Ralph Peters has put out an interesting opinion piece of 20 SEP 2007, Lose the Mercenaries, in the NY Post on the Blackwater incident and the Iraqi removing their ability to be used in Iraq. An incident led to a shoot-out and that led to a sectarian hold-over in the Interior Ministry in Iraq to put the kibosh on the use of Blackwater in Iraq. This mostly hits the US State Dept, but also some other private contracting groups as well, that need outside security help to operate. I will let Mr. Peters pick up the basics and trace it back a bit:
Last weekend, a convoy ferrying nervous-Nellie diplomats (do we have any other kind?) panicked. The guards, employed by Blackwater, shot the hell out of civilians going about their business in downtown Baghdad.One of the interesting things is that he does mis-state that it was during the Bush Administration when this started. This is done under the auspices of the A-76 system, to find those jobs that do not need to be done by government employees in DoD and that can be outsourced. I have actually seen this system at work, and it is very interesting to see individuals who have worked for 15 or 20 or 25 years at a job in DoD be asked if it can be done by an outside contractor. And such lovely folks that go around with this study, which quickly becomes a 'batten down the hatches, storm ahead' sort of deal. Now, this is not to say that there aren't some jobs that can, in truth, be done and done well by private firms! The long list of things that can be done are: janitorial work, food service, infrastructure maintenance, grounds maintenance.
Nine dead, two dozen wounded.
Given what we know now, it looks like a war crime.
It's bewildering that our anti-war crowd, while anxious to discredit our troops with lies, ignores the very real depredations of trigger-happy contractors - who don't answer to military discipline.
How did we get to this?
Both Democrats and Republicans under-funded our ground forces for so long that, faced with the demands of counterinsurgency warfare and the occupation of a major country, we just didn't have the numbers or the resources to do the job with soldiers and Marines.
So the Bush administration "outsourced" the work to thugs, vultures and cons. We wasted billions. And virtually every major contract to rebuild Iraq has failed to meet its goals.
And corporations that fail face no penalty. They just get new contracts.
Really, for such things inside the US, why have a military or civilian employee doing them?
The edge started to come, however, when other things started to go, as well: facility security, personnel security, administrative jobs, and, in my Agency when I worked at it, actual production and technical jobs that were required to meet MILSPEC for things like targeting, Bomb/Battle Damage Assessment, and even edging into R&D. It was outsourcing galore in the 1990's and the worry then, by many on the 'inside' is that the cost of that non-fixed workforce would come back to bite the US hard during a crisis. When losing skilled personnel with a decade or more of analytical experience to contractors and then having a contractor *lose* on the contract who has those individuals, you are then faced with getting green and raw personnel who know very little about the actual jobs in question.
On the larger scale, this entire concept was supposed to improve the 'tooth to tail' ratio in the armed forces. This ratio is the number of combat soldiers (the tooth end) to the number of support soldiers necessary to keep that individual supplied (the tail end). Thus a ratio of 1 : 7 indicates that for each combat soldier, there is an average requirement to have 7 support staff for things like supply, tracking, personnel, etc.
If you want to get meals in the field, that reqires folks to deliver them to the field to be eaten - that is 'tail'.
It reqires folks to move those supplies from central depots to field depots - that is 'tail'.
If it requires long distance haulage from another continent to get to the central depot - that is 'tail'.
There are folks that do the mass requisition of supplies - that is 'tail'.
There are folks that run the supply contracts - that is 'tail'.
Over time the administrative overhead to keep troops in the field has the 'tail' outnumbering the 'tooth'. That number of 1 : 7 was from the mid-point of the Vietnam war where a conscript army, flush with personnel, could afford lots of administrative overhead. Being sent to Vietnam was not necessarily a combat assignment and the number of in-theater troops just keeping things running was very, very high. Much higher than the all-volunteer forces really could endure by the 1990's. Thus the shift from in-house support to contract support, which was given a green light by both political parties.
