Ignorance no barrier to Blackwater bill’s passage in House
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill, over White House objections, that would make private military contractors working in Iraq subject to U.S. law. It’s about time something was done. But in watching the Blackwater hearings the other day, I was more than a little disturbed by what military contracting ...
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill, over White House objections, that would make private military contractors working in Iraq subject to U.S. law. It’s about time something was done.
But in watching the Blackwater hearings the other day, I was more than a little disturbed by what military contracting expert Peter Singer rightly called “a fascinating, but also disturbing, lack of awareness in Congress about the private military industry.” I couldn’t help but be embarrassed at the “consistently weak grasp of the issues,” as Singer put it.
So while I’m glad to see Congress taking an interest, finally, in addressing a glaring hole in the U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, I’m a little taken aback that a House that evinced such a lack of basic familiarity with the issue would rush to pass legislation that could have serious unintended consequences for U.S. national security. I understand how political timing works, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait and think about this a little bit?
Moreover, the bill doesn’t address, as far as I know, a problem that has gone little noticed amid the Blackwater fracas: More and more of the foreigners working as private military contractors in Iraq hail from Latin America. A new Web exclusive by Kristina Mani explains why this seemingly innocuous development could spell trouble:
The reliance on Latin American security contractors has worrisome implications for both the United States and Latin American countries. Uneven vetting procedures by some PMFs that recruit in the region contradict and potentially undermine official U.S. policies to promote respect for human rights by Latin American military and police forces. Moreover, lack of effective regulation of the private security industry has led to abusive labor practices by some PMFs; it has also encouraged corruption in some Latin American militaries eager to benefit from the recruitment of former soldiers—a development that undercuts efforts to achieve civilian control of militaries in the region’s new democracies.
Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
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