Though under intense US pressure, the Iraqis appear to be hanging tough on their plans to review the rules under which private US security firms operate in Iraq, following the incident involving Blackwater in which several Iraqis were killed and more wounded. Blackwater’s operations are still restricted, forcing US officials to ground themselves.
McClatchy reported the al Maliki Government will ask the Iraq Parliament to rescind Iraq’s agreement with the US forces that provides immunity from prosecution for US contractors, even if they back down from the immediate threat to expel Blackwater. This will test the notion of Iraqi sovereignty, and I expect the Iraqis to lose to the occupiers. Update: the Iraqis may have no other alternatives.
But while this is pending, the American embassy has grounded all US civilians, effectively preventing any travel by diplomatic persons or — I think — civilian reconstruction teams outside the Green Zone. That probably means many reconstruction efforts have essentially stopped.
The US will undoubtedly object to the immunity proposal, knowing that if it went forward, we’d likely see the Iraqis demonstrate how quickly they can reconcile their sectarian differences and approve major legislation, though this was not on Washington’s benchmark list. They may not agree on much else, but it seems they’ve had it with US mercenaries killing their civilians and behaving as unaccountable bullies and thugs.
Highlighting the underlying seriousness of the situation PBS’ NewsHour included a representative of private security contractors and The Nation Magazine’s Jeremy Scahill, who gave the normally sedate NewsHour the unabridged version of the perils of allowing large, unaccountable mercenaries to substitute for a regular military:
The fact is that they have not been held accountable. Not in one single instance has a mercenary been charged with any crime against an Iraqi in four years of occupation, not under the Iraqi law, because the United States gutted the Iraqi legal system. At a time when it said it was handing over sovereignty, they were saying, “You can [can’t — sic] prosecute these contractors for crimes committed in your country.”
They haven’t been held accountable under the court martial system, nor have they been held accountable under civilian law inside the United States. So either we have tens of thousands of Boy Scouts working in Iraq as mercenaries or something is fundamentally rotten with the system.
Ironically, General Petraeus and Ambassasdor Crocker may not have been in Iraq to deal with the total breakdown in security. Instead, they were giving the British government their “success” powerpoint presentations. As in the US, the Petraeus/Crocker message was that security has improved so much in Southern Iraq that it’s okay for the British to continue their withdrawal of British troops. But the reception there was different: the British, on their way out, are only too happy to pretend they believe this message.
And since the Brits have made up their minds to leave, no one seemed to notice or care about the article in WaPo that the security situation in Southern Iraq has significantly deteriorated.
Meanwhile, two Iraq-related developments of note in Washington. (1) Harry Reid told reporters that the window has closed for possible compromise with Republicans on troop withdrawal language. Shorter Harry: “The Republicans want this war? It’s theirs.” That’s exactly what MoveOn has been saying.
What’s not clear is what the strategy is next, beyond pursuing (2) Senator Webb’s Amendment to require the Pentagon to give our troops a period of down time at least equal to the length of any combat tour. That debate is just about to heat up, with the Pentagon still insisting they just can’t run an Army while counting soldier’s tour/rest dates, even though they obviously can. As seen in this Webb video (h/t C&L), he’s asking for our help with a target list of wavering Senators. You know what to do.
Finally, the good folks at CREW have given us a handy list of the 22 most corrupt politicians in Congress. Few surprises: 18 Republicans and 4 Dems on the list, including Murtha. Howie Klein notes that California has too many; lots of defense spending in those districts, I suspect, and that’s why wars are easy to start and hard to stop. It’s time to deal with that, too.
Photo: AP Photo/Mohammed Ibrahim