Baghdad Firefight Raises Questions About Contractors

September 21, 2007 03:20 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A shooting involving private military contractor Blackwater USA leaves at least eight Iraqi civilians dead, and prompts renewed scrutiny of the role private-sector security firms play in the Iraq War.

30 Second Summary

On Sunday, September 16, Blackwater USA security contractors opened fire in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Iraqi witnesses allege the shooting was unprovoked, prompting an investigation into the incident by the Iraqi government.

Blackwater personnel claim that their convoy was “violently attacked” by armed insurgents, and that they fired only in self-defense.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has questioned their version of the events. An investigation by the Interior Ministry argues that the guards shot and killed a couple and their infant without provocation.

The controversy has prompted lawmakers to re-evaluate the legal status of security contractors in Iraq.

Currently these private security forces operate outside of international, Iraqi, and U.S. military and civilian law, making it very difficult to identify which, if any judicial body actually governs them.

However, Iraq and the United States are both trying to change that. Congress is currently considering a law that would put military contractors within reach of American law, and the Iraqi government may rescind an order that gives the companies immunity from Iraqi law.

Headline Links: The Iraqi investigation and the number of contractors in Iraq

Background: Blackwater profiled, the growth of military outsourcing, past controversies, and Blackwater in New Orleans

Analysis: The politics surrounding the controversy, legal accountability, and the State Department’s role examines the legal status of military contractors working in Iraq. Focusing on whether contractors found to have committed a crime in Iraq could be prosecuted under International, Iraqi, U.S., or military law, the article finds that contractors exist in a legal gray area that offers few options for prosecution: “U.S. law ... is hopelessly murky ... The introduction of private contractors into Iraq was not accompanied by a definitive legal construct specifying potential consequences for alleged criminal acts.”

Reactions: Prime Minister Maliki, President Bush, and the Iraqi response

Opinions: Do military contractors have enough oversight?

Historical Context: Military contractors in history

Reference Material: Blackwater’s Web site, the IPOA Code of Conduct, and Iraqi casualties

Related Topics: Congress could bring accountability to contractors

Congress is considering legislation that would not only make contractors subject to American law, but would force the companies to disclose the details of their operations to the government. The bill is called H.R. 369, The Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007, and is sponsored by Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.).

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