Wednesday, The Nation came out with an interesting article about Barack Obama’s position on the use of private security on Iraq. Essentially, Obama’s position is that we’re pretty much stuck using them at the moment, but they must be answerable to US law.
“If Barack Obama comes into office next January and our diplomatic security service is in the state it’s in and the situation on the ground in Iraq is in the state it’s in, I think we will be forced to rely on a host of security measures,” said the senior adviser. “I can’t rule out, I won’t rule out, private security contractors.” He added, “I will rule out private security contractors that are not accountable to US law.”
I think Obama’s position is correct here. US forces are tapped out, and thus our military must rely on this support… at least for a while.
In Iraq right now, the number of private contractors is basically equal to the number of US troops. While Obama advisers say they plan to “have a serious look” at the role of contractors in Iraq, one adviser seemed to indicate that unarmed contractors would continue to operate at significant levels. “These contractors are not only providing private security functions like Blackwater. They’re rebuilding schools, they are serving food, they’re doing logistics, they’re driving trucks, and the important question is, If you take those 100,000-plus contractors out of Iraq, what do you replace them with? Inevitably the answer is, You replace them with US military.”
Unfortunately, due to the massive downsizing following the Cold War, we don’t have military personnel with which to replace them.
Yes, it’s incredibly problematic that we have contractors operating without accountability, and while Obama has a bill in the works to create a legal structure to handle contractor crimes, it may not pass by the time a new president takes office.
Of course, both Clinton and Obama have said they’ll begin a withdraw from Iraq if they become president — but it’s painfully obvious that we have to view these contractors as part of the larger organization, and integrate both their supporting and security roles into the removal.
Because simply banning them will create a vacuum we cannot fill.
So what, then, is this?
Washington, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that she has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq.
This legislation — the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act — “mandates that US personnel undertake all diplomatic security in Iraq within six months of enactment”. It was also described in the Nation’s article, and the author has now updated to wonder why Clinton has signed on in the midst of a heated campaign.
I think it’s pretty obvious… but if this passes, then by default we’re going to be out of Iraq very very quickly — so quickly, perhaps, that our departure will be damagingly chaotic. These private firms are part and parcel of the current configuration in Iraq, and nothing we’re doing there is sustainable without them.
I think Hillary has finally managed to put some serious daylight between herself and Obama.