(April in Saigon, December in Baghdad)
What I dread developing is a situation with corporate contractors and mercenaries being captured by one of the Iraqi factions, or becoming snared in the legal system of Iraq for their actions. While I will support the extraction of all our men and women in uniform from Iraq, I firmly believe that the corporate employees have no right to expect such support from the U.S. government. Halliburton and the latest Blackwater manifestation are responsible for cleaning up that mess.
American armed forces, as with the troops of nearly all nations, have a longstanding tradition of leaving no wounded or dead behind. This is important as a means of motivating those who carry the guns and carry out the orders from above.
Obviously, no one wishes to be wounded and left to the more or less tender mercies of the opposing forces. The quality of medical care provided enemy wounded, the practice of withholding medical care as a means of obtaining information about the enemy’s forces, positions, status, morale, logistics train, and other information; these things matter greatly to the combatants. Wounded troops are already in physical pain and mental anguish. If left behind and captured by forces that make use of torture as an interrogation tool, or even worse, for recreation among the captors, their ability to resist such treatment is greatly lessened.
In many cultures, the religious and other rites associated with death in battle are also extremely important to the men and women most likely to be numbered among the dead. Some cultures demand interment within 24 hours of death. Others require elaborate final rites.
The troops, their compatriots, and their families are provided comfort by these rituals and by their belief that no one will be left behind.
The matter becomes more problematic when the use of “contractors” and mercenaries clouds the status of who remains in combat zones after the real troops have been withdrawn. I don’t believe we have any obligation to expend men and women or resources to rescue or extract the employees of private armies or contractors. Haliburton and the rest of the “contractors” have had sufficient warning of our military exit to secure the safety of all their employees and to plan for their withdrawal. Any person or corporate entity choosing to stay in Iraq in order to keep their “contractor” income stream flowing has only their selves to blame for any harm that may come to them at the hands of Iraqi citizens or irregulars seeking to foment further battle and to challenge the power and intent of the U.S. government.
There should be no final helicopter from the embassy roof, no mob of Europeans, North Americans, or Iraqis trying to catch the last flight out. There should be no frantic GOP/teavangelist propaganda showing Halliburton workers blindfolded and led away from looted and non-functional infrastructure. And there should be no “contractor” families insisting and demanding that the U.S. government become involved in the recovery of “contractors” from captivity by irregulars/terrorists or imprisonment by the current semblance of Iraq’s government.
Mercenaries and “contractors” chose to exchange personal risk for corporate employment. Excluding those medically discharged from active duty, they either chose to leave government service to work in a private army for hire to the highest bidder, declined to join the U.S, military, or were for some reason not eligible to join the U.S. armed forces. The corporations that employed them are responsible for their lives in the combat zones where they are employed.