Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Contract Revoked

While ordinarily I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole here in my happy space, I seem to have no impulse control lately. I need that forehead tattoo from Snow Crash to warn people of the coming danger. Consider this your warning.

I woke up to the NPR news that the Bla.ck.wa.ter (henceforth referred to as BH2O) has lost their Ira.q privileges. In a sketchily described incident, they were escorting a state department vehicle, some exploding type things started going on, and they fired into the crowd, killing 8 people. Wounded people were not reported, but likely exist. (They may be referenced in more recent articles).

While the 8 random deaths concern me, certainly - I'm never a fan of innocent bystanders being mowed down - no one seems to have played up the angle that BH2O was a security detail for the STATE DEPARTMENT. If we're relying so heavily on contractors to provide security for our top government personnel, how can we just up and say "get out, get out now"? I've been curious all along why our top government officials aren't protected by our top military guards, but by a private security firm.

I admit, this odd situation was first pointed out to me by Mar.ine and author Nate Fick at a booksigning. Certain government employees are in that interesting position of being able, even being ordered, to ki.ll people with relative impunity. Corporate employees are not. Even more, "kil.ling" people could be considered a core function/unique property of the military. Except that by hiring contractors in large numbers, we've outsourced core competencies and condoned corporate kil.lers from the beginning. It's one thing to hire out peripheral jobs of piecing uniforms, constructing roads, or cooking dinner, it's another thing entirely to hire out the muscle and firepower. Although one could argue that feeding soldiers is *the* core function of the army, and not to be messed with, it's conceivable that food prep could be done by people who are not trained and sent out to ki.ll. One can't provide security in a highly lethal combat zone with the expectation that the security detail will do no kil.ling.

But until this incident, contractors really haven't gotten any airplay in months - there's plenty of "pull the troops out!" but the status of contractors with heavy firepower and lots of helicopters is not even brought up. Now it feels like the government was hanging on to the contractors as a scapegoat plan - anything goes wrong and they're handed to the Iraqi court system for "justice". As much as I'm not thrilled with the whole contractor army, I'm less thrilled by our government contracting them to provide security for the the STATE DEPARTMENT then hanging them out to dry.

I'm by no means an expert, or even particularly well read about this, but this feels very, very wrong. If BH2O goes home tomorrow, how many state department officials will be scrambling for an escort (which should have been military all along, but I digress)? What do they expect will happen to these contractors in the Ira.qi courts? Was the whole "20K surge" plan merely a way to get enough numbers of bodies over there to displace the 20K or so contractors? I need to stop thinking about this if I ever want to sleep again. I may regret saying so, but feel free to sound off here, informed or not.

Edited to add: Apparently Ira.q is kicking out BH2O, not us. That changes things a little bit, but my rant still stands.

1 comment:

Up My Mind said...

Hmm. The article I read this morning, on the BBC News website, led me to believe that the Iraqi government can say all they want about revoking BH2O's status, and review the status of all the private contractors, but the US doesn't have to abide by their report. I wonder how this will play out?

It's all seemed a little odd to me. But I'm not a tactician, or anything, so what do I know? It just doesn't seem that any of it was thought out in advance.