WASHINGTON – Rep. Bob
Filner of San Diego is backing legislation to replace
private security contractors in Iraq with military or
State Department guards.
The bill would replace hundreds of contractors within
six months of passage, but it has run into resistance from
the State Department, which contends the federal
government lacks enough trained specialists to take the
place of private contractors, including Blackwater
Worldwide, who are protecting U.S. diplomats.
“Mercenary armies can overthrow a democracy,” Filner
said as he joined other lawmakers to promote the bill,
introduced yesterday by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
“We are going to fight Blackwater until there are no
mercenaries,” said Filner, a Democrat who also is battling
the company's plans to build a West Coast training
facility in Potrero, in San Diego County's backcountry.
The Schakowsky bill is the latest of several proposals
to regulate, limit or end the activities of tens of
thousands of private security operators who protect U.S.
government employees, employees of private firms and other
organizations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is introducing a similar
bill in the Senate.
State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth declined to
comment on the legislation. Duckworth noted that last
month, State Department official Patrick Kennedy said the
department lacked enough guards to replace the
contractors. Kennedy added that the Pentagon did not
consider it “feasible or desirable” to take on the
Schakowsky said it is possible to replace the
contractors with government employees, either through
training new guards or recruiting some of the current
Blackwater has come under scrutiny since Sept. 16, when
one of its convoys opened fire in Baghdad, killing 17
Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi government demanded the company
be expelled from the country. Blackwater said its guards
were acting in self-defense after coming under attack
while guarding State Department personnel.
Blackwater did not respond to a request for reaction to
Private security contractors in Iraq have been
criticized for being unaccountable, because they are
exempt from prosecution by the Iraqi government. No
security contractor has been prosecuted under U.S. law
despite several accusations of wrongdoing.