I am against the war on drugs and the many regulations/laws it has created. I think it is a misguided “war” that is impossible to win and just creates more violence and problems than it solves. It is expensive and worthless and should be done away with. Still, it looks like there might be a silver lining to it because Federal prosecutors are using an anti-drug law to possibly try the Blackwater guards that were involved in the killing of 17 Iraqi citizens, some of them children, in 2007.
There were no drugs involved in the salughter (or at least none have been mentioned), but there were machine guns, and the law stipulates that crimes committed with machine guns can be punished with up to 30 years in prison. Now, I do not really think that the guards will get any kind of jail time if tried under American law, but the thought that some justice might be served warms me a little (or maybe that’s just the hot tea that I’m drinking right now). I mean, these contractors were operating with impunity as State Department employees so they did not fall under other laws and regulations governing contractor working for the government, and as such they were allowed to shoot and kill at will. I know, they are in a warzone and should be able to defend themselves. I agree with that, but that does not mean that they should be able to indiscriminately open fire on crowded streets as they escort their “principles” to their destined locations.
It was bad judgment on our government’s part to allow these mercenaries to operate without fear of reproach from the law, but thankfully the contractors were so gung-ho that they messed up and brought attention to themselves and their actions. These actions were so grotesque that they could not be ignored, and now finally there is a chance that some of the guards will be held accountable. This is not enough, though. I think Blackwater itself, it’s owners and those in the government who allowed them to operate with impunity should be charged with material accessory. After all, they were the ones who set the mandate that these guys could do whatever they wanted, so they should be punished too. I know this won’t happen, but it would be nice.
I also wonder how this will affect the security contracting (mercenary) industry as a whole. No longer are they immune from American law, and it is quite possible that they will now be able to be tried by Iraqi judicial entities for crimes committed. Will this mean that they will soon leave Iraq for other places where they still can operate with some impunity? Does liability for contractors extend to places like the Gilf of Aden where Blackwater is sending a warship to help stop pirate attacks there? Or is it only Iraq specific? I hope it is a general across the board thing because more often than not these guys cause more harm than they do good.
Iraq signed the pact governing US troops there, and one concession was that the Iraq government will gain oversight of American troops stationed there. The troops will still take orders from American commanders of course, but now they could be charged by the Iraqi government for possible crimes committed. I wonder if this extends to security contractors because they are not officially US troops, though they are there on behalf of our nation. My first thought would be, of course the mercenaries fall under this clause, but then again that might make too much sense, and as we all know, this government often does not do things that make sense. The deal calls for the removal of American troops from cities by June -30, and the country as a whole by Jan 1st 2012. That is still too long for our troops to remain there, and I hope that President Obama (when he finally becomes president) will speed up that timetable and bring them home much sooner. Of course he might not, and I think that would hurt his chances for re-election in 2012.
Just because the pact says we can stay there until the end of 2011 does not mean that we should stay there. Obama needs to bring the troops home as soon as possible for two reasons. One: that was one of the things he promised to do during the election, and it important that he not squander the tenuous trust the people of the US and the world have in him. Two: keep the troops there until the last possible moment would not only hurt the trust we have in him, it would also allow history to say that Bush was the one responsible for getting us out of Iraq because the pact was signed while he was president, and there is no reason to give Bush credit for getting us out of Iraq since he has shown no desire to do so (despite he recent “regrets” about the “intelligence failure leading up to the war”).