Blackwater USA, an American contractor that provides security to some of the top American officials in Iraq, has been banned from working in the country by the Iraqi government after a shooting that left eight Iraqis dead and involved an American diplomatic convoy.
For those unfamiliar with Blackwater, I would suggest reading some of Jeremy Scahill and Garret Ordower's invaluable work on the issue. It is not at all surprising to see that they involved in a controversy like this. Blackwater, like all of the private contractors hired by the US, work in obscurity, and there is no practical means to account for their actions. It will be interesting to see how the US responds to this. My hunch is that they will keep quiet. The extent of private contractors working in Iraq, is not widely known to the public and I am sure the US Pentagon prefers it that way. Private contractors make up almost half of the US forces in Iraq, but we do not know how many have been killed, and are not counted as part of the 160,000 troops. Nor are they discussed in the debates over timelines for withdrawal in Washington.
But as the Times notes, Blackwater only accounts for a small portion -- 1-2 percent -- of private contractors in Iraq, so even if they are unable to work in Iraq, it will not really change the US use of private military contractors. Unless, of course, it sparks a genuine debate over the privatization of the military.
Iraq could try and prosecute the Blackwater soldiers for murder. Would the US challenge that by arguing that because they are hired by the US, they are granted immunity, much like the regular US troops?