Monday, November 24, 2008

US has Thrown DoD Contractors 'Under the Bus,' IPOA says

The United States government has thrown its contractors in Iraq "under the bus" by caving into Iraqi demands that they be subject to the country's dysfunctional and corrupt judicial system.

That's what the main trade association of security contractors, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), is saying about the new arrangement.

The main companies involved - Blackwater, Fluor Corp., KBR and DynCorp, wouldn't tell Bloomberg News what they think of the arrangement.

But IPOA President Doug Brooks says flat-out: "This agreement throws DoD contractors under the bus." And State Department contractors as well, one presumes.

Iraq's judicial and corrections systems are "way below" global standards, says Brooks.

According to Bloomberg, "The Defense Department and State Department briefed their private contractors today on a provision of the so-called status- of-forces accord that eliminates contractors' immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. While the agreement applies to U.S. military operations, the State Department told its contractors today that Iraq will make them subject to the same rules.

"The provision is part of an agreement that would govern U.S. military operations in Iraq after a United Nations Security Council resolution expires on Dec. 31. About 28,000 of the 163,500 people employed as Pentagon contractors in Iraq are U.S. citizens," and about 1,000 or so reportedly work for Blackwater as personal security detail professionals.

The deal is likely to increase financial and political costs for the incoming Obama administration. "This is going to create costs for contractors because every contractor will need additional insurance coverage'' to protect against the risk of prosecutions, a Virginia lawyer who has represented US private security contractors in Iraq tells Bloomberg. "There's an increased likelihood of civil litigation costs for companies in the U.S. every time an investigation is opened in Iraq.'"

The Pentagon doesn't seem worried. "I would imagine that no matter what the legal protections are for contractors" serving in Iraq, Iraq "will remain a profitable enough business that you will see a number of contractors willing to do this," a Pentagon spokesman says.

That means that DoD will have to build untold millions of dollars a year into its contractor budgeting to cover the costs of defense against prosecution, and the huge costs of litigation and any payouts awarded by courts.

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