(10pm ET Trippin Tuesday will be up later. This is much more important. – promoted by On The Bus)
Not what I thought was going to pour from my fingertips yesterday but you know how those freaky muses are. Besides, Sun Tsu never met a weakening of his enemies defenses he didn’t like.
Feels like such an odd diary to write since I don’t even want anybody I know to be involved in the Iraq War. I don’t get a choice though in the matter and we have thrown in the towel on getting out any time in the near future so please allow me to focus constructively on something that can be done and affects all those on the ground in Iraq.
The first time I ever read a word about “contractors” in Iraq was when reading an account of Sean Penn’s 2nd Iraq visit.
In lieu of explaining this in the Arabic I don’t speak, I await the commander of this yet-unidentified militia. When he arrives, I am searched. It is not the casual search of amateurs, but rather of people who believe they are going to find a weapon. And then the commander speaks. He speaks in English, reviewing the passport and press credential he has pulled from my pocket. He speaks in good English. This man is no Iraqi. But I can’t make out his accent. Perhaps South African.
And then he is joined by another man dressed in what I would call militarized CIA garb: combat boots with camouflage pants tucked into them, topped by a civvy shirt with an identification tag on a long chain around his neck that cannot be read in the darkness of the alley. This one speaks Texas. I’m asked the whys and wherefores of my presence and camera. I am informed that the building being guarded had been car-bombed the previous day and that they will need to review the videotape and detain me for as long as that takes. It seems they are concerned that their fortification is being, in some way, reconned for further attack. I ask with innocent curiosity who I am dealing with.
The Texan curtly informs me, “I work for DynCorp.”
I ask for a business card.
Just as curtly, he says, “I don’t have a card,” then points at the chained identification around his neck, “only this ID.”
Of course, we are still in the dark, and it is still illegible. Although the Kalashnikovs have by now been lowered, further questions don’t seem to be on the invitation list. And rather than ask them to shine their own flashlights on their identification, I take the “Yes, sir,” “No, sir” route as they check the car and its contents for weapons and explosives.
The Texan tells me that when the Iraqis under his charge complete their search, I will be permitted to check that the contents of my bag are intact. They sit my driver and me on a concrete curb, still in the shadows of the alley. I distract myself by rolling the word DynCorp around in my head. Something about “The Parallax View” comes to mind. Something with a scent, redolent of war profiteering.
A third officer exits the building — another Westerner with a short, cropped beard. It seems it is his job to review the tape I had shot. We sit in the cold night air under guard as the three officers retreat into the building with my camera. It will be another half hour before they return. And the third officer returns my camera, acknowledging that I have only shot what could be seen of their fortification by any civilian on the street and they have not deemed it necessary to erase it. I thank them for their professionalism without commenting on their lack of humor.
My spouse was in Iraq back then, his next phone call home I told him I was feeling a little distressed as to why we needed hired guns in Iraq (and this was way before the Army was broken all to hell okay). He told me that he hadn’t really run into anything like that……I guess he should have said “YET” but at least I got to think that Penn might be a bit of a crazy hippy or something for awhile……at least till my husband’s next letter home which was a little puzzled and unsettled about the hired guns he had finally ran into and why they were there or even needed. When he finally came home and told me to my face what he thought about the hired guns in Iraq it was about the same time that something bad happened to a few of those contractors in Fallujah, which was the neighborhood my husband hung out in during his vacation in Iraq. Then Kos soiled himself 😉 and I cheered him on all the way because I had sort of been told a few things that I had no proof of, just hearsay about how some of the contractors “behaved” when visiting Fallujah.
Then on May 28, 2005 nineteen employees of a U.S. contracting firm – including 16 Americans – were detained by U.S. troops in Fallujah for three days after allegedly firing on Marine checkpoints in the Iraqi city.
Then we all got to see this
Then something needed happened in January of 2007 and U.S. Military Contractors operating in combat zones are now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Congress quietly made this change as part of the FY 2007 Military Authorization Act.
The provision makes a very small, but important change to Article 2 of the UCMJ. Under previous law, the UCMJ only applied to civilians in combat areas during periods of war declared by Congress.
Paragraph a (10) of Article 2 originally read, “(10) In time of war, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field.”
And on May 10, 2007 Jeremy Scahill testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on the impact of private military contractors on the conduct of the Iraq War and had this to say…..
They have not been prosecuted under the UCMJ, under US civilian law or under Iraqi law. US contractors in Iraq reportedly have their own motto: “What happens here today, stays here today.” That should be chilling to everyone who believes that warfare, above all government functions, must be subject to transparency, accountability and the rule of law.
These are forces operating in the name of the United States of America. Iraqis do not see contractors as separate from soldiers–understandably, they see them all as “the occupation.” Contractor misconduct is viewed as American misconduct.
As well as this………
Brig. Gen. Karl Horst of the 3rd Infantry Division became so outraged by contractor unaccountability that he began tracking contractor violence in Baghdad. In just two months he documented twelve cases of contractors shooting at civilians, resulting in six deaths and three injuries. That is just two months and one general.
And if you have the time here’s the video
The use of private military contractors appears to have harmed, rather than helped the counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Even worse, it has created a dependency syndrome on the private marketplace that not merely creates critical vulnerabilities, but shows all the signs of the last downward spirals of an addiction. If we judge by what has happened in Iraq, when it comes to private military contractors and counterinsurgency, the U.S. has locked itself into a vicious cycle. It can’t win with them, but can’t go to war without them.
And I probably ought to bring up the latest Contractors Gone Wild video…
Iraqi investigators have a videotape that shows Blackwater USA guards opened fire against civilians without provocation in an incident last week in which 11 people died, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday. He said the case had been referred to the Iraqi judiciary.
David, I have read the current United States Military Counterinsurgency Manual that you mostly wrote. I know you aren’t a stupid man. I’m pissed at ya though, mighty pissed because you know that acts of lawlessness done by anybody affiliated with the USA in Iraq blow our whole counterinsurgency dynamic. I don’t even agree with your shpiel but the powers that be have said that that’s what we are going with so let’s do it………but you aren’t even doing it! Dealing with these contractors isn’t rocket science David, you were given what you needed to handle this situation in January this year and most of these lawless assholes are exmilitary. They know the fricken rules for Christ sake! It really doesn’t take a Brookings Institute Study to know this whole situation regarding military contractors stinks to high heaven of genocide and murder and maybe we need their help in ending this type of contracting work but we don’t need them to handle the contractors in Iraq. We need you and you aren’t stepping up buddy to hold anybody accountable who isn’t in uniform. You betray me and my children by placing their father in unneeded harms way acting the way you are, you betray all of the other soldiers and their families as well, you betray the American taxpayer who doesn’t even want to be in Iraq but they are and now you squander their treasure even more by not sticking to your own counterinsurgency rules of engagement, and you betray the country and the people and the government of Iraq most of all. Start doing your job David as the United States Commander in Iraq or I’m going to have to start calling you General David Betrayus along with all those loopy NeoCons who called you that long before MoveOn.org did. Let’s get on this soldier!