Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An end to mercenary impunity

For the past four years, British and US "security contractors" - otherwise known as mercenaries - have had a free reign in Iraq, operating with impunity and frequently killing Iraqi civilians in order to "protect" their corporate and government clients (that is, when they're not just doing it for kicks). But no more. On Sunday, a security team from mercenary company Blackwater USA got into a shootout in a crowded square in Baghdad, killing eight civillians in the process. The company has now been banned from Iraq, and those responsible will be standing trial for murder.

Quite apart from being a blow for justice, this also poses significant problems for the occupation, which relies on mercenaries to provide much of their day-to-day security (the Blackwater team in this incident for example was protecting a US State Department convoy). But if those mercenaries are going to be held legally accountable for their excesses, they may be rather more reluctant to work there - meaning the occupiers will have to start providing that security themselves. And with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 mercenaries currently in Iraq, that may be impossible for them to do.