Friday, September 21, 2007

Job Security

Ralph Peters (tip to NRO) doesn't like the idea of mercenaries protecting State Department people. He wants them out of Iraq based on the recent incident in which it is alleged that trigger happy Blackwater security people protecting a State convoy killed a score of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

Peters assumes that the events described by the Iraqi government are accurate. This could be an enemy disinformation campaign much as other allegations about military atrocities are made--and then disappear when no evidence appears. And if true, the guilty are prosecuted.

Perhaps many of these personnel are trigger happy. But even if true, it doens't mean this particular incident is true. And remember that some British like to call our troops trigger happy. I guess it depends on your definition of prudent rules of engagement.

And also remember that while the State Department doesn't mind Marines guarding their embassies, the department is the one that doesn't want our military escorting their people.

Also, Peters' slurs against the contract personnel run dangerously close to the "screw 'em" attitude some on our Left have toward the contract personnel they call mercenaries.

Certainly, some will be thugs. But let's not tar them all. And don't throw away a useful tool if misused. Fix the problem.

And let it be said that Iraq is sovereign. They could legislate on this subject as much as they want and if they enact laws too restrictive, the contract security personnel will pull out. And then Iraqis will face the consequences of a reduction in security. But if Iraqis as a whole are angered by actual or perceived abuses by contract security companies, this is a choice for Iraqis to make.

And in the long run, when American forces begin to pull back from combat, the Iraqi government would benefit from these security contractors remaining. I'd guess that in the end, Blackwater will remain. We shall see what restrictions are placed on them. The Iraqi government faces too much violence from enemies of the state to toss aside a useful force.

Oh, and if the allegations of this incident are true, can I be amused that the State Department (they of the violence-is-the-last-option school) chose trigger happy guards whose rules of engagement are apparently far less restrictive than those of our troops? I guess your views on violence in self defense vary depending on whether you are getting shot at.

Still, the State Department will review rules of engagement and other matters related to these companies. And Blackwater has resumed escorting State Department convoys to a limited degree:

"We take very seriously what happened," Rice said, noting she had called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to express regret at the loss of innocent life.

Rice declined to comment on Friday's resumption of Blackwater-protected convoys but paid tribute to the guards from the firm, one of three that provide security for U.S. diplomats and other civilian government officials in Iraq.

"We have needed and received the protection of Blackwater for a number of years now and they have lost their own people in protecting our people in extremely dangerous circumstances," she said.

The United States and Iraq have agreed to form a joint commission to look into Sunday's incident and make recommendations on to clarify confusing rules and regulations that govern the conduct of private security contractors in Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. witnesses have offered widely divergent accounts of what happened with Iraqis saying the Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation and the Americans saying the security detail was responding to an attack.

State appears not to be judging the company as harshly as the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

I'll wait and see on this issue.