Remember I wrote that I was troubled by Obama's plan to keep mercenary outfits like Blackwater in Iraq as replacements for withdrawing US troops? At the time i said the Clinton campaign had so far been silent on the issue. Well, like a shark smelling blood in the water, Clinton's been quick to take a big bite:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that she has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq.But it's quite possible that the Clinton campaign put that blood in the water themselves. Danger Room notes:
"From this war's very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable. These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due. We need to stop filling the coffers of contractors in Iraq, and make sure that armed personnel in Iraq are fully accountable to the U.S. government and follow the chain of command," said Senator Clinton.
The legislation requires that all personnel at any U.S. diplomatic or consular mission in Iraq be provided security services only by Federal Government Personnel. It also includes a whistleblower clause to protect contract personnel who uncover contract violations, criminal actions, or human rights abuses.
The timing of the announcement is particularly curious. It comes less than a day after the investigative journalist and Blackwater critic Jeremy Scahill published a piece in The Nation reporting that, if elected, "Obama will not 'rule out' using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq." The campaign also informed Scahill that Obama would not be signing on to legislation banning the use of contractors in war zones by 2009.Far more at Danger Room too, including a mention that Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute - an Obama staffer - thinks the timing sniffs a great deal.
...I spoke with Scahill about the coincidental timing. "For over a week I tried to get Hillary Clinton's campaign and Senate staff to issue a policy statement reflecting her position on her potential future use of PMCs in Iraq if she won the presidency. Silence. Then, the day after my story comes out revealing that Obama will not "rule out" using them, all of a sudden Hillary Clinton becomes the most important political figure in the US to call for a "ban" on Blackwater et al." Scahill said. "Where was her call for a ban after [Blackwater's controversial shooting of civilians at] Nisour Square?"
At the end of the day, it’s only a five sentence statement of intent, coming after her being 8 years on the Armed Services Committee, a full year after Obama issues his bill on contracting, 7 months after the Blackwater shootings, and 6 months after Obama’s bill becomes the core of much of the latest round of reforms in the Defense Authorization act. Maybe she’s trying to get some pop by doing this 5 days before the OH and TX primaries. But, if a back and forth happens on the topic of private military contracting, it is going to be very hard for her to argue any depth on the issue and, even more so, avoid the political timing label. Obama just has to point to his track record on the issue and say, “Why did you just suddenly discover this issue now 5 days before the votes, and, more importantly, where have you been for the last years?”So, would the Clinton campaign be so nasty as to sign on to a stricter bill just to be in a position to attack Obama? Ask the daisies.