Even worse is that the State Dept has its own 'issues' with US military security, this from Mr. Peters:
State demands authority, but flees from responsibility. Unable for years to cajole employees to volunteer for Iraq, Foggy Bottom finally made it a career near-necessity to do a few months in the Green Zone. The result? In the less-than-a-day I spent in that fantasyland last month, I heard complaints about junior State types pushing ahead of soldiers in the lunch line. (State employees are more important than folks in uniform, you see.)Yes, the State Dept. wanted its very own military force to protect it. And one held unaccountable, at that. But that is what happens when you 'streamline' the military to get a better tooth to tail ratio: at some point you stop slicing tail and start taking out vital organs. Now Mr. Peters characterizes Blackwater as 'mercenaries', and offers this as a list of recommendations:
Meanwhile, State is building the greatest white elephant in our diplomatic history - the largest U.S. embassy in the world - in Baghdad. Set aside the alleged corruption and incompetence riddling the project: Building a Saddam-style monument isn't just lunatic vanity, it's breathtakingly stupid - it proclaims that we intend to stay and rule.
Couldn't our diplomats try a little humility? Just once?
Here's the bottom line on all of this:I actually agree with some of the outlook, but the points, themselves, need a bit of refining. And for that we need some clarity of how to utilize private armed forces in the service of the US Government. Yes, there is an actual thing that can be done to not only legitimize these forces but, as Mr. Peters wants and I concur, bring them under a 'single chain of command'. What is that thing? Time to look at our favorite, the Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8, in part:
* If our diplomats can't go to the latrine without an armed posse, State needs to ask Congress for funding to expand its in-house security capabilities. No more thugs.
* We should respect the Iraqi government's decision to give Blackwater the boot. Other security companies might just pay attention and explain to their employees that Iraqi civilians aren't hunting trophies.
* We need to stop the blather about "interagency responsibility-sharing" in occupations. The other guys don't show up, so our troops end up holding the bag. Our military doesn't want to do occupations, but it's the only institution with the essential knowledge, discipline and infrastructure. Get over it, general: Embrace the mission.
* We need a clear, single chain of command during military operations abroad. And the big-hat, no-cattle State Department can only have an advisory role.
Our troops have done splendidly, their leaders are doing better and better - and our diplomats still flounder. If we expect Iraqis to clean up their act, let's clean up our own.
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;Notice the 'Letters' language and the surrounding language? Not only were Privateers utilized as part of the legitimate armed forces of the Union, but they had their own purview for operation and yet still were accountable to military justice for their work. The actual Letters were normally against ships of an enemy, but could also manifest in strikes against shipping, depots, harbors, facilities, and so forth. Thus we have some parts of the US Code that pertain to this, mainly in Section 10, covering the armed forces. One of the more basic is 10 USC 351:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Sec. 351. During war or threat to national securityNote the 'armed or allowed to be armed' part? That is the ability of the Executive - to protect the Nation, and, in this case, in which an 'agency against the United States' is threating its citizens, and also its government officials. This is any sort of vehicle for air or water transport that can be armed at need.
(a) The President, through any agency of the Department of Defense designated by him, may arm, have armed, or allow to be armed, any watercraft or aircraft that is capable of being used as a means of transportation on, over, or under water, and is documented, registered, or licensed under the laws of the United States.
(b) This section applies during a war and at any other time when the President determines that the security of the United States is threatened by the application, or the imminent danger of application, of physical force by any foreign government or agency against the United States, its citizens, the property of its citizens, or their commercial interests.
(c) Section 16 of the Act of March 4, 1909 (22 U.S.C. 463) does not apply to vessels armed under this section.
