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Can Iraq (or Anyone) Hold Blackwater Accountable for Killing Iraqi Civilians? A Debate On the Role of Private Contractors
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 : As the Iraq government expels Blackwater over the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians, Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," debates Doug Brooks, president of International Peace Operations Association, a trade group for the private security industry.
The Bush administration is trying to stop the Iraqi government from banning the private military firm Blackwater. Iraqi officials say they've revoked Blackwater's license over a deadly shooting that killed up to eleven civilians. Witnesses say Blackwater guards fired indiscriminately after a car bomb exploded near their convoy. Blackwater is denying wrongdoing and says it guards properly responded to an ambush from insurgents. But Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani called the shootings: “a big crime that we can't be silent about.”
U.S. officials have already gone into overdrive to prevent the move. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice telephoned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Malaki and vowed an investigation. But the Iraqi government appears to be holding ground. Earlier today Iraq Maliki's cabinet said it supports the ban and will review the legal status of all private military companies working in Iraq.
The shootout is only Blackwater's latest controversy in Iraq. The North Carolina-based firm operates under a multi-million dollar contract to protect U.S. officials and facilities. It's been allowed close to free reign under a murky legal environment that offers little to no oversight over its operations.
The author and independent journalist Jeremy Scahill has been closely following Blackwater. He is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Jeremy joins me in the firehouse studio.
And joining me from Washington, DC is Doug Brooks. He is President of International Peace Operations Association, a trade group for the private security industry. Blackwater is a founding member.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The fog of war keeps getting thicker. The Iraqi government's decision to temporarily ban the security company Blackwater USA after a fatal shooting of civilians in Baghdad reveals a growing web of rules governing weapons-bearing private contractors but few signs U.S. agencies are aggressively enforcing them.
Nearly a year after a law was passed holding contracted employees to the same code of justice as military personnel, the Bush administration has not published guidance on how military lawyers should do that, according to Peter Singer, a security industry expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
A Congressional Research Service report published in July said security contractors in Iraq operate under rules issued by the United States, Iraq and international entities such as the United Nations.
All have their limitations, however.
A court-martial of a private-sector employee likely would be challenged on constitutional grounds, the research service said, while Iraqi courts do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute contractors without U.S. permission.