Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Immunity for Private Contractors Can Do In Iraq

Any sentient human being has probably heard of the horror stories of atrocities committed by Blackwater, a private security contractor employed by the U.S. Government in Iraq. What is particularly troublesome about the Blackwater case is what it reveals to us about the unaccountability and legal immunity that such contractors have in Iraq. Apparently, because Blackwater is not part of any official U.S. agency or department, such as the State Department or the Defense Department, it is not subject to the laws that govern the behavior of these governmental entities and it is exempt from prosecution for its misdeeds and crimes committed abroad. Furthermore, because Blackwater is a foreign entity in Iraq it may also be exempt from prosecution by the Iraqis according to Iraqi domestic law. In essence, Blackwater and other similarly-positioned contractors in Iraq seem to have de facto legal immunity against criminal prosecution for what they may do in Iraq.

But, as the tragic case of Jamie Leigh Jones demonstrates, this problem not only applies to non-security contractors such as Halliburton/KBR, but also even when crimes are committed by employees of such contractors against their fellow workers. The ABC News report, linked above, writes:

A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
Read the whole sad story. As you mourn what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones, and as you stand shocked and stunned by the brazenness and unaccountability of Halliburton/KBR and its employees, ponder the conditions and the enviroment that made such a thing possible. I challenge any of my readers and war supporters to come up with any scenario in the United States where such an incident would be tolerated.

I suggest to you that the whole sick culture of anti-terrorism warfare cultivated by the Bush administration, ranging from the suspension of civil rights contained in the Patriot Act to the atrocities of Abu Ghraib to the sanctioning of "harsh interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding (otherwise known as torture), leads to this kind of sick behavior where U.S. citizens employed by a U.S. corporation contracted by the U.S. government can brutally rape a fellow U.S. citizen and then keep her locked up in isolation in a container without having to face any repercussions or without being held accountable at all for this outrage. Now, I certainly am willing to concede that this incident is certainly not the norm and that the vast majority of the folks working in Iraq with subcontractors such as Halliburton/KBR are honorable people doing good work. But I will also declare emphatically that one case like that of Jamie Leigh Jones is one case too much; and that any culture of warfare that makes it possible for such atrocities to happen without accountability and justice is not a culture of warfare that we should accept.

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