Sunday, August 17, 2008

Surge won't help legal mess over Iraq

While it's gratifying to hear that U.S. forces appear to have gotten the upper hand in Iraq with the extra troops sent by President Bush as part of the "surge," no amount of troops will be able to repair the legal rifts opened by the White House. President Bush has assumed powers not anticipated by the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Congress has repeatedly failed to assert its authority and acquiesced. This issue was again raised Sunday when federal prosecutors advised six Blackwater Worldwide security guards to gather and present evidence to contest anticipated charges stemming from last year's shootings of 17 civilians in an incident on the streets of Baghdad, according to the Reuters international news service. The slayings occurred when Blackwater guards escorting a diplomatic convoy opened fire on a crowded street. The Iraqi government vehemently protested the shootings, which raised tensions between Iraq and the United States, and has sought to prosecute the security guards under Iraqi law. The FBI investigated the shootings for 10 months and the U.S. Justice Department was at last report still considering whether to file charges. The letters sent to the guards, called "target letters," are often a final step before formal charges are brought, Reuters said. The Washington Post reported that the contractors would probably be brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The letters also are a reminder that the United States has never held a debate over the use of private contractors to wage war, a practice that has become common in Iraq.

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