Clinton, Obama, and America’s Mercenary Army in Iraq

Jeremy Scahill has been doing some good work trying to pin down the US Democratic contenders on the issue of mercenaries in Iraq (hat tip:The Spy Who Billed Me):

A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic
presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if
elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like
Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not
plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces
in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in.
Obama’s campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing
accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State
Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs
Blackwater and other private security contractors. (Hillary Clinton’s
staff did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or a
statement on this issue.) (The Nation)

In the wake of Scahill’s article, Hilary Clinton issued this statement:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that she has
cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private
mercenary firms in Iraq.   

"From this war’s very beginning, this administration has permitted
thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq
without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable.
These private security contractors have been reckless and have
compromised our mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the
door is long past due. We need to stop filling the coffers of
contractors in Iraq, and make sure that armed personnel in Iraq are
fully accountable to the U.S. government and follow the chain of
command," said Senator Clinton. (Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton)

Clearly, this is a product of Hilary’s need to outflank the
frontrunner, but it’s precisely that kind of dynamic that offers the
opportunity to push both candidates on the issue.

One potentially significant angle is the Pentagon’s contract with Tim Spicer’s Aegis Defence Services, which both candidates have criticised in the past.

Hilary Clinton was one of five senators who wrote to Donald Rumsfeld about Aegis in September 2004:

"In light of the recent revelations of abuses of detainees in Iraq, it is important that U.S. actions, whether by military personnel or contractors, have respect for the law. It is troubling that the government would award a contract to an individual with a history of supporting excessive use of force against a civilian population.

"Certainly we understand the urgent need to establish a secure environment, but the United States government is also working to create a democracy in Iraq in which respect for fundamental human rights is guaranteed." (

Obama expressed concerns about the contract in 2005:

"The CEO of Aegis Defense Services Tim Spicer has been implicated in
a variety of human rights abuses around the globe,” Senator Obama said
in a letter to a constituent last week. “Given his history, I agree
that the United States should consider rescinding its contract with his

”Several of my colleagues have contacted the Pentagon expressing
their concerns about this issue.  I will be in touch with their offices
to see how I can be of assistance in their efforts.” (Irish World, via The Green Ribbon)







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