From P.W. Singer, writing at DefenseTech:
Amidst all the add-ins, pork spending, and excitement of the budget process, it has now come out that a tiny clause was slipped into the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2007 budget legislation. The one sentence section (number 552 of a total 3510 sections) states that “Paragraph (10) of section 802(a) of title 10, United States Code (article 2(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), is amended by striking `war’ and inserting `declared war or a contingency operation’.” The measure passed without much notice or any debate. And then, as they might sing on School House Rock, that bill became a law (P.L.109-364).
I’m amazed at Singer’s hyping of these five little words. It is folly to say the reason contractors haven’t been prosecuted for things ranging from the so-called ‘Aegis Trophy Video’ to possibly killing an Iraqi Presidential Guard in the International Zone on Christmas Eve is because Iraq is a “contingency operation.” Seriously.
Let’s look at the Aegis video. After the video broke, there was an investigation that resulted in a lengthy document, half of which was an appendices. The Pentagon declared Aegis to be off the hook. FOIA requests for the document went no where because the document belonged to the contractor, a private enterprise, and not the government. Going to Aegis was a dead-end as Aegis claimed it was proprietary knowledge and wasn’t about it share it. Despite claims no one knew who was in the car, the South Africans, who have tough (and constantly revised and updated) anti-mercenary laws, know how to find out who was in the car and arrested one of the two back seaters who was SA (all Aegis personnel have GPS locators… for example of a competitor system, check out Track24).
Ok, so the Pentagon says “there’s nothing wrong” without UCMJ coverage, you think they’ll change their tune when there is? They already have a more powerful coercive mechanism available they could use if they cared: money.
Singer hits the fault of the logic when he cites the incredible (obtuse? ignorant?) testimony of the Under Secretary of the Army who said “contractors? I don’t see no stinking contractors” (or something similar, I may be paraphrasing here).
There is no gap in the law because there will always be a gap in the law. Look at the application of the UCMJ at Abu Gharib.
Contractors aren’t held to account (neither are military officers for that matter if want to consider effective and intelligence counter-insurgency… and hey let’s consider the complete abdication of common sense in the CPA while we’re at it…) because of political reasons, which is the whole reason they are there to begin with.
Why were 20,000 contractors serving in Iraq when President Bush donned his flight suit? Because upsizing the force to provide necessary person, convoy, and site protection was politically unattractive, so let’s hire handsome guards to protect the Viceroy (yes, they were screened for their looks) & shooters for the truckers.
It’s about politics. If there is one more prosecution in Iraq of a contractor (which according to Viceroy Bremer’s Order 17, yet to be overturned, is a protected class, immune from Iraqi law), that will be, what, a 100% increase over the duration of the 3+ “contingency operation”. Or is 3yrs of “contingency operations” and a only a few months of “war”?