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Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated, (PDF) “We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors.” But there is little evidence of material change on this issue from President Obama. Human Rights First grades Washington’s response, three years after the horrendous incidents at Nisoor Square, in which 17 unarmed civilians were killed and 24 wounded by Blackwater employees returning from a State Department security detail. There is shamefully little to report on the plus side.
The paper (PDF) notes:
Now, the United States’ reliance on private security contractors in zones of armed conflict is increasing as is the urgent need for effective contractor oversight and accountability. Private contractors continue to outnumber U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both the surge in Afghanistan and the drawdown in Iraq require additional support from private security and other contractors. It is estimated that up to 50,000 contractors will be required to support the Afghan surge and, with the military drawdown in Iraq, the Department of State plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs from 2,700 to 7,000. As Iraq and eventually Afghanistan move from military to civilian control and private contractors replace military forces there, the so-called jurisdictional gap over non-Defense contractors widens. If we learned anything from Nisoor Square it is that oversight and accountability gaps must be filled prior to increasing our private contractor force in conflict zones.
It concludes that Washington has done little to bring the situation under control, and much of what it has done has been undermined by federal courts eager to find ways for contractors to avoid liability for violent acts, including torture and murder of innocent civilians. It presses for greater criminal law oversight and a clearer delineation of jurisdiction by passage of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) of 2010.
Dan Froomkin offers a useful discussion of the report and its recommendations here.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”