Mercs R’ Us

Over at the Bush-lovin’ Blackfive site, Uncle Jimbo, the VP of goofs, posts about the current flood of Blackwater dust ups as merely the latest foray in team politics. The Left and Democrats are portrayed as having “shifted fire, from the troops and their traitorous leadership” to Blackwater. And as you can guess from the bogus smear about firing on the troops and “traitorous” leadership, in Uncle Jimbo’s world, anything the Left questions must be defended. There’s no mention of the 17 dead and 22 wounded at Fisoor Square or the failure to adequately protect the 4 Blackwater employees who lost their lives in Falluja. Instead, Blackwater should simply be “thanked” for doing “an amazing job.” Looking ino the facts of the various Blackwater incidents is portrayed as unpatriotic.

As with most issues, this one is not so black-and-white. Kevin Drum highlights and agrees with a number of paragraphs acknowledging problems with the security firms, like Blackwater, from none other than Max Boot. Here’s a cut-and-paste of those paragraphs:

It is outrageous that almost no American contractors have been held criminally liable for conduct in Iraq or Afghanistan, but hundreds of soldiers have been court-martialed. You can’t blame this shortcoming on the security firms; they don’t have the power to send their own employees to jail.

The problem is that there is a gray zone in the law when it comes to contractors on foreign battlefields. Congress has passed legislation to make clear that contractors fall within the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as civilian law (the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act), but neither the Department of Justice nor the Judge Advocate General’s Corps has shown much enthusiasm for enforcing these rules. That needs to change.

Beyond that, we need to do a better job of integrating contractors with military units so as to avoid mix-ups such as the one that occurred in 2004 when four Blackwater employees were killed in Fallouja, triggering a Marine offensive. Malcolm Nance, a veteran intelligence operative who has worked as a contractor in Iraq, makes an intriguing suggestion in the Small Wars Journal: Create a “force protection command” within the U.S. military that would be responsible for overseeing contractor operations. This would help make contractors more useful to military commanders.

As an aside, I’ll first say it’s premature to say Blackwater deserves no blame. From preliminary report, it sure sounds like they have hindered investigations into violent incidents in which their employees were involved and sent the 4 murdered contractors into Falluja without the adequate protection.

But that’s not the point Kevin is focused on. Instead, he raises the “what next” question and comes up with two options: (1) restructuring and increasing the Army to take over most security contracting;and/or (2) integrate the security firms more thoroughly under military command.

I agree that the Army needs to take over more, if not all, of the security matters being contracted out and that any remaining security firms need to be brought under military command and accountability.  However, the need for an increase only applies if we stay with current policy and strategy.  We don’t need the increase if we, as Kevin and I have both argued, withdraw our troops from Iraq and redeploy some to Afghanistan.  We could also use some more of the withdrawn troops to replace the security firms in Afghanistan.

2 Responses to “Mercs R’ Us”

  1. matttbastard says:

    That socialistcommieliberaldemocrat Malcom Nance at Small Wars Journal also illustrate some of the problems with how PSCs/PMCs currently operate in Iraq (written prior to the Sept 16th massacre).

    Foremost on his list of suggested reforms:
    Implement Strict Accountability. The immunity granted to PSCs by Ambassador Bremer’s CPA Order #17 should be revoked … completely. It should not be expected or welcome by the private security community. To be able to act with complete impunity encourages rogue individuals and unscrupulous entities to enter Iraq with the intent to “get some and get paid” rather than perform the mission professionally. There have been no prosecutions to date of PSCs involved in questionable shootings or even outright murder. A “What happens in Baghdad, Stays in Baghdad” mentality blurs the line between the rogues and the professionals, and will only lead to a greater chance of a truly horrendous incident affecting everyone.

    BTW, I had always assumed that Uncle Jimbo was a bot, like a sycophantic, bloodthirsty A.L.I.C.E..

  2. Macswain says:

    A bot would actually have more substance and a better understanding of the nuances.

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