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Archive: January 2008
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Taking Hits But Relying on The Industry's "Protected Species" Status For Now.
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 01/16/2008 9:04 PM ET
The Bad Boys Of Baghdad
The Bad Boys Of Baghdad

Today's report from Human Rights First is just the latest in the series of contractor bashings taken by the industry. The report doesn't really cover new ground but it makes the same points made by many others that a) there are more contractors now that at any other time in recent military conflict b) They are being protected by official and unofficial methods to avoid prosecution or liability and c) security contractors have joined the ranks of baby seal bashers, Salvation Army bucket thieves, celebrity paparazzi and Nigerian 401 spammers as the profession most hated by the media. Security Contractors are the Britney Spears of government outsourced professions if you will. Even the IRS is treating private contractors like streetwalkers in an aggressive attempt to reclassify both employer and employee in a rash of audits.

The industry has brought it on itself by adopting a secret squirrel attitude to media probings that is reinforced by heavy handed clients like the State Dept. Numerous events, articles and investigations have shown time and again that contractors are either getting away with murder or prosecutors are being jedi mind-tricked by the administration into believing "These are not the droids you are looking for"

Condi Rice recently threw Blackwater under the bus and then backed up over them to make sure the public thought that Blackwater guards protecting diplomats in Baghdad decided to go out and start a shootout all by themselves. The truth is that the State Dept tells Blackwater exactly what to do even down to when to shoot, what to shoot with and even what to wear.

The Human Rights First report starts off with a meaty quote from Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, the deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. The quote pretty much sets the tone for everything you need to know abot the rest of the report:

“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.... They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath.”
Slogger is taking bets on whether Blackwater holds on to its $800 million or so of WPPS money when re-ups happens this May but do not be surprised if the bear paw empire returns to the arms of their abusive client like a oft-battered wife. Second bet is on a "hire in place" a way for clients to change partners by simply hiring the same individuals out from under Blackwater the other two corporate entities that can provide security in Iraq.

To be fair both sides have become plain silly as the left jumps the shark with speculation of assassinations and Blackwater attempts to "game google" by inventing a passel of interconnected backslapping blogs. Their recent story on saving blonde virgins from hordes of angry black mobs was straight out of Boy's Own. Much sexier than saving the Polish Ambassador.

Aegis survived the Elvis-backed Trophy Video and DynCorp has survived much worse. The bottom line is that although the media is clobbering the security industry with its pimp hand the industry is remarkably unbowed or damaged financially. The truth is that the forward leaning foreign policy of George Bush and the targeted assassination tactics of the enemy requires diplomats and criminals alike to travel like African warlords in places like Kabul and Baghdad.

There have been many aspects of the "post Blackwater-era" such as more robust enforcement of Rules of Force, revised arming agreement and contract additions, pending Iraqi legislation to erode immunity under Order 17 and the "post-Petraeus surge/neo-Sunni death squad" concept of "do not assume that all Iraqis are hostile". As we head towards a new administration its clear that Democrats come down on the Scahillian side of the argument while Republicans say nary a word. The report by Human Rights First takes the approach that enforcing existing laws will correct bad behavior in the lethal force for profit industry:

"Strengthening legal accountability mechanisms, with a primary focus on mandating Justice Department action in this area by recognizing the Justice Department already has adequate legal authority and, ensuring it has the resources to effectively prosecute these cases"

There are plenty of legal codes that cover security contractors right now. they range from The Patriot Act (used to convict a CIA contractor of murder) to Iraqi law. There is even the frontier justice meted out to trigger happy contractors who were issued prayer mats and orange jump suits by a Marine commander in Fallujah. But the point is our government chooses not to...despite well rehearsed displays of shock and indignation. The industry will publicly say it welcomes oversight and then privately tell you that they operate by "Big Boy Rules". The truth is that private security contractors in Iraq operate by the logic as shown in the paraphrased ending of Chinatown... "Forget it Jake, it's Iraq". Iraq has no reliable police force, no reliable army and seasoned operators conduct themselves with remarkable restraing in the kill or be killed environment. The problem is not at the back (prosecution) but at the front end (training and pay). The halcon days of Tier One operators has morphed from a $800 a day legion of combat savvy SEALS and SF to a $400 a day army of small town cops, jarheads and TCNs. (Third Country Nationals). If you think security contractors are wild n out now, wait until local Iraqis and the dregs of the third world populate the ranks. Contracting is after all, a lowest bid business.

Many firms know that they are disposable (including Blackwater) and have shifted into "save the world" mode as they rename, reposition (complete with smiling children), integrate disaster management capabilities and go hustling peace keeping or training jobs in Africa and Asia but their bread and butter is in Baghdad.

Overall the world of private security contractors is not going to go away. Blackwater was just handed a 90 million, multi-year contract for STOL capability air transport in Central Asia, Aegis was just confirmed as the vendor of choice for the Regional Operations Centers in Iraq and President Bush will make sure that we have a multi year defense agreement with Iraq that will of course require the same or heightened level of contractor support.

That's the point...while the media and the left focus on pointing out the obvious: That security contractors were designed to be a "use once and throw away when done" solution to GWOT, they have become a critical part of both military and humanitarian operations.No one seems to be focused on how the United States and its assigns are going to operate safely in both hostile and resource thin environments. More importantly there is little intelligent dialog on how the modern military is going to operate with or without private contractors in a fourth and fifth generation warfare world.

So in fairness to the men who allow our diplomats, construction workers, politicians and yes, even the media, to get to and from work alive in places like Iraq... Take a security contractor out to lunch this week.

“Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity,”



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