Sorting out the chain of command in Abu Ghraib is hard enough, but what happens when the person at the end of the chain isn’t wearing a uniform? That’s what the Justice Department is about to find out. It’s now opened its first criminal investigation looking at the private contractors serving in Iraq.
They’re working as translators and interrogators at Abu Ghraib, but because they are hired help, not regular military, nobody knows what rules, if any, apply to them. And this is making a lot of people nervous. So it should. By the Pentagon’s latest estimate, there are somewhere between 20-50,000 private contractors working in Iraq today, some are doing mundane things like building barracks but others are doing work that looks a lot like that of the soldier, only without the uniform…..code of justice.
Deborah Avant, associate professor of political science and international relations at George Washington University
Sam Gardiner, USAF Colonel (Ret.)
Dan Guttman, professor of law at Johns Hopkins University.