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Why are contractors in Iraq and Aghanistan allowed to operate outside the UCMJ, and are were not held to account by the 'governments' in those countries for their actions?

.. update: Tigre Caps offers this in the comments:

U.S. Military Contractors operating in combat zones are now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Congress quietly made this change as part of the FY 2007 Military Authorization Act.

What basis in our current system of law allows for a private military force to be used in nearly a one to one ratio? How did we get here? What parts of legislation spell out the shield which extends to cover Blackwater, CACI, Aegis Defence Services, Zapata Engineering, Dyn Corp, KBR, Halliburton? Can the funds that support these companies be separated out from the allocations for the US military?

How can there be a de facto separate and unequal compensation of these people, using our taxpayer monies to support this quasi-government operation? Where is the accountability? Who is accountable?

And finally, and most importantly .. when can the Democrats sitting on Committees that appropriate funds take action to investigate and stop this privatization of our military?

I was going to publish this as an open thread comment, but I feel that this is a discussion we as a community need to have.

Originally posted to Shpilkis M Katz on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:31 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have my own answers to the questions I posted (7+ / 0-)

    I'm curious, and want to hear other people's views and observations.

  •  Dick Cheney's private forces (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, se portland, phaktor

    He has declared the VP's office above and beyond all accountability. He answers to no one.

    But without his own private army he wouldn't have much power. This way he can run a separate, off the books government and global empire.

    Is it Constitutional? No. But who's stopping him?

    If Cheney is not impeached, he will continue to ignore the Constitution with impunity.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:43:58 AM PDT

    •  What is the mechanism that makes this all legal? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phaktor

      Why can't Democrats stop the funding of these contractors?

      •  Contractors are too ingrained (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shpilk, bronte17, se portland

        in the system... They are involved in running all kinds of weapons - think about it, we spend a lot of time talking about the on-the-ground-with-a-weapon contractors... but what about all those running sophisticated weapons made by Raytheon et al that blow of hundreds of people from afar?

        So you just can't stop funding them. You'd have to replace them with soldiers - where are you going to get them and more importantly - what is a soldier doing performing security detail? that is not really within their area of expertise.

        the security contractors are a direct result of the reconstruction effort. that is why they are there. Never before have we attempted to rebuild a country in the middle of a conflict - it's a stupid idea, but that is why security contractors are needed.

        Construction contractors - there is precedent for this - the war in Vietnam used over 80,000 contractors -

        so we have to seperate between security and construction and high-tech weapons... and then further more you get into training - MPRI and others have been training the "new" Iraqi army. What about those contractors?

        I think the reason they are so prevalent now is because of the condition. A lot of these companies existed before Bush and Cheney and they will exist after.

        Contractors became a larger part of our military in the '90s, under Clinton. This was, of course, set in play by Cheney as SecDef who was charged with down-sizing the military in a post-Cold War era.

        This did two things - it sent a couple million in our military out the door and with it the resources and knowledge that would show up later in the private sector. Secondly, faced with new security issues in the '90s, companies were in a positition to offer services the governemnt was then lacking.

        This was all sold as being "cost-efficient" which, to date, there is no evidence of this.

        But the rise was in the '90s and Bush drastically accelerated their use post-911. A lot of it had to do with the Pentagon not being able to handle a lot of the subtle on the ground issues in Afghanistan and a lot of retired or semi-retired folks came back in to help, and this coupled with the exodus of the '90s developed the market we have today.

        There has been some movement towards bringing some of the traditionally institutional functions back under the Pentagon umbrella.

        "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

        by Tirge Caps on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:20:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Excuse me (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shpilk

          >what is a soldier doing performing security detail? that is not really within their area of expertise.<</p>

          Military Police 31 Bravo. Its been a function in the US Army since January of 1776 when George Washington appointed William Maroney the first Provost Marshall of the Continental Army. It is equally true that the Bugle Call indicating that the enemy is breaking through the lines and calling every one to the defense is called "Cooks and Bakers to the line." There is no function for the maintenance of an Army in the field that has not traditionally been done by soldiers. The Republican privatization of the force has been solely for the purpose of transferring public moneys into private pockets. There is no practical advantage.

