Can’t say I’m surprised
The more attention paid to a thing, the more flaws become apparent.
The private contracting firm, Blackwater, now faces an arms-smuggling probe. This comes just after the recent hub-ub where the fledgling Iraqi government banned the company’s license to operate in Iraq.
Turns out an incident involving Blackwater employees resulted in some civilian deaths. There are differing opinions as to what happened and we don’t know for sure; but, the Iraqi government, in response, wanted this company out of Iraq.
That introduced a problem for the U.S. and the efforts in Iraq. Since we rely on the extensive use of these mercenaries in theater, Iraq’s objection to their presence is problematic. Blackwater and other private military companies cover areas that the Army just can’t—diplomatic escorts, various convoy security operations, etc. If they were taken out of the equation, diplomatic travel, camp security and a smattering of other military operations would stall.
The U.S. response to the Iraqi edict? Promise action while proceeding with business as usual. Iraq, powerless to force the U.S. to do anything, has expanded its probe into Blackwater’s past, showing evidence to previous incidents in an effort to press their plea to get them out of the country.
So, once U.S. lawmakers actually start paying attention to how this firm operates, more bad news follows. I can’t say I’m surprised.
There have always been concerns about the current use of mercenaries in this conflict. They are not held to any sort of overarching standards for ethical conduct. There is no sort of international watchdog organization that regulates the behavior and operation of these private military firms. Some have wondered since the invasion’s inception whether or not non-regulated mercenaries could be trusted with lethal force amongst civilians in a shattered country.
In the military, servicemembers are governed by the uniform code of military justice. We also attempt to abide by the Geneva Conventions, although current combatant rights are debatable in the absence of a conventional enemy. That means that, typically, if a servicemember kills, rapes, steals or, in some other way, acts outside of the normal ethical bounds of killing people, he would be punished.
Private military companies aren’t legally bound by the same standards. They are free to operate as they internally see fit. If an employee misbehaves, that person is fired and sent home.
Again, some people have a problem with this. Should mercenary companies, who make billions off of dollars in the wake of the invasion, be used at all? Given the immense profitability of the perpetuated conflict, is there room for negligent use of lethal force? Can the employees within these private military companies be trusted to operate ethically? With no recourse apart from a job loss, can there be a binding set of standards imposed on these companies?
After years of ignoring the issue, we might finally see a good discussion and examination of how mercenaries are utilized in our conflicts.