Blackwater: The Laws Don't Apply

Private security firms operating in Iraq, like Blackwater USA, are not subject to U.S. or Iraqi laws. That means their presence is hardly likely to help win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Today, the FBI said it plans to investigate the role of Blackwater USA in a shootout in Baghdad last month. Blackwater has already been under scrutiny from other quarters, and the Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report today. They noted that Blackwater has fired 122 people in the last three years for misuse of weapons and other kinds of misconduct.

News analyst Daniel Schorr has been following the news about Blackwater over the last few weeks.

DANIEL SCHORR: No doubt about it, if you shoot everyone around you, you may reduce the risk that you will be shot. But as a way of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis, it's not very effective. Blackwater USA, a North Carolina security company, employed to guard American diplomats on their realms, has been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005 according to a congressional report. In one incident two weeks ago, 11 civilians were killed in a melee with Blackwater security guards in a traffic circle.

Investigations are in progress, but the Bush administration has effectively given Blackwater immunity from Iraqi government action. Blackwater, it should be noted, is the $1 billion plus company lead by Eric Prince, who has ties to the Republicans and to Christian conservatives. The Wall Street Journal says that the Bush Administration is giving a Blackwater affiliate another $92 million contract to operate a fleet of planes in Central Asia. There are now 180,000 contractors on military and non-military duty in Iraq, more than the 160,000 uniformed Americans.

The Bush administration - unable to recruit enough volunteers to fight the war - has, in effect, outsourced part of it as a profitable venture. That may be carrying free enterprise a bit far. Congress is waking up to something funny going on here.

Some Democrats in the House are sponsoring legislation that will bring contractors under the jurisdiction of the American criminal justice system. That is not likely to make it past the White House if indeed it gets that far. Maybe the contractors should be given a name like the Foreign Legion, as in French Foreign Legion. That way, we can identify the mercenaries who have turned a profit from war.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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