Lessons from the Blackwater scandal
By Caspar ten Dam, Chairperson ICHI
Though firmly based on ICHI’s goal and foundation declarations, the particular preferences expressed in this article are the author’s
“It was a deadly concoction: cascades of money, high-powered weapons, legal indemnity, a war against a ruthless and culturally alien enemy, and a kill-or-be-killed culture inculcated over years steeped in the warrior culture of the barracks”
John F. Burns, ‘Q and A: Private Military Contractors’ – At War Blog New York Times 19 October 2009.
Abbreviations of relevant terms:
IPOA: International Peace Operations Association
MEJA: Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act
PMC(s): Private Military Company(companies)
ROE(s): Rules of Engagement
The American occupation of Iraq hardly qualifies as a proper, full example of humanitarian intervention. Even so, the so-called ‘Blackwater scandal’ described below compels us to revisit our proposition in our article ‘Mercenaries: Deploy or Avoid?’ (April 2005) that mercenaries could be relied upon to rescue defenceless people.
Blackwater’s callousness, if typical of other Private Military Companies (PMCs), undermines this proposition. Despite the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) established in April 2001 to self-regulate and improve the image of the industry, ‘private military firms’ often “walk a fine line of legality, with potentially illegitimate clients, business practices, and employees with dark pasts”.
However, helping defenceless people or rebels to help these people without UN or state approval already walks a ‘fine line of legality’ in current international law. For us the primary question is whether using mercenaries is effective and just, not whether it is presently legal.
For an updated February 2010 version of this article, see BlackwaterCtenDam2010.pdf