Monday, June 14, 2004

 

Above the Law

An article by Edward Cody in today's Washington Post exposes US pressure on Ayad Allawi to give US contractors immunity from Iraqi rule of law. "If accepted by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, it would put the highly visible U.S. foreign contractors into a special legal category, not subject to military justice and beyond the reach of Iraq's justice system." Great! It's bad enough that US troops are outside the bounds of Iraqi law, but at least they are accountable to the US military (and, really, it's to be expected). But civilian contractors - this is ridiculous. And to think, the Iraqis aren't welcoming this, especially given recent events:
The question of the contractors' status also has arisen because of two U.S. contract employees at Abu Ghraib prison who were accused in a Pentagon report of participating in illegal abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The two -- Steven Stephanowicz of CACI International, an Arlington-based defense firm, and John B. Israel of the Titan Corp. of San Diego -- have not been charged with any crimes in Iraq or the United States, although some of their Army colleagues face military tribunals.
Of course, it's not really an issue as long as the US military stays in Iraq. As one civilian official in the US occupation authority is quoted: "Are some Iraqi security people going to move in and arrest our cooks and bottle washers?" he said. "I don't think so." I can't even begin to describe how angry I get reading that. First off, the arrogance simply drips off the page (or computer screen, I suppose). Who would guess that this kind of attitude breeds resentment among Iraqis? Second, to pretend that US contractors are simply cooks and bottle washers is misleading. CACI International, Titan Corp., and Blackwater are not providing cooks and bottle washers. They are providing "security" personnel to do what are essentially military jobs. The US should be encouraging, not undermining, accountability, law and order, and the legitimacy and power of the Iraqi government.

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