Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Who are these guys?

I recently finished taking a class in pursuit of a Masters degree. My research in this class focused on Private Military Companies. If you've never heard of them you should because there are about 30,000 individuals (although no one knows for sure) employed by them in or around Iraq. In fact, we could not conduct missions in Iraq or Afghanistan without these companies. In short, just like much of the rest of the country, the military is outsourcing. Unfortunately, there's been very little discussion about if this is, in fact, a good thing or not. PMCs offer some pretty impressive benefits but also have some significant drawbacks. You can find a great intro to the subject here and a recent article about one of the most well known PMCs Blackwater Security. Despite reading hundreds of pages of material and doing weeks of research I'm a bit torn about these organizations. For every benefit they offer I seem to identify a concern associated with it (I guess you could look at it the other way and for every problem of PMCs there's a benefit) but I think ultimately I'm uneasy with the thought of what are esentially private armies running around with no oversight or accountability. Our Department of Defense might not be the most effecient organization in the world but at least it is answerable to civilian authorities. Many of these PMCs can't be held accountable under military law, the law of the nation their operating in or U.S. law (PMCs in Iraq are giving immunity from local law and are out of U.S. military jurisdiction). As a result, these PMCs essentially have a licence to kill, rape and steal. The fact that they frequently wear the same uniforms and use the same equipment as our military just means that if these guys decide to play 'cowboy' the Iraqis don't make any distinctions between them and U.S. soldiers. The fact that we are now in a position where we can't operate our military without these companies and we got into this position without a debate or discussion is particularly disturbing. Over the next couple weeks, I'll be writing more about PMCs and their impact upon our military. Stay tuned...

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