Ok, just as one of those freebie DLSF things... you could, under this, with the authority of the President have a different sort of craft utilized by Blackwater for their own personnel movement and transport and absolutely, positively, without pause, fit under this! Yes, my Riverine Fighting Force proposal would fit this as those sorts of vessels travel not only on the water but over it as well. Have the President designate armed hovercraft by Blackwater for this, and suddenly, you have a force protection capability that would be fully authorized by the President and right under the chain of command, while still being a contract force. So accountability via the UCMJ would be there as well as civil penalties for any breach of contract sort of deal. That does mean having to develop and build armed hovercraft... but I can think of a few things such vehicles can do and would be immune to that normal ground vehicles are not subject to.
Ok, that ends *that* digression.
What is needed, apparently, is an Act of Congress to actually start bringing these 'mercenaries' into the UCMJ as seen by Douglas Kmiec in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 17 APR 2002:
Some have disputed this account of the declare war clause, arguing in support of a congressional pre-condition by reference to Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 which gives Congress the power to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, . . .” This somewhat arcane aspect of constitutional text, however, cannot bear the weight of the claim. Letters of Marque and Reprisal are grants of authority from Congress to private citizens, not the President. Their purpose is to expressly authorize seizure and forfeiture of goods by such citizens in the context of undeclared hostilities. Without such authorization, the citizen could be treated under international law as a pirate. Occasions where one’s citizens undertake hostile activity can often entangle the larger sovereignty, and therefore, it was sensible for Congress to desire to have a regulatory check upon it. Authorizing Congress to moderate or oversee private action, however, says absolutely nothing about the President’s responsibilities under the Constitution.Indeed, Congress can and *should* have oversight of these private groups brought in to protect the Nation. This is not just security, but combat, which goes beyond chasing down crooks but actually having to fight pitched battles in combat zones. Typically Congress may designate those getting Letters of Marque, and it is up to the President to utilize and deploy such. That is the Commander-in-Chief power so as to not let Congress fight its own private little wars. Such Letters could be specifically drafted for such individuals or companies, laying out obligations, duties and restrictions upon them. That is the 'blue water' part of this, but do note it was not unusual for Privateers to have their own ground forces like Captain Morgan, and utilize them in their Privateering.
While that lineage of forces is nearly forgotten, hearkening back to an earlier era of warfare, it is fully supported by the US Constitution. Enabling organizations to operate as Privateers in defense of the State Dept. is not only fully allowable, but Constitutional. That would then give added resources to the President to contract out such things as physical security while still having military oversight and justice available for said contractors.
I am in full agreement with Mr. Peters that unaccountable forces must be purged from the battlespace. Congress needs to realize that in authorizing the movement of so much in the way of infrastructure to civilian contracting, it has seriously put at peril civilian staff overseas. That has the older remedy of Privateers to 'pick up the slack' for pay, and allows them to additionally point out and confiscate anything the President needs from those enemies that refuse to declare themselves as Nations. Of course that just might make the State Dept. a bit edgy... but no one said being a diplomat was *easy* now, did they?
Unaccountable forces, beholden to neither military nor civil law are not to be used nor tolerated in world affairs. If Iraq has no means to hold them accountable outside of ending their welcome, then it is up to the US Congress to hear from the State Dept. on *why* they need such forces. Congress can then decide to tell the State Dept. to use regular forces, or the Congress can hand out Letters of Marque for operation to such organizations seeking contract work as a military organization and willing to be held accountable to US military justice via the UCMJ. The State Dept. falls under the Executive for operations and the use of unaccountable forces is linked not only to the President, for authorization of same, but to Congress for having laws in place to allow simple security forces to be used in combat roles. Both are at fault and the US should not be using such forces outside of the Constitutional bounds of the Nation.
If they want the contracts, let them apply for Letters so the President can legitimately use them in those roles.
Just realize that for what you get used for can change based on the President's need. It is a very dicey game, this standing up separately for your Nation under arms. One cannot be a law unto themselves in doing that, lest you be looked at as a mercenary predator accountable to no government. That is not to disparage Blackwater, but to point out the problem and how to address it. It is not in the hands of Blackwater, but that of the Nation as a whole.