Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Uh-Oh, Blackwater!

Today's NY Times provided me with my first chuckle of the day. It seems the State Department and the Defense Department have decided to place some controls on a few of the out-of-control private contractors on their respective payrolls.

All State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control, the latest step taken by government officials to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates agreed to the measure at a lunch on Tuesday after weeks of tension between their departments over coordination of thousands of gun-carrying contractors operating in the chaos of Iraq.

The "make-nice" lunch certainly came at a critical time. Since the last bloody Blackwater incident, the American public has finally come to understand just what the consequences of this version of governmental outsourcing too often involves. The US Congress has finally decided to look into it, and the Iraqi Parliament has finally decided to do something about it.

In Iraq, the government approved a draft law to overturn an order imposed by the American occupation authority in 2004 granting the employees of foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. Also on Tuesday, the State Department confirmed that some Blackwater employees questioned in connection with the Sept. 16 shooting had been granted a form of immunity in exchange for their statements. However, officials insisted that the immunity was limited and that it did not foreclose the possibility of prosecutions.

Democrats in Congress complained that the State Department appeared to have bungled the Blackwater investigation and said they feared that no one would be held accountable for the Iraqi deaths. “It feels like they’re protecting Blackwater,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat.

So, since apparently the State Department has bungled everything having to do with Blackwater, the Defense Department, which is supposed to be in charge of all things military, will take control. The only problem is that the Defense Department hasn't been all that swift in overseeing its own private contractors.

...the Defense Department has had its own difficulties controlling its nearly 130,000 contractors, who handle a variety of jobs including interrogations of prisoners and transportation of fuel and ammunition. Auditors have uncovered numerous instances of cost overruns, sloppy work, theft and corruption in the tens of billions of dollars in logistics and reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

Yeah, that ought to take care of the problem.

Clean cups!

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