There was a small, but significant, flurry of reporting of what was effectively a non-event in the legal prosecution of the Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe) employees in relation to the Nisoor Square incident of September 2007. The defendants’ lawyers argued that the U.S. Government could not bring a case because Blackwater was not working on military missions. Under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) 2000, a jurisdiction was established for contractors supporting the military. That jurisdiction of the MEJA was extended in 2004 to cover those working “in support” of the military mission, which was intended to include any other contractors in the theater of war zone. The defendants’ challenge was based on the idea that the State Department’s role is separate from that of the military. The judge, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, stated that although the defendants had a strong case, a judgment would have to wait until after the prosecution had presented their case.
I am unsure who is the most to blame for this judgment, and the accompanying statement’s lies. On one hand, the fact that a federal judge, who is presumably a well educated man, cannot see that both in law and in fact, de jure and de facto, that the mission of the Departments of Defense and State, are in fact one mission, is worrying. On the other hand, the fact that the legislators felt it was sufficient to word the legislation in a way that only covered situations where the military was deployed as the primary agency shows an ongoing failure to engage with the realities of expeditionary operations. This is a difficult situation, considering it is the role of the military to facilitate a political end in EVERY instance.
I understand that the legislation was written to reflect the concerns of the day. However, we should be writing legislation to cover expeditionary operations that affords diplomats and commanders the widest range of options to use at their discretion. What is most important is for all players in these situations to realize that political and military operations are no longer executed separately, but have overlapping components and a shared mission.