          "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

          by johnmorris on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 11:12:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  like I said, it has to do with the reconstruction (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            shpilk

            effort... would you have military police guarding all the buildings, all the convoys everything that is involved in rebuilding Iraq? Since we have never done anything like this before, there is no precedent for the type of security needed.

            "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

            by Tirge Caps on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 11:49:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We did it (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              shpilk, Tirge Caps

              in Germany in 1945-48. My dad was one of those MPs.

              "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

              by johnmorris on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 03:15:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That war was over when reconstruction (0+ / 0-)

                began.

                This one isn't. That's the difference.

                "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

                by Tirge Caps on Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 12:17:49 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  My father (0+ / 0-)

                  a corporal in the Military Police, walked ashore on Normandy Beach on D+2 wearing white gloves and directing traffic. His MP batallion and the Engineer's Special Group they were attached to, provided security, directed traffic and handled POW's across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, culminating with the occupation of Berlin. The use of contractors for these purposes has no compelling practical argument. They are just to make a profit for Republican contributors.

                  "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

                  by johnmorris on Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 08:34:20 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  Ask why they're immune to BATFE laws here, too... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shpilk

        Blackwater is a civilian corporation.

        According to federal law, no civilian may possess, purchase or or import a new class III full-auto or select-fire weapon manufactured after 1986. Blackwater does so all the time. They were walking around wieh them in public areas of New Orleans after Katrina.

        According to federal law, no civilian may possess a Destructive Device such as grenades, mortars, plastic explosives and detonation devices other than specific sorts for construction and mining. Blackwater has lots of grenades and other explosives, and practices with them in the US.

        Isn't it nice to know that a private, civilian mercenary force is entirely exempt from the laws that all the rest of must follow, putting us quite literally at their mercy at the whims of those controlling them?

        Nobody cares, it seems. BATFE, shifted from Treasury to Justice in 2002 under Bush, doesn't make a peep, and the Democrats seem too scared to ever broach the subject.

        "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross" - Sinclair Lewis

        by Loboguara on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:50:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  All this means is they have the permits (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shpilk

          it is not that NO citizen can, it that only some citizens can get permits for these things and Blackwater isn't alone in this.

          •  No, civilians can't ever do some of the things... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            shpilk

            ...they do.

            A civilian can only get a Class III permit to own a registered select-fire or full-auto weapon imported or made before 1986. It's why any on the market are usually over $10,000. They're simply collectors' items for rich people, now. A civilian can NEVER import a newly made one, or purchase a newly-made one here. Ever.

            Only law enforcement agencies and military can do that.

            But Blackwater does.

            Same with Destructive Devices. There is no permit, anywhere, to allow a civilian to own what they have.

            "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross" - Sinclair Lewis

            by Loboguara on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 11:54:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bullshit (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              shpilk, skippythebox

              you can buy a brand new M-16a2 if you have the permit.  The Class III license allows for the ownership of a select fire weapon.

              The Class IV license allows for the importation and resale of heavy weapons and small arms.  Both permits can be applied for by civilians, but can be denied; but they can also be applied for by a corporation!

              And those are ALWAYS granted.  

              So Blackwater likely has a corporate Class IV and ancillary Class III permit held by their corporate master at arms who can then designate any employee or officer of the company to carry the weapon. Now if you would like I can have my son show you how to set up a shadow corporation in Nevada were your master at arms as well as the rest of your corporate officers are shielded from view. My son used to work for a RBOC (a regional operating company ) and they had a master at arms and had machine gun toting guards for certain facilities. They made their purchases out of Colorado and Montana to maximize the type of weapons and accessories they could legally purchase.

  •  Actually the FBI (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, Tirge Caps, Catrina, phaktor

    can investigate their crimes... at least in Iraq. But how does that work? Do you send F.B.I. agents to Iraq to interview witnesses? Even if you can find them without getting killed what do you do next? Subpoena them and fly them back to the U.S for a trial?

    Of course none of this works so they literally get away with murder.

    But how can you recruit thugs if they know they can be held responsible for their actions?

    This is the secret army in Iraq, and their numbers are close to 100,000.

