Academic journal article Social Justice

Commentary: The State That Signed the Contract Felled a City-One Voice at the Intersection of Public War and Private Profit

Academic journal article Social Justice

Commentary: The State That Signed the Contract Felled a City-One Voice at the Intersection of Public War and Private Profit

Article excerpt

THAT FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD TENDED TO CONFUSE tactics for the successful prosecution of war with strategies that produced private gain in the pharmaceutical industry was probably clear to anyone not career-captured in "yes-sir" circles of group think since at least the December 2001 failure to destroy al Qaeda leaders and their praetorian guard fanatics at Tora Bora. Regrettably, the legacy of a Rumsfeldian view of the "transformation" of public military service and his ratification of best business practices remains intractably with us today: a U.S. military dangerously under strength for the battle joined (Kagan, 2006: 109) and resort to private military forces such as Blackwater. Rumsfeld's policies did not, to be sure, usher in the use of privatized military firms by the Department of Defense (DOD). President George H.W. Bush initiated the contracting out of positions filled earlier by uniformed military members due to a confluence of factors resulting from the end of the Cold War and Clinton administration policies expanded the policy during the 1990s (Singer, 2003: 49-70; 67-69). Under Rumsfeld's watch, however, with the declaration of the global war on terror the practice blossomed in full.

Tragic consequences have resulted from the failure to increase the size of active duty military forces after the only coordinated attacks on the U.S. homeland since 1812. Exacerbating the problem was the administration's faux Churchillian stand against transnational evil, despite express congressional authorizations for the use of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2008, as contractors outnumber active duty U.S. troops on the ground in service of the Iraq campaign (Miller, 2007: 1), neither systemic nor effective means to control the conduct of privatized warriors overseas exist--despite increasing reports of their brutal misconduct. (1) Pursuant to section 4 of Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 17 (revised), a "[sending state's] contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal process with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a Contract or any sub-contract thereto" (CPA/ORD, 2004: 5). One result is withholding from Iraq's government the authority to adjudicate crimes committed on its own territory regardless of the offender's nationality, as recognized under international law.

Although U.S. military courts were granted criminal jurisdiction over certain civilian contractors under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in October 2006, to date only one case has been investigated and charged by a military commander and none has been brought to trial. Moreover, the Department of Justice demurred to proposed U.S. district court prosecutions after referral of some 20 suspected civilian contractor war crimes late in 2006 (Johnston, 2006: 1). The practice established has not markedly changed to date, (2) making the legal status of civilian contractors serving U.S. interests beyond the nation's shores a better example of the "law-free zone" characterization in international criminal justice that is applied pell-mell by some, including the accepted and inaccurate use of the term "prison" to describe U.S. detention facilities that secure alien unlawful enemy combatants. At least the captured combatants' cases have repeatedly seen the inside of numerous U.S. and international courtrooms. Victims of an expanding list of reported war crimes allegedly committed by contracted privatized military firms are still waiting their day in court.

Despite multiple felonies, no criminal prosecutions have commenced in U.S. courts for the following: the well-documented law of war violations in the form of torture and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment inflicted by Titan Corporation interpreters and CACI International interrogator contract employees of the U.S. government at Abu Ghraib (Danner, 2004: 518-523; 552); numerous reports of war crimes through release of chemical weapons in violation of international law and U. …

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