against contractors, the number of investigations it has initiated and the number of criminal cases it has opened, along with the results of those cases." The Illinois Democrat wrote a letter to Bush in April of 2006, asking him to explain how war contractors were held accountable for their conduct in Iraq. Since then, their numbers have increased from 25,000 to 150,000.

We don't look at the number of contractors who are engaged in military activities, we don't count the deaths of contractors. We think about 1,000 have died," but the numbers aren't official. "We don't really even scrutinize the cost," Schakowsky said.

Now she wants to go further and is drafting legislation to phase out the use of private contractors for military-like activities. "Not KP duty," Schakowsky emphasized. The Blackwater incident "helps pave the way for us to say, 'There are functions that are inherently governmental. Carrying weapons and engaging in strictly military-like activities should be done by people who are clearly accountable employees of the United States.' "

"The government has to have a monopoly on the use of force," she continued. "We have outsourced war to these people, and now we have to bring it back within the government."

Nine Iraqi civilians died in three seperate bombings across Baghdad early Sunday. One bombing targeted an Iraqi police patrol, one targeted a US military patrol, and one the Iranian embassy. All missed their targets and killed civilians instead. The work of the joint US-Iraqi Commission into the Sept. 16 shootings in Nisour Square began. Elsewhere, the US military launched a dawn raid and captured three Shiite milita fighters believed to have played a role in the May 29th abduction of four British mercenaries and a civilian computer expert. The US military still beleives the five to be alive.

Liberal bloggers fire back and forth the Los Angles Times op-ed peice "I survived Blackwater." Janessa Gans served as a US official in Baghdad for two years, and Blackwater provided her security. Gans recounts that indeed, pelting Iraqis with water bottles is a favorite past time of Blackwater mercenaries, and the harrowing speeds they observed driving in the streets. In one particular incident, the Blackwater SUV she was being ferried in, attempted to intimidate one vehicle carrying an older man, a woman, and several children. The Blackwater driver honked and motioned furiously that the slower vehicle should move out of the path of the SUV:

The kids in the back seat looked back in horror, mouths agape at the sight of the heavily armored Suburbans driven by large, armed men in dark sunglasses. The poor Iraqi driver frantically searched for a means of escape, but there was none. So the lead Blackwater vehicle smashed heedlessly into the car, pushing it into the barrier. We zoomed by too quickly to notice if anyone was hurt.

Until that point I had never mentioned anything to my drivers about their tactics, but this time I could not contain myself.

"Where do you all expect them to go?" I shrieked. "It was an old guy and a family, for goodness' sake. Was it necessary for them to destroy their poor old car?"

My driver responded impassively: "Ma'am, we've been trained to view anyone as a potential threat. You don't know who they might use as decoys or what the risks are. Terrorists could be disguised as anyone."

"Well, if they weren't terrorists before, they certainly are now!" I retorted. Sulking in my seat, I was stunned by the driver's indifference.

Another op-ed in the Washington Post outlines the arguement against outsourcing war at all. In the debate it's interesting to note that in his congressional testimony, Blackwater executive Erik Prince, when pressed for details of outsourcing's benefits, went from claiming cost-savings to pleading ignorance of his own company's profit margin. But oh, he makes about 800,000 than moonbat. Beyond the cash cow that needs to be pasturized, the contracting of the powers of war is a disaster for any democracy. Our politicians incur only private costs instead of facing public accountability. Blackwater operates in Iraq in situations where it deliberately sacrifices the US mission in order to acheive it's own goals, regardless of the consequences. And as we saw in Fallujah in 2004, private decisions have the effect of committing our generals to courses of action, taking away from our military key decision making powers in tactics and strategy. War is too important an issue for the survival of a democracy for us to allow people to buy that power.

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