Blackwater: Soldiers Or Contractors?
In connection with the news that Blackwater, the huge private security company, has lost its bid to keep a lawsuit in connection with its Iraq operations out of federal court, take a look at Barry Yeoman's early coverage of the company in Mother Jones. This story, reported before the invasion of Iraq, notes that Blackwater's business has been growing by leaps and bounds because the military increasingly prefers to have contractors do the work of soldiers.
When the companies do screw up, however, their status as private entities often shields them -- and the government -- from public scrutiny. [...] "Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don't have the same level of accountability," says Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a leading congressional critic of privatized war. "We have individuals who are not obligated to follow orders or follow the Military Code of Conduct. Their main obligation is to their employer, not to their country."
Ironically, Blackwater is now citing a program designed to protect the military--the Defense Base Act, which provides benefits to the families of soldiers killed on the battlefield--to argue that it can't be held liable by the families of four of its contractors who were killed in Fallujah in 2003 (after, the families say, being sent into a warzone unprepared and unequipped).