Congressman Waxman has extended his investigative activities into Blackwater to include the company’s treatment of employees as independent contractors; this is not news, as the allegations arose last year. It is interesting that the issue’s reprise has received media exposure and attention. I am not a Beltway expert by any means, but it is informative that the Committee has gone to pains to let the public know that it continues to pursue Blackwater through any means, relevant or not.
As the Oversight/Blackwater ‘relationship’ develops, the dissembling has grown exponentially. The issue has been refocused away from the negative effects of Blackwater’s operations – which have political, strategic and diplomatic ramifications of the highest order for the country – to questions about small business status and tax codes, which has the effect of making this most recent turn of events look more like a vendetta than an important and influential Congressional Committee pursuing the nation’s best interests.
It is telling that the Oversight Committee appears to feel that the questions surrounding the activities of PMCs are resolved. Although the PMCs working for the State Department and Department of Defense in Iraq and Afghanistan are now subject to judicial review, there is no provision for PMCs operating outside of government employ, nor for those outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. When – and it is a case of when, not if, there is a PR disaster of an engagement that compromises the US abroad (again) involving one of these factors – there will be a great hoo-ha in Congress. Democratic Presidential candidates will no doubt again propose legislation and actions to reduce the PMCs’ responsibilities and activities, yet no one will speak up to say, “Why didn’t we deal with this in 2007/8, when the problem was at the forefront of our minds the last time?”
I applauded the Oversight Committee’s decision to investigate the activities of PMCs, and was stunned at its lack of engagement once the Blackwater hearing day was fumbled. This may be another tactic, but rather than addressing a real problem within government, the latest investigation simply papers over the cracks. Rather than chasing Blackwater over its taxes, which surely is a problem better suited for other committees, I appeal to the Oversight Committee and its members to fully resolve the issues surrounding PMCs both now and in the future. They should focus on ensuring that PMCs are regulated and audited in their actions, wherever they may go and whatever they may do. Now is the time to act, before September 16 happens all over again somewhere else.