Chapter 12 – Alice’s Evidence
We have been examining armed contractor accountability though a multi-part series. This week, we wrap up the legislation review and then shift focus to a new topic, one that won’t be out of date in a month: Rules of Engagement.
Last time, we mentioned the hundreds of pending bills regarding contractor accountability and then identified 22 of particular relevance.
We’re going to trust that anyone deeply interested in the issue has researched each of those bills and weighed in with their elected representatives. For everyone else, including anyone who feared we’d actually run through all of them this week, you can relax … we’d rather snort Drano.
After all, most of these bills—like the majority of bills on any subject—will never make it out of committee. And those that do ultimately enjoy a passing vote from both houses will be awhile in coming and may be drastically altered in the process.
So instead, we’re going to talk about two items likely to go into effect in weeks rather than months.
That makes it sound more like Godzilla than a legislative bill.
Second, our founder and editor-in-chief, Thaddeus Z. “Angus” McCreavy, was mauled by a crazed badger late last week and, while he is convalescing, the writers here at The Rabbit have even less adult supervision than normal. As a result, no one is here to object to random Godzilla comments.
More importantly, we are free to publicly mock those that McCreavy tells us week after week are the target audience for The Rabbit: “These dunderheads who rant about mercenaries but wouldn’t know a mercenary from a woodchuck if the entire staff of Sandline showed up at their Bat Mitzvah. Bah.”
Anyway, MEJAEaEAo2007, as we affectionately call it, clarifies that MEJA jurisdiction is to cover all contractors (i.e., USAID, etc.), establishes a “Theater Security Contract Coordinating Officer to coordinate communications and operations between contractors and the military,” and requires an FBI “Theater Investigative Unit” in
It’s not clear whether someone didn’t get the memo on the FBI’s existing presence in
The 2008 version has just passed the full House and is heading down
Among the numerous straphangers for 2008 are some interesting requirements regarding private security contractors / mercenaries (your choice).
Specifically, the House proposes requiring SecDef to issue minimum standards for private security, such as screening for criminal records, medical and mental fitness, etc.
Given the obvious appeal of such a simple yet positive requirement, and the minimal impact on many in the industry, it seems likely this provision will receive wide support and take effect.
The major problem with the requirement is the same as with last year’s appropriations-based UCMJ change—it fails to recognize that there are non-DoD contractors, that there will in all likelihood be contractors in future contingencies in other places, and that there are already many armed contractors outside Iraq/Afghanistan.
The more interesting requirement from the House, however, reads as follows: “Finally, the Secretary is directed to establish a clear set of rules-of-engagement for all contracted security personnel operating in the
Although this requirement is only in the report from the House, not the actual bill, it is not a one-off comment or just extra verbiage. For example, on the Senate side Senator Obama’s contractor bill (S. 674) similarly requires the Joint Chiefs to issue rules of engagement regarding “contract personnel performing private security functions.”
If it is true that armed contractors are running around
So this week we’d better examine Blackwater and the Rules of Engagement. (Sounds like a bad Harry Potter novel.)
The standard soundbite on Blackwater, and private security companies in general, is that “they have no rules of engagement” (frequently in all caps or followed by multiple exclamation points.)
This statement is curious, given the original concensus that rules of engagement do apply to armed contractors. For example, in 2003 You can sign up for a brand-new free iphone on this website The Guardian reported that “civilian employees are subject to the same rules of engagement as foreign troops.”
By mid-2004, however, the story was changing. The Independent put it this way: “They have no rules of engagement and many of them drink too much.” (Oddly enough, the exact words frequently used by McCreavy to describe the staff here at The Rabbit.)
By 2005, the ‘no rules’ assertion was another PSC ‘little known secret.’ For example, here is a gem from a random blogger claiming that he read something from a contact in a newsgroup who reported what an unnamed “Middle Eastern reporter” had told her about the issue: “The mercenaries are not bound by military rules of engagement so they tend to be much more brutal.”
Nowdays, the no-rules mantra is simply accepted as another widely known “fact”—pure gospel reported in news accounts and countless online sources. Those catering to the radical left use this “fact” in arguing that all contractors are bloodthirsty babykillers, while those on the extremist right cite it as a real benefit ‘cause all that Geneva and Constitution stuff gets in the way when we got us some killin’ to do.
The beauty of it all is that most of these enlightened folks don’t have a real solid grasp of exactly what the heck “Rules of Engagement” even means. But, man does it sound good.
Not possible that they are ill-informed? Once we’ve reviewed what the relevant terms mean, you tell us if our distinguished gentlepersons in DC really want contractors to have Rules of Engagement.
More often than not, anti-war wannabe philosophers and hawkish armchair commandos seem to use ‘rules of engagement’ to refer to those principles that the world has generally agreed should guide the conduct of hostilities.
As an aside, wasn’t Ms. Dion last seen selling used cars with Gary Coleman and Macauley Culkin? Or maybe it was appearing in another white-trash-a-thon C-list celebrity boxing match right after the Kevin Federline / Tara Reid card. We’re not sure.
Before the diehards write in, we’re just kidding, Celine. We love ya more than Jar Jar Binks. No, really.
Although rules of engagement certainly could be issued to prohibit these actions, these principles are not rules of engagement—they are part of the Law of War.
Given that we’re interested in DoD control of force, though, we could also just read what Defense Department Directive 2311.01E, the DoD Law of War Program, says on the subject. It defines the Law of War for us as follows:
That part of international law that regulates the conduct of armed hostilities. … The law of war encompasses all international law for the conduct of hostilities binding on the
In other words, the Law of War is the body of international treaties that address the conduct of armed hostilities and aim to protect civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked. (History nerds can learn more here.)
So how are Rules of Engagement, or ROE, different from the Law of War? ROE are issued by senior military commanders to tell their troops how to engage hostile forces while complying with the Law of War. The Department of Defense defines ROE in one of its Joint Publications like this:
Directives issued by competent military authority that delineate the circumstances and limitations under which
The ROE tell uniformed military when and how they conduct not just defensive but also offensive operations. That is, the ROE establish options for attack. In practice, ROE are ordered for a given military campaign by selecting from a “menu,” if you will, in a classified military directive called CJCSI 3121.01A, Standing Rules of Engagement for
Once the selected ROE make it out into the field, the guys facing the business end of someone else’s AK-47 know when and how they can and can’t do something to remedy that situation.
As Angus often says, “Well, slap me silly and call me Susan.” (Actually, the only thing we’ve heard since the attack is feverish mumbling about “But where you’re from, everyone else rapes goats in the winter, too. Right?” But that’s just the cheap Mexican pharmaceuticals talking. We hope.)
If there’s one thing the Pentagon has no shortage of, it would be rules. And military forces outside of combat zones do need some kind of guidance on using force.
So, if only we had something other than ROE ... some other thing we could call that guidance … some way to set out rules for the use of force.
Thumbing through the Joint Publication noted above, we find that they have this neat little thing called ... Rules for the Use of Force. (It’s almost like they’ve done this armed conflict thing before.) In keeping with the military’s acronymania, the Rules are also known as “RUF.”
Rules for the Use of Force are: “Directives issued to guide
For example, in domestic operations by uniformed forces, RUF are available for everything from unarmed force rules in the wake of a nuclear incident to armed force rules for counterdrug ops, and even real-world rules for one of the crown jewels of conspirists everywhere, Garden Plot.
Returning to the idea that, no matter how much we like to deride and second-guess the folks at the Pentagon, this ain’t their first time at the rodeo, the military ensured that the Coalition Provisional Authority issued not just any RUF, but “Rules for the Use of Force by Contractors in
And, to the extent anyone thinks the RUF in Order 17 are a one-off thing for Iraq, the DoD Instruction on contractors accompanying the force not only requires RUF always be issued, but requires explicit authorization for contractors to be armed, requires contractor training on applicable RUF, etc.
Of course, these particular edicts do not address RUF for non-DoD contractors outside of
But neither does the defense appropriation.
If some eager Hill staffer somehow had the misfortune to wander into the low-rent backwater of the Internet that is The Rabbit, then in an ideal world they would read this post and say, “But of course we knew these things.”
On the other hand, you might see their mouth drop open like a $2 suitcase.
Again, we leave it to you to determine whether our Congress or our nation really means to give armed contractors Rules of Engagement. They already have Rules for the Use of Force.
Next Time: Body Armor
Postscript: Now that we are temporarily McCreavy-less, we’re thinking about just going ahead and making PSC Internet Loons a weekly feature here at The Rabbit. In fact, this week we were going to slag this scrappy young purveyor of truthiness.
Speaking of which, the graphic arts department is attempting The Rabbit’s first-ever photoshopping to make a get well card for ol’ Angus. Unfortunately, the result was a huge catfight over whether it should be Godzilla and Rodan, or should be SpaceGodzilla and The Smog Monster, who appear in the steel cage match deathmatch pic against McCreavy and Ultraman.
Oh, and since McCreavy wasn’t around to give the rest of us rubes the appropriate highbrow reference to this “Alice’s Evidence” thing, we got together and decided to go with Alice’s Restaurant instead. Watch and enjoy.
Is it just us or does the red-velour-jacketed henchman from the garbage-dumping incident in the Restaurant video look strikingly like a lost extra who wandered in from Planet of the Apes?