Recently, Eric Prince, the CEO of private security company Blackwater, appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about its activities within Iraq. The inquiry continued for hours from all members of the panel. While the committee is designed to be objective, blatant partisanship was common in the line of questioning. It appeared, while trying to determine what actually happened within Iraq, the Democrats were also interested in vilifying and condemning the company. Conversely, the Republicans took a more defensive approach and would consistently praise Blackwater in a laudatory manner. At the close of the hearing, it seems one of the few results derived from the session happened to be what we already knew- where the two political parties stand regarding Blackwater and the war.
The impact private security companies have on the war and Iraqi civilian population is a serious issue. It concerns us all in one way or another- from the economic ramifications of the war and how best to spend the tax payers hard earned money, to the effectiveness of the military in accomplishing the overall mission. Companies like Blackwater and their activities will certainly influence the outcome of the war for the positive or the negative. For serious questions to be answered and results achieved, the committee must be above partisan politics and court-room tactics.
If the government honestly wants to know the influence private companies have on the over all war, including how they affect the “hearts and minds” campaign of the normal Iraqi citizen and the Iraqi government, then establishing a partisan government panel to investigate these issues is not the answer. A group of unbiased civilians would prove much more efficacious to the overall objective. This civilian group should contain many different experts who have actually had experience outside the halls of Washington D.C., or the relative safety of the Green Zone within Baghdad. For example, it could consist of Islamic cultural experts, military professionals, and others who have worked closely with and understand the many nuances of the Iraqi government. Moreover, it could include those who have seen and are familiar with the influences of the different militia organizations and the impact corruption has on the ministries, the people, and the Iraqi governing body, etc. This non partisan assembly could prove extremely helpful in answering many of the questions necessary to achieve victory and securing an effective working relationship with the Iraqi government.
It is difficult but necessary to get an accurate appraisal of actions taken by private security companies on the overall war objectives- for the better or worse. Hopefully, the government probe against Blackwater will do more than just establish whether or not the company’s activities in Iraq have been justified. Perhaps it will also raise awareness to the pressing need of establishing a non-partisan collective to determine the ramifications of using private security companies in an often misunderstood environment such as that of Iraq.
Former Senior Policy Advisor
Ministry of Interior- Iraq