The Mercenaries' War

Karen DeYoung:

Blackwater security contractors in Iraq have been involved in at least 195 "escalation of force" incidents since early 2005, including several previously unreported killings of Iraqi civilians, according to a new congressional account of State Department and company documents. [...]

Waxman and other critics have said the State Department, which has paid Blackwater nearly $1 billion for security work in Iraq, allowed the company to operate with impunity. "There is no evidence in the documents that the Committee has reviewed," a memorandum released by Democrats said, "that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater's actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting incidents involving Blackwater or the company's high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation."

You can read Waxman's full report (PDF) if you want all the gruesome details. Scott Horton chimes in:

Yesterday I sat in a conference room overlooking the Hudson River Valley in the United States Military Academy at West Point listening to an impressive array of military lawyers discuss the issues associated with the war on terror. One question kept asserting itself, even though it was missing from the formal agenda: “What are we going to do about the contractors?” As one retired JAG put it, “their conduct is dangerously undercutting the military’s performance of its counter-insurgency mission.”

Meanwhile, consider what a mockery the structural situation of the contractors makes of the notion that the mission in Iraq is primarily motivated by concern for Iraqi well-being. Why would you introduce into a country a largish group of heavily armed people who are licensed to operate with legal impunity? Well, I have no idea. It sounds like something you might wish on your worst enemies. It's certainly not something you'd do to help out.