One reason that progressives and liberals are generally opposed to military action is because violence unleashes the very worst in human behavior. Regardless of the justice or "nobility" of the cause, war inevitably leads to bestial acts.
Just a few examples from Iraq:
- On September 14, 2003, British soldiers detained a number of Iraqi civilians as part of a counter-insurgency operation. They held the detainees for 36 hours, repeatedly beating them while handcuffed and hooded. One of the detainees, Baha Mousa, a 26 year old hotel receptionist, died as a result of injuries he received.
- On November 19, 2005, in Haditha, after a roadside bomb killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, Marines shot and killed 24 unarmed men, women, and children.
- On or about June 23, 2006, 5 US soldiers raped and murdered a 14 year old Iraqi girl, then killed her family in an effort to conceal their crime.
Note, however, that there is a (perhaps inadequate) system of justice that can deal with these heinous crimes. Namely, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As with any disciplined bureaucracy, the US military, in order to function effectively, must adhere to laws and provisions. To do otherwise is to dissolve an army into a murderous mob. (Think Red Army in Germany, 1945).
But Dick Cheney and the neo-conservatives found a way to avoid all that silly stuff about restraint and decency: military contractors.
On June 27, 2004, L. Paul Bremer, Junior Bush's Iraqi proconsul and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, issued Order 17 as his final official act. The order declares that "all International Consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process." Get it? International consultants (military contractors) are immune from the legal process of the official US-installed government!
Well, even so, one might say, contractors could still be held accountable by the US military. Wouldn't military contractors still be subject to the UCMJ? Well....in a word, no.
Cheney and the neo-cons were already two steps ahead in their thinking: According to US courts, the UCMJ can apply only to US civilians "serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field" at a "time of war." Since there has never been a formal congressional declaration of war on Iraq, the US is not officially in a "time of war" and therefore military contractors, who are technically civilians, cannot be brought before a court martial.
This opened the door for Cheney's goons in Blackwater, Halliburton, and Kellogg, Brown, and Root. They were free to hire the most bestial, sadistic psychopaths they could find: persons who would not be constrained by human decency, and would be free to do what needed to be done. Here's a few examples of their handiwork:
- Jamie Leigh Jones, a 22 year old woman from Houston, Texas, claims she was kidnapped and raped by Halliburton employees in the Green Zone of Bagdad, in July, 2005. There is currently a congressional investigation into the matter. She is pursuing a civil suit against Halliburton.
- On September 16, 2007, 17 Iraqi civilians were killed when employees of the Blackwater security firm opened fire at a Bagdad intersection. FBI investigators have since determined that the killings were unjustified.
- During the infamous Abu Ghraib scandal, apart from the involvement of under-trained US military personnel (who were prosecuted and convicted quickly without an investigation of their superiors), military contractors were found to have been involved in the torture and abuse of detainees.
It seems that the neo-conservatives have found the perfect method for comitting heinous crimes and ruthlessly suppressing populations while being immune from responsiblity, from accountability. And, maybe so, maybe so.
Never mind that these corporations are bilking the US taxpayer for billions (yes, billions!) of dollars. Never mind that Dick Cheney is profiting directly from the non-competitive contracts that Halliburton has been awarded. The fact is that the neo-conservatives have determined that, like a ruthless gang of wise guys, abstractions like "law" and "justice" cannot be allowed to keep them from their goals of hegemony, power, and obscene wealth.
The Iraqi government has revoked contractor immunity, in effect reversing Bremer's Order 17. And, back in January of this year, a defense spending bill passed congress containing a provision that revoked contractor immunity, subjecting such contractors to the UCMJ. But even these efforts do not guarantee that anyone will be held accountable. Firms like Blackwater provide security to civilian agencies and are not integrated into defense forces. This could well be the loophole that saves their bacon if they are ever brought before a court.
September, 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Blackwater employees, armed with automatic weapons, swooped into New Orleans to "secure neighborhoods" and "confront criminals."
There must be full congressional investigations that go wherever the evidence leads, followed by prosecutions, and criminal sentences.
And if the American public ever works up the stomach to seriously investigate, don't be surprised if this revolting trail of obscenity leads us straight to the White House.