    "A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy" Theodore Roosevelt

    by se portland on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:47:26 AM PDT

    •  I was not aware of this. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phaktor

      How can the FBI be sent to investigate crimes committed on foreign soil? Aren't the Iraqi and Afghani governments responsible?

      The FBI operates under whose authority? If I commit a crime in England, France, or Germany, does the FBI investigate my actions?

      •  I do not think this has changed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shpilk

        Ohmy News

        Attorney General John Ashcroft noted that the U.S. courts do have jurisdiction over the contractors. Hopefully, Attorney General Ashcroft will vehemently go after these contractors. The situation, however, doesn't look very promising. Ashcroft noted that he will not send any or a significant number of FBI agents to Iraq. He stated that he will wait until a Pentagon investigation is concluded.

        Furthermore, to prosecute these contractors is an uphill battle if Ashcroft is less than vehement in pursuing the matter. We must remember if these cases are tried in America the victims would need to appear in U.S. court to testify. Additionally, the prosecution would need to convince a jury of all Americans to convict an American that abused an Iraqi. In many cases the Iraqi may have been a Saddam Hussein loyalist.

        Or this

        The Blackwater employee suspected in the December killing was a technician hired to maintain and repair Blackwater's weaponry and armaments, according to people familiar with the matter.

        Current and former colleagues of the contractor say he had been drinking heavily in the hours before his fatal run-in with Mr. al-Saraay, and that FBI agents probing the shooting ran blood tests to see if he was legally drunk at the time of the shooting. The results of those blood tests are unknown, and the FBI declined to comment.

        "A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy" Theodore Roosevelt

        by se portland on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:08:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Have we enlarged the FBI to expand hiring (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shpilk

          so we can still have a safe homeland and international Federal Bureau of Investigation?  

          And, the iFBI operates under whose law?

          <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

          by bronte17 on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:28:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That's an excellent point and gets to the crux of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shpilk, se portland

      the problem.

      Ther ARE laws on the books covering contractors in Iraq. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) and the PATRIOT Act both give the legal authority to investigate, charge and prosecute offenders.

      The PROBLEM is that the Bush Administration has NOT enforced those laws.

      I mean, in the end this is what we have to keep in mind... these companies are not the bad guys - they aren't the good guys either - they are what ourr government uses them for and that has to be understood because at the end of the day it has nothing to with Blackwater or Titan or MPRI or whomever - it has to do with the client (the USG) and how they effect oversight, procurement methods and intent because that is who's orders and consent these contractors operate under.

      "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

      by Tirge Caps on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:37:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rummy's your man (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, bronte17, irate, va dare

    Donald had a laundry list of reasons why the US military should oursource every possible component to the private sector.

    • The free market mechanisms of competition and invention would run circles around the leaden and entrenched Pentagon bureaucracy.
    • Contracts for military spending could be handed off to BushCo pals and supporters.
    • Only the US armed forces are subject to law and oversight; the contractors (mercenaries) would be free to operate like a shadow military agency, accountable only to those they contract with.
    • Deaths, errors, war crimes, corruption, waste, fraud, all of these and more would be "off the books," allowing for greater theater flexibility.
    • Unlike US soldiers, the private contractors are, at the end of their contracts, gone. They're off the books. They don't eat up entitlements like healthcare and pensions for the rest of their lives. They're far cheaper in the long run, even if they soak us hard for their pay at the point of purchase.

    Now, many of these suppositions are just plain wrong. But that's the thinking that brought us these Blackwater and Custer Battles types.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

    by The Raven on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:49:42 AM PDT

  •  My take is this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk

    How did we get here? First, it is the natural consequence of the attitude being promoted by the conservative movement for thirty years. This is the mantra: "government is expensive and incompetent and private industry can do everything better and more efficiently". Of course, privatization of military, prison, police, and other functions is a clear conflict of interest, and a real advantage for fascists using private entities in these areas is that they are not bound by the same regulatory checks and balances that government employees are bound by. It is easier for them to get away with things, and the fact that they are not government employees adds a layer of insulation against having their activities declared illegal acts -- much less having their activities attributed directly to the government. A fringe benefit is that they can make HUGE profits for these companies by charging inflated fees for the services.

    The Reagan era worship of markets and free enterprise has brought us here, and now the real motives of the designers of that movement are becoming more clear. The Rethugs wouldn't mind a completely private military -- free of government oversight -- that could be financed through taxing the middle class and the poor.

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." Mark Twain

    by phaktor on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:56:29 AM PDT

  •  People online have been asking this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, bronte17, FishOutofWater

    question for years.  I also think there is a law against the use of mercenaries.

    Before the 2004 election, I remember the war funding bill that got Kerry in trouble when he first voted against it and was accused of 'not supporting the troops'. I know that many people wanted Democrats to demand to know where the funding was going, to Mercenaries or to the troops, but not one of them ever acknowledged the enormous presence of mercenaries in Iraq.

    It made no sense to me then that they did not use this to squash the charge that they were not supporting the troops.

    There were reports also that Military leaders were very disturbed by the lawlessness of this private army, especially around the time of the attack on Fallujah.

    I wish I had a link handy to the law on mercenaries. Will try to find it again. But it seems to me that Democrats are and have been aware of this 'private army' and when they vote on funding for the war, they are fully aware that the money is not just for the trooops.

    Not one reporter has ever asked about this. Even if we do withdraw troops next year (which the WaPo is reporting today)  does that include the huge private army also?  Someone needs to start investigating this travesty.

    Speak your truth quietly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story - Max Ehrmann

    by Catrina on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 09:56:56 AM PDT

    •  Here's the UN law (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shpilk

      on the subject of mercenaries. My readinng is that our "contractors" meet the definition and that we have violated this part of the Charter.

      http://www.ohchr.org/...

      "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:50:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am familiar with the UN definition (0+ / 0-)

        of mercenary and I can tell you that just about no one in the world meets those standards. You have to meet all 8 or 9 criteria, not just a few - the contractors from our country are from a country that is a party to the conflict - that disqualifies them from being mercenaries under the UN definition.

        Another snag is that the contractors over there are acting in a defensive position. They are strictly defined as security. Mercenaries are offensive and act in the role of a soldier. Contractors working in support of the reconstruction effort are not part of an offensive military operation (though the argument that our entire presence in Iraq is offensive and though they are acting defensively they are doing so in support of an offensive operation and that qualifies them as offensive is an argument I am sympathetic too but wouldn't agree that then they are mercenaries because their role in the end is security.)

        "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

        by Tirge Caps on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:58:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the actions of some of the contractors .. (0+ / 0-)

          Their mission might be 'defensive', but there are documented cases where they appear to be guilty of heinous war crimes.

          Some of these instances appear to have not been adjudicated.

          •  I totally agree with that - - this is in part (0+ / 0-)

            why I think the term mercenary is unnecessary - it is certainly derogatory when there is no need to be derogatory - it has also further detracts from the real issues because they are not the target - the government is.

            The fact that there hundreds of cases of unwarranted shootings that have gone uninvestigated is an enormous problem. And it has nothing to do with whether they are mercenaries or not. Legally, they are not. So move on is my attitude and deal with the problems of using contractors.

            "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

            by Tirge Caps on Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 01:06:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  They are under the UCMJ: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, bronte17, va dare, Catrina, dantyrant

    LINK  

    U.S. Military Contractors operating in combat zones are now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Congress quietly made this change as part of the FY 2007 Military Authorization Act.

    The provision makes a very small, but important change to Article 2 of the UCMJ. Under previous law, the UCMJ only applied to civilians in combat areas during periods of war declared by Congress.

    Paragraph a (10) of Article 2 originally read, "(10) In time of war, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field."

    In a Vietnam-era case, the Court of Military Appeals set aside the conviction of a civilian contractor in Saigon because it construed the old Art. 2(a)(10) to apply only in cases of declared war. United States v. Averette, 19 C.M.A. 363, 41 C.M.R. 363 (1970).

    The new provision changes this paragraph to read: "In time of declared war or a contingency operation, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field."

    "We now know many things.... most of which, we already knew." - dash888

    by Tirge Caps on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:02:31 AM PDT

  •  Legionaires disease. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

    by Wilberforce on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:29:10 AM PDT

  •  America's very own Hessians (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk

    We have lost all dignity and shame.

    we're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression

    by Lepanto on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 11:18:01 AM PDT

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