America’s Unlawful Combatants

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The recent unprovoked killings by US private security guards in Iraq have sparked a debate within the Bush administration about whether the hired contractors could be considered unlawful combatants under Geneva Conventions.”I think it is an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed,” a senior Defense Department official told the Los Angeles Times on Monday, October 15, requesting anonymity…Justice Department lawyers believe that the contractors could be considered unlawful combatants.But their peers at the State and Defense departments argue that only the actions of the contactors could them unlawful combatants.Under Geneva Convention, lawful combatants are nonmilitary personnel who operate under the military’s chain of command.Unlawful combatants are civilians who directly engages in hostilities.

…There are more than 180 security companies in Iraq with estimated numbers of private contractors ranging from 25,000 to 48,000.Though originally hired to protect US officials and convoys transporting vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police, armed contractors are becoming increasingly involved in military action.Riding machine-gun mounted utility vehicles, the armed contractors have gained a notoriety for shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later.

Under a 2004 ruling issued by then US administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer, private security firms are immune from Iraqi law.

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