DoD to Blackwater: Game Over
The Iraqis have finished their probe in to the Nissour Square shootings, have unanimously declared that Blackwater is criminally liable, and is asking in no uncertain terms that they be removed from the country. For about the fifth time. But the Defense Secretary is starting to listen.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is pressing for the nearly 10,000 armed security contractors now working for the United States government in Iraq to fall under a single authority, most likely the American military, in an effort to bring Blackwater USA under tighter control, senior administration officials and Pentagon advisers say.
That idea is facing resistance from the State Department, which relies heavily for protection in Iraq on some 2,500 private guards, including more than 800 Blackwater contractors, to provide security for American diplomats in Baghdad. The State Department has said it should retain control over those guards, despite Blackwater’s role in a September shooting in Baghdad that exposed problems in the current oversight arrangements.
This has turned a bit into a power grab between State and Defense, but the truth is that private military contractors cannot continue to exist in an accountability-free zone, and if they're presumably under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, then they should be under the control of the military. I really don't want to see the military privatized at all, and putting them under the control of the military makes for easier outsourcing, so there's concern. But this would end something that has caused great hardship in Iraq. And this, of course, is why Blackwater, knowing that they've burned bridge, is scurrying around trying to pick up other jobs. The problem is that once the light is shines on you, it's hard to stay out of that spotlight.