The Bush administration has struggled to find the manpower to continue its agenda in the Middle East, with the war in Iraq still dragging on. The government had these problems as early as 2003, when after over-extending current members of the armed forces on third, fourth and fifth tours, it hired the private security firm Blackwater.

Blackwater is centered in North Carolina, with its soldiers being trained on the planet’s biggest privately owned base. While Blackwater has been in Iraq since 2003, most Americans are not familiar with this little publicized answer to the army’s military woes.

Through this company and 27 similar firms, the administration has increased the number of troops in Iraq while avoiding more drastic actions to fill quotas. While this may sound like a positive approach to the problem of dwindling troops, the lack of accountability of these private firms makes them more like a lawless militia set loose upon the Iraqi people.

Blackwater’s most recent controversy occurred on Sept. 16, when the company says that one of its convoys was shot at and returned fire. But an recent Iraqi report purports that the convoy was not under fire. The report also says civilians in a white sedan were killed when the car failed to stop at a traffic circle and was attacked by the guards. The Iraqi report demands that Blackwater pay $8 million to each family if found guilty of killing 17 and injuring 20 civilians during this shooting.

Whether or not Blackwater is found responsible for these killings, the government’s increasing privatization of the military needs to be questioned because it has created a system where companies like Blackwater are capable of getting away with civilian causalities. Thanks to a law passed in 2004 by Iraq’s since defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, firms like Blackwater were given immunity from Iraqi litigation.

This law would have allowed Blackwater to escape being sued over these civilian deaths, but the Iraqi report says that Blackwater’s license to work in Iraq expired in 2006. Because Blackwater no longer has a license to operate in Iraq, it can no longer claim protection under Iraq’s now altered law. Iraqi people can now sue firms like Blackwater, but the question of how Blackwater continued to operate without a license demonstrates the (perhaps deliberate) lack of monitoring by the U.S. government.

The government has little incentive to monitor private troops, because this could mean losing a source of combat personnel that it desperately needs. In order to continue waging an unpopular war, the government is willing to risk privatizing the military. To do this, the government created laws hampering the course of justice for the Iraqi people.

Because private companies are now covered under Iraqi law, there may be fewer instances of violence against civilians and more accountability. However, that does not change the fact that private companies are going to concern themselves primarily with profit, not safety or justice. This means that if a private firm does violate the law, accountability is still unlikely.

The Bush administration had to partially privatize the military in order to fight a war without the support of most Americans. Thus, it has created a paradox between the interests of companies and those of the Iraqi people, and the common good. This cannot continue.

The government must follow the provisions set by the Iraqi report: disband Blackwater and allow trials in an Iraqi court. Even accounting for all the justifications for continued war that Bush has put forth, Iraqi civilians are certainly not benefiting if they are trapped within the dictates of private American contractors with guns.

Jennifer Sussex is an LSA junior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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