Sidney Blumenthal on Blackwater

Sidney Blumenthal has a great piece in Salon on the sovereignty issues raised by the presence of Blackwater and other contractors in Iraq.   It begins...

Oct. 04, 2007 | On June 27, 2004, the day before the United States was to grant sovereignty to a new Iraqi government and disband the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. proconsul, issued a stunning new order. One of the final acts of the CPA, Order 17 declared that foreign contractors within Iraq, including private military firms, would not be subject to any Iraqi laws -- "all International Consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process," it read. "Congratulations to the new Iraq!" Bremer said moments before flying out. His memoir, "My Year in Iraq," neglects to mention Order 17.

The author of Order 17 was a CPA official named Lawrence Peter, who oversaw the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. As soon as the CPA was dissolved, the Private Security Company Association of Iraq hired Peter to act as its liaison and lobbyist there. The new Iraq included a revolving door.

Thus, in the process of granting Iraq sovereignty, the Bush administration eviscerated it. Order 17's grant of immunity to contractors guaranteed that more than half of the foreign presence on the ground -- for U.S.-paid contractors outnumber U.S. military personnel -- would operate for all intents and purposes beyond the law. Order 17 also undercut the authority of the U.S. military, frustrating command and control of the battlefield and upsetting sensitive counterinsurgency strategies. Order 17 meant that the monopoly of violence was fractured and outsourced to those not subject to the law. By unilateral fiat Order 17 uniquely created a red zone of impunity covering the entire country...