Blackwater U.S.A. told to leave Iraq

from the BBC

I’m not sure if this incident was just the final straw, or if the move is politics on the part of the Iraqi government, but I hope this sticks and they are kicked out. Blackwater has made me very uneasy from the time I first learned of them. I don’t think it is a good idea for the U.S. to be hiring mercenaries who are not subject to our military’s chain of command and rules.

I am not sure about them standing trial. I thought it was appalling that Bremmer requested that contractors in Iraq be immune from prosecution, but I don’t see them getting a fair trial there. Unfortunately, I don’t see them getting a fair trial here, either, based on how much money and influence Blackwater has to throw around in our system. And Iraq is where they killed people, whether or not it was a crime, so I tend to lean on the side of them being tried there.

Let’s see - they’re not part of the regular military and participated in combat, killing civilians. Logically, they should be sent to labeled as enemy combatants and sent to an Iraqi version of Gitmo.

I just logged in to the Dope in order to start a thread about this, and then I saw you’d beaten me to it, XaMcQ.

My angle was going to be the question of whether the U.S. government in any way regards the Iraqi government as sovereign. The important phrase being ‘in any way’ because it’s long been clear that the U.S. government tends to honor Iraqi sovereignty in the breach, at best.

But this situation’s pretty basic. If a sovereign government says to some furriners, “You: Out,” then that’s pretty much it. They get shown to the borders, and leave.

In this case, the furriners are employed as contractors by the U.S. government. If the U.S. government continues their empoyment in country, and continues to enable their presence there, it will be a flouting of Iraqi sovereignty so basic and fundamental that it can hardly be said to have meaning.

Should be interesting, huh?

Do they? I think we have to first establish:

  1. Does the Iraqi Interior Minister have the authority to order this? (For instance, could Maliki or someone else overrule him?) The article simply states that this was an order for the Interior Minister.

  2. Does the US have some prior arrangement that the US military and private security teams like Blackwell* are immune from such pronouncements? From the link in the OP:

Now, we can debate about whether such arrangements are good or ethical, but that would be a different debate. If one of those two conditions is met, then it wouldn’t be quite so automatic that Blackwell would have to just get out.

*You couldn’t invent a better name for such a private security company, btw. One would think that came from some spy novel or movie!

I just want to tell my favorite Blackwater story from my days in Baghdad. Last xmas a British security company had a party in the green zone on xmas eve. I travelled into the gz and went to the party. I don’t really like the gz or the types of people in there so I went home.

A couple of days later, I heard from people who stayed that a Blackwater guy got shitfaced and after leaving the party shot an unarmed Iraqi to death on the streets of the gz. He was sent home and nothing ever happened to him.

I swear the story is true as I have recounted it.

I believe it, I’ve had several friends who were deployed to Iraq who told me that soldiers get a lot of flack from locals due to the actions of mercenaries, although lately Iraqis seem to have stopped equating mercenary = U.S. soldier and have been directing their ire against the appropriate culprits (apparently an effort was made by some units to make the distinction clear).

Since Bremer’s decree (it wasn’t just a ‘request’) hasn’t been superseded by the Iraqi government, they’re clearly immune from trial in Iraq. Appalling as it is, it looks like the only thing the Iraqi authorities have the legal authority to do is show them to the border.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think any legislation has been passed which would enable U.S. contractors in Iraq to be tried here for crimes committed there.

Good question. I overlooked that, and don’t know the answer. Thanks for pointing that out.

Consider the following to apply to the general point, disregarding the specific question of whether the ‘right’ person in the Iraqi government has issued this particular order.

Similarly, embassy employees are generally immune from prosecution by the host country. But IIRC, the host country can require such personnel to leave the country.

In short, Blackwater employees are immune from prosecution in Iraq. But if the Iraqi government doesn’t have the authority to determine who gets to stay within its borders and who doesn’t, then it is in a very basic sense not sovereign over its own territory. If the U.S. stands in the way of its exercising that authority, then the U.S. is denying that the government of Iraq is in fact sovereign over Iraq.

Not necessarily. If the Iraqi government agrees to those conditions, and if can rescind that agreement at any time, then the US is not denying the government of Iraq anything.

I’m not trying to pretend that the US doesn’t exert enormous pressure on the government of Iraq, and that we don’t hold any number of trump cards. But I don’t think it’s quite as cut and dried as you make it. The government of Iraq, IMO, is well aware of the fact that it would almost certainly tumble if the US pulled out. It is therefore in the interest of that government that we stay, and that they accommodate us in order that we do so. It’s not a pretty situation, but “realpolitik” often isn’t.

The Interior Minister claims the exemption does not apply to private contractors, but that decree does seem to include them, so it will be interesting to see if the Iraq government has the fortitude to pursue this.

I dunno. As bad as it might sound for a country to give up some of the control over it’s sovereignty, that doesn’t seem to me to be such a big deal in the case of Iraq-- a country that is trying to build itself up almost from scratch. The real issue, to me, is whether or not the US takes action against such incidents or whether it just turns a blind eye with a “oh well, war is hell” type of attitude. We may feel that is necessary and just for us to be able to operate in Iraq with a certain amount of autonomy, but we need to take the moral high ground and make sure our guys aren’t just running amok over there. It’s not clear to me that we are doing everything we should do in that area, but I do think our military guys over there have every incentive to go after these private contractors when and if they are crapping over our actions there.

OK, but if so, then it’s time for the Administration to abandon the pretense of Iraqi sovereignty, and acknowledge that it’s effectively a U.S. protectorate, rather than even an independent country on training wheels.

A lot of things about becoming a real government aren’t easy, and are important to not fuck up. But deciding who gets to be on your territory, and who doesn’t, is about the easiest and least fuckupable aspect of sovereignty that there is. Hell, this is one power we should insist they exercise, as a baby step on the way to being a real government. And if we aren’t letting them exercise this aspect of sovereignty, then we ought to admit that the purple fingers were no more than a nice show.

I’ve been reading about shit like this for the past three and a half years, and nothing ever gets done. This Administration is clearly perfectly happy to let them run amok.

Well, I think we do insist that-- for any nationals other than Americans. It may be a cynical position to hold, but it’s a reality that we just have to live with. Seems to me to be a small compromise for the Iraqi government to make in order to, well, exist.

I don’t doubt that you’re right, but I have to wonder what the military has to say about this, and why they can’t do something. Surely they can’t like that situation one bit. Right?

I’m sure the soldiers in a position to get shot at don’t like it much, but whether the brass gives a flip, I honestly have no idea. I haven’t even heard any of the retired brass address the subject.

But regardless of what they think, they can’t do anything about it, absent specific authority, which AFAICT they lack. It clearly wasn’t a GOP legislative priority to address this. The Dems should, but they’re still playing catch-up from the past few years.

Roughly how many mercenary soldiers does Blackwater have in Iraq? If they’re as big as some sources say, the absence of Blackwater’s private army could be a significant shift.

The wiki page on Blackwater says 20 to 30 thousand, estimated. I don’t think Blackwater would release an official number.

TPM Muckraker says 20-30,000 security contractors, total, in Iraq, with about 1,000 of them being Blackwaters.

My WAG at this point is that the higher ups in DC and Baghdad will dance around and soon there will be another order from the Iraqi PM or somesuch countermanding the first.

But IMHO that result is among the things that are devastating domestically to the legitimacy of the Iraqi goverment. The people have seen again and again that their government can’t protect them from anything America supports. It’s more evidence that the Maliki government is an American sock puppet.

This makes domestic political reconciliation even less likely, if that is possible.
Are you describing the first incident in this article? I just read this and though, holy cow! That’s the story madmonk28 told!

That’s interesting. I’ve often times seen the numbers 50,000 and even 80-100,000 thrown around from several different places. I don’t know who’s right, but I find it very odd we don’t know exactly how many. You would think the U.S. government would be interested in keeping track of how many gunmen there are in country. Of course, they aren’t all bodyguards – most of them do things like preparing food, washing clothes, driving supply trucks, cleaning latrines, stuff like that. But I would hope these guys would have to get our permission before they start running around playing commando. If all they do is run around shooting the place up, they’re not even helping us – they’re helping us lose. Hearts and minds, you know.

Damn, I haven’t seen a thread where someone 100% echoes my thoughts in the very first response. I tip my hat to you, sir. But yes, they’re not part of any military branch, they don’t wear our uniform and they are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. At least they weren’t in 2006. I remember hearing some rumblings that they should be, or held accountable legally in some other way, but I don’t think it was ever signed into law. I could be wrong though.