Monday, February 05, 2007

Congressional Investigation of Blackwater

Comes a report from PilotOnline.com telling of a Congressional investigation of Blackwater and other contractors. New Congress to Shine a Spotlight on Blackwater USA

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ascended to the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will hold four days of hearings beginning Tuesday on waste, fraud and abuse in government contracting.

Included in the hearings will be testimony from family members of the four Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah, who are
suing Blackwater, claiming the company broke its contractual obligation to the contractors by sending them into hostile territory with insufficient protection.

Senator Webb has made it clear, both in recent interviews, and during the confirmation hearings for General Casey that he intends to push for a Senate investigation of the approximately 100,000 contractors in Iraq and the accompanying waste, fraud, mismanagement, and most important of all, lack of accountability:

Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, whose election in November was crucial in tipping the Senate to Democratic control, raised the issue last week during confirmation hearings for Gen. George Casey, the outgoing top U.S. general in Iraq who has been nominated for Army chief of staff.

“This is a rent-an-army out there,” Webb said, noting that in nearly four years of war no civilian contractor has yet been prosecuted for misconduct in Iraq.

“Wouldn’t it be better for this country if those tasks, particularly the quasi-military gunfighting tasks, were being performed by active-duty military soldiers in terms of cost and accountability?” Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary, asked Casey.

“It’s important that they are used – these contractors are used for logistics-type skills and not necessarily the combat skills,” Casey replied, referring to armed security contractors like those fielded by Blackwater. “Those are the ones that we have to watch very carefully.”

Despite extensive anecdotal accounts of contractor abuses, particularly of Iraqi civilians, only four civilian contractors have been convicted of wrongdoing, all for fraud rather than abuse. It is impossible to have a mercenary army of some 100,000 spread throughout a chaotic country like Iraq without there being some demonstrable misconduct. Contractors are accountable to no one, and where there is absolute power there will inevitably follow misconduct and abuse. The military has the Uniform Code of Military Justice to regulate excesses by military members, but what is there to regulate the contractors? All thinking Americans should welcome the Congressional hearings and hope for Senate hearings to follow.

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