[News] Another False Ending: Contracting Out the Iraq Occupation

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 1 13:41:32 EDT 2010

Original Content at 

September 1, 2010

Another False Ending: Contracting Out the Iraq Occupation

By Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond. Bill and Laura work at the Center 
for Constitutional Rights.

Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven 
years after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on 
the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major 
address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from 
Iraq. But, while thousands of US troops are marching out, thousands 
of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. 
The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than 
double in the coming months.

While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a 
victory or not there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge 
in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability 
of private military contractors remain.

In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way 
in which it wages war fewer soldiers and more contractors.

Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the 
Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors 
(207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, 
making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and 
privatized in U.S. history.

According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress's 
Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, 
private military contractors will be disposing of improvised 
explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed 
aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad's International Zone, 
providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among other 
security-related duties.

Worse, the oversight of contractors will rest with other contractors. 
As has been the case in Afghanistan, contractors will be sought to 
provide "operations-center monitoring of private security contractors 
(PSCs)" as well as "PSC inspection and accountability services."

The Commission on Wartime Contracting, a body established by Congress 
to study the trends in war contracting, raised fundamental questions 
in a July 12, 2010 "special report" about the troop drawdown and the 
increased use of contractors:

"An additional concern is presented by the nature of the functions 
that contractors might be supplying in place of U.S. military 
personnel. What if an aircraft-recovery team or a supply convoy comes 
under fire? Who determines whether contract guards engage the 
assailants and whether a quick-reaction force is sent to assist them? 
What if the assailants are firing from an inhabited village or a 
hospital? Who weighs the risks of innocent casualties, directs the 
action, and applies the rules for the use of force?

"Apart from raising questions about inherently governmental 
functions, such scenarios could require decisions related to the risk 
of innocent casualties, frayed relations with the Iraqi government 
and populace, and broad undermining of U.S. objectives."

We'd like to pose an additional question to the ones listed above: 
when human rights abuses by private military contractors occur in the 
next phase of the occupation of Iraq, which certainly will happen, 
what is the plan for justice and accountability?

This massive buildup of contractors in Iraq takes place at a time 
when the question of contractor immunity or impunity - is at a critical point.

In one example, since 2004 our organization, the Center for 
Constitutional Rights, has been demanding- in US courts and through 
advocacy- that private military contractors who commit grave human 
rights abuses be held accountable. Contractors have responded by 
claiming something known as the "government contractor defense," 
arguing that because they were contracted by the US government to 
perform a duty they shouldn't be able to be held liable for any 
alleged violations that occured while purportedly performing those 
duties even when the alleged violations are war crimes. Contractors 
also argue that the cases CCR has brought raise "political questions" 
that are inappropriate for the courts to consider. These technical 
legal arguments have been the focus of human rights lawsuits for 
years and so far the question of the contractors' actual actions have 
not been reviewed by the federal courts.

One case that should be watched closely this fall is Saleh v. Titan, 
a case brought by CCR and private attorneys against CACI and L-3 
Services (formerly Titan), two private military contractors who 
military investigations implicated as having played a part in the 
torture at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers throughout Iraq.

Saleh v. Titan was filed six years ago on behalf of Iraqis who were 
tortured and otherwise seriously abused while detained and currently 
includes hundreds of plaintiffs, including many individuals who were 
detained at the notorious "hard site" at Abu Ghraib. The plaintiffs 
in Saleh v. Titan, many of whom still suffer from physical and 
psychological harm, are simply seeking their day in court, to tell an 
American jury what happened to them.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the case 
last September and the Supreme Court will be deciding whether or not 
to take the case this fall. This and a handful of other cases will 
signal how civil lawsuits on behalf of those injured or killed by 
contractors will be handled in US courts and decide whether victims 
of egregious human rights violations will obtain some form of redress 
and whether contractors who violate the law will be held accountable 
or be granted impunity.

And how will human rights abuse by contractors be handled by criminal 
prosecutors in the coming years? Given its track record, it is safe 
to say that Iraqi civilians cannot count on the Department of Justice 
(DOJ) to prosecute many contractor abuse cases. The DOJ was given an 
"F" by Human Rights First in their 2008 report Ending Private 
Contractor Impunity: Report Cards on the U.S. Government Response 
since Nisoor Square. The DOJ has never pursued criminal prosecutions 
for contractor involvement in the crimes of Abu Ghraib; something CCR 
still demands today.

Iraq's Parliament signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in 
2008 which gave it the power to prosecute some US contractors who 
commit crimes against Iraqi civilians. We can all hope Iraq's justice 
system will be able to overcome the political challenges involved in 
prosecuting US companies or US contractors and other foreigners in 
Iraq's courts. But even that will not stop the common practice of 
contractor companies simply pulling their employees out of the 
country when a crime happens.

With these fundamental questions left unanswered and legal loopholes 
left open, thousands more armed contractors will soon be filing into 
Iraq, onto the streets where Iraqis work, study and go about their 
everyday lives.

As Senator, Obama called for less dependence on private military 
contractors and for accountability when they committed human rights 
abuses. He told Defense News in 2008 that he was "troubled by the use 
of private contractors when it comes to potential armed engagements." 
Senator Clinton co-sponsored legislation to phase out the use of 
security contractors in war zones.

As President, Obama pretends the occupation of Iraq is ending with 
the withdrawal of combat troops while he and Secretary of State 
Clinton quietly hire a shadow army to replace them.

For more information about Saleh v. Titan, please see: 

Author's Bio: Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor 
at Loyola University New Orleans and Legal Director for the Center 
for Constitutional Rights.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20100901/64b914bb/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list