Saturday, July 5, 2008

Subjecting US Contractors to Iraqi Justice Will Undermine War Effort

By making American contractors subject to Iraq's erratic, corrupt and dysfunctional justice system, the US will be undermining its own war effort.

Of course, that's precisely why certain US congressmen have been complaining that the Bush Administration won't allow Americans to be handed over to the Iraqi "justice" system. But now come official reports from Iraqi officials - and no comment from the US - that Washington has assented to just what opponents in the war have been demanding.

Angry American contractors in Baghdad say that if the US betrays them by making them liable to Iraqi laws, they'll quit. None of note threatened to quit when the US tightened its own laws to hold contractors accountable for any misbehavior or crimes they committed abroad.

The military and State Department cannot function in Iraq without private contractors to provide services from housekeeping and logistics to diplomatic security. State has strongly backed the contractors until now.

Blackwater declined to comment for the article, with officials saying they preferred to wait until the US announced an official policy. (Photo shows Blackwater men practicing to defend a diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.) Other contractors did comment. The military newspaper Stars & Stripes carries the story.

"'Having worked for two years and two months in Iraq, I can tell you without a doubt, I would in no way work if I fell under Iraqi Law,' a deputy sheriff who trains Iraqi police said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. 'Are you kidding? You wouldn’t be able to get but the most desperate people to work if they fell under their ridiculous laws.'"

"'I would immediately have to consider my options concerning leaving this country,' another Department of Defense contractor said. 'They, the Iraqis, cannot rule themselves and now they want to try and rule contractors.'"

Jaco Botes of the International Contractors Association says, "By taking away contractor immunity, contractors are being marked as expendable assets — assets that will be placed in the hands of a very shaky and corrupt law system."

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