Blackwater: Banned in Baghdad

Rick Moran
The controversial practice of using private security firms in Iraq has been a an issue the military itself has looked upon with something of a jaundiced eye. The fact is, these security firms have allowed thousands of soldiers to be released from security duty in order to perform more pressing functions - like killing terrorists.

But there have been numerous incidents over the years where it appeared on the surface that the contractors - almost all of whom are ex-military - were not bound by the same rules of engagement as the military. This has resulted, critics say, in many civilian casualties and complaints from a number of Iraqis about the undisciplined nature of the contractors.

Following an incident with a State Department convoy earlier this week where employees of Blackwater, the top security contracting company in Iraq, shot it out with insurgents in Baghdad and a number of civilians caught in the cross fire were apparently killed and injured, Iraq's Interior Ministry has
yanked the license for Blackwater to operate in Iraq:
Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead.

Blackwater, one of many security firms contracted by the U.S. government during the Iraq war, provides protection for American diplomats.

Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk. In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, the official said.

The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square. The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, and the witnesses said the vehicles are the kind used by Western security firms.
The military says there are 25,000 private security contractors operating in Iraq with up to 200 of them killed in the conflict. The House Government Affairs Committee estimates that $4 billion has been spent employing these security firms. 

This is
not the first controversial incident involving private security firms. One US general was dismissive of the contractor's efforts:

"These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force," said Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is responsible for security in and around Baghdad. "They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."
Prior to this incident, the contractors were immune from Iraqi justice and were dealt with largely through in house disciplinary procedures for any transgressions that occurred.

I happen to understand the need for contractors like Blackwater to supply security but have always wondered why they couldn't be bound by the same rules of engagement that the military is forced to operate under. The legal tangle in these cases is a nightmare and the training of many of these contractors has been called into question.

All in all, I think the use of these contractors has been a negative - certainly as far as winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is concerned. Whether they should ever be used in similar circumstances again should be looked at long and hard.
The controversial practice of using private security firms in Iraq has been a an issue the military itself has looked upon with something of a jaundiced eye. The fact is, these security firms have allowed thousands of soldiers to be released from security duty in order to perform more pressing functions - like killing terrorists.

But there have been numerous incidents over the years where it appeared on the surface that the contractors - almost all of whom are ex-military - were not bound by the same rules of engagement as the military. This has resulted, critics say, in many civilian casualties and complaints from a number of Iraqis about the undisciplined nature of the contractors.

Following an incident with a State Department convoy earlier this week where employees of Blackwater, the top security contracting company in Iraq, shot it out with insurgents in Baghdad and a number of civilians caught in the cross fire were apparently killed and injured, Iraq's Interior Ministry has
yanked the license for Blackwater to operate in Iraq:
Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead.

Blackwater, one of many security firms contracted by the U.S. government during the Iraq war, provides protection for American diplomats.

Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk. In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, the official said.

The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square. The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, and the witnesses said the vehicles are the kind used by Western security firms.
The military says there are 25,000 private security contractors operating in Iraq with up to 200 of them killed in the conflict. The House Government Affairs Committee estimates that $4 billion has been spent employing these security firms. 

This is
not the first controversial incident involving private security firms. One US general was dismissive of the contractor's efforts:

"These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force," said Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is responsible for security in and around Baghdad. "They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."
Prior to this incident, the contractors were immune from Iraqi justice and were dealt with largely through in house disciplinary procedures for any transgressions that occurred.

I happen to understand the need for contractors like Blackwater to supply security but have always wondered why they couldn't be bound by the same rules of engagement that the military is forced to operate under. The legal tangle in these cases is a nightmare and the training of many of these contractors has been called into question.

All in all, I think the use of these contractors has been a negative - certainly as far as winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is concerned. Whether they should ever be used in similar circumstances again should be looked at long and hard.