Berlin Wