The Mad Scramble of Congress, Lawyers, and Law Students After Abu Ghraib: The Rush to Bring Private Military Contractors to Justice

After the Abu Ghraib abuse became public, Congress and the world decried the actions of the military police, resulting in the prosecution of several military personnel. The military police, however, had accomplices in the abuse. Private military contractors accounted for one-third of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Yet, none of those private military contractors ever faced criminal prosecution for their role in the abuse. The lack of prosecution gave way to a mad scramble. Congress, lawyers, and law students introduced solutions on how to bring private military contractors to justice. Nonetheless, private military contractors continue to commit crimes without any criminal prosecution. This lack of prosecution came to light again after a September 16, 2007 incident in which contractors for Blackwater allegedly fired at innocent Iraqi civilians. The incident angered the Iraqi government and the House of Representatives went on yet another mad scramble to ensure that, in the future, private military contractors will face criminal prosecution. Part II of this article describes the impetus behind the initial mad scramble after Abu Ghraib. Part III analyzes the congressional solution that resulted from the initial mad scramble, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (“MEJA”). Part III also discusses reasons why MEJA will fail to withstand judicial scrutiny and argues that further congressional response will suffer the same fate. Part IV describes the other congressional solution, court-martial, and why it also fails as a viable solution. Part V analyzes the other proposed solutions to bring private military contractors to justice and describes why they will not work. Part VI discusses a proposed solution that addresses the shortcomings of current congressional approaches.

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