A True Political Dilemma

The New York Times has an informative article on the  difficulties involved in  prosecuting military contractors. The biggest issue is that most defendants were given immunity deals by American officials on the scene:

Mr. Moonen’s lawyer, Stewart Riley, said that his client gave the embassy officials a statement only after he was issued a so-called Garrity warning — a threat that he might lose his job if he did not talk, but that he would be granted immunity from prosecution for anything he said.

In effect, the Blackwater personnel were given a form of immunity from prosecution by the people they were working for and helping to protect.

In military conflict zones the most important thing is finding out exactly what happened. We hear a lot of political posturing about soldiers’ lives, but this is an actual potential life or death situation. Unfortunately,  the only way to get perfect intelligence is to assure people the information won’t be used against them. (This is true in non-military areas of life as well.)  The officers in charge of filing the incident report needed the truth. They didn’t care about justice.  So they traded justice for truth.  Generally justice (i.e. locking up a killer) enhances security. This is one situation where we had to choose one or the other.

The inability to prosecute military contractors is also a  good illustration of how our conception of government is overly simplistic.  We tend to think of “government” as one unified being. In reality it’s a bunch of different agencies with different priorities.  Here we have the Pentagon/Military/State Department effectively screwing the Justice Department. And there are conflicting priorities throughout the government. You can bet Obama’s most pro-business economic appointees  don’t feel the same way about a carbon tax as his EPA appointees do.


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