security fiasco is
only the most recent
chapter in a tale of
and hubris in Iraq .
The American Spark
Who's Watching U.S. Companies In Iraq?
By Cliff Montgomery - Sept. 20th, 2007
The decision of Iraq's government to place a temporary ban on the Blackwater security company after its
employees fatally shot Baghdad civilians is only the most recent chapter in a tale of apparent White House
corruption and hubris.
This ugly episode has forced every caring American to ask two questions: Just who in the Bush Administration
is watching our corporations in Iraq, and who--if anyone--holds them accountable if they do wrong?
Private security companies like Blackwater are an especially worrisome issue in Iraq. While there appears to be
a growing set of rules overseeing weapons-bearing private contractors, administration enforcement of those
rules seems to be another matter.
It's been almost a year since the passage of a law which prosecutes errant private employees under the U.S.
military code of justice. But the Bush Administration has yet to release a paper informing military lawyers on
how to proceed with such cases, says Peter Singer, a security industry expert employed at the Brookings
Institution in Washington, D.C.
A July Congressional Research Service report previously disclosed by The American Spark claimed that
security employees in Iraq work under the laws of America, Iraq and such inter-governmental bodies as the
But this is no assurance that clear wrongdoing will be punished, the report added.
A court-martial of private employees may prove unconstitutional, stated the report, while the U.S. does not
recognize the Iraqi government's right to bring American-based contractors to justice.
"It is possible that some contractors may remain outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, civil or military, for
improper conduct in Iraq," the study reported.
"This is what happens when government fails to act," Singer replied via the Brookings Website after the
apparent Sunday massacre involving Blackwater employees.
The Iraqi government issued a statement Tuesday that it would take a closer look at all security firms now
employed in Iraq, in an effort to ensure that the companies are following Iraqi laws.
But this may prove to be an empty promise. About three years ago, the American-led Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) issued Order No. 17, which granted U.S.-based security companies a near-blanket immunity
from prosecution by the Iraqi government.
Iraqi representatives have told journalists that their government can't afford to rescind the questionable order.
"We don't want to do so because we don't have the services they are providing for the diplomats and for the
American Embassy here in Iraq," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh to CNN reporters.
Blackwater is based in Moyock, NC. It is one of the three private security companies hired to provide
bodyguards for State Department personnel in Iraq. The other two are based near Washington, D.C.:
Dyncorp, headquartered in Falls Church, VA, and Triple Canopy, which is based in Herndon, VA.
The Blackwater debacle comes on the heels of a similar embarrassment, involving a team of Defense auditors
who in early September were quietly shuttled to Iraq. The group is examining the increasing cases of corruption
and fraud being perpetrated through contracts meant to provide weapons and other supplies to Iraqi forces.
"The [Defense] Department is concerned with the number of contracting improprieties" that have been
discovered, department spokesman Bryan Whitman told the Associated Press (AP) on August 28th.
A few members of a group headed by Pentagon Inspector General Claude Kicklighter already were in Iraq by
late August, studying the matter. The majority of Kicklighter's group would join those auditors during the first
week of September, Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib told AP.
The group is studying "accountability and control problems," said Isleib, including some questions regarding
"weapons and munitions purchased by the U.S. government and intended for use by Iraqi security forces."
The Kicklighter team also will study similar problems in Afghanistan.
There were 73 ongoing criminal probes investigating contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait as of late
August, Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio told AP.
As a result of one of the most recent contract investigations, the Government Accountability Office issued a
July declaration that the Defense Department cannot verify who now possesses at least 190,000 weapons
worth $19.2 billion and originally given to Iraqi security units.
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