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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:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average number of new microwave food products introduced every day In 1987:
Cocaine addicts prefer $500 in cash now to $1,000 worth of cocaine later.
Scientists in the Galápagos Islands credited an endangered giant tortoise named Diego with saving his species by fathering more than 800 offspring.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”