Friday, December 09, 2005

Above The Law

When the US invaded Iraq, they established a system where the various security contractors could not be held accountable for their actions.

the legal status of contractors in war zones is murky. Soldiers are accountable to the military code of justice wherever they are, but contractors are civilians -- not formally part of the military and not part of the chain of command. They cannot be court-martialed.

Normally, an individual's crimes would then fall under the local nation's laws. But, of course, there are few established Iraqi legal institutions


because the acts were committed abroad, and also reportedly involve some contractors who are not U.S. citizens, the application of U.S. domestic law in an extraterritorial setting is unclear and has never been tested. This appears to leave an incredible vacuum. Indeed, as Phillip Carter, a former Army officer now at UCLA Law School, says, "Legally speaking, [military contractors in Iraq] actually fall into the same gray area as the unlawful combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay."

The end result has been 30+ months of rumors. There have been complaints and whispers about actions of various mercenaries in Iraq. These acts that are illegal everywhere, but not for these people, there is no law that applies to what they do in Iraq.

Now a video has forced the US Government to at least appear to investigate one incident.
Framed as if on a movie screen by the outline of a sport-utility vehicle's rear window, those scenes and others show what appear to be private security contractors firing on Iraqi civilians. The video footage has prompted an investigation by the U.S. military, a spokesman said Thursday, and by the company linked to the incidents. It even has a soundtrack: Elvis Presley's upbeat "Mystery Train."

But as this investigation continues, remember this: It was the Bush administration that has created the environment where this could happen.

many Iraqis complain that the force used by contractors, who are immune from prosecution under an order signed into Iraqi law last year, is often excessive.

and the Bush administration must also be held accountable.


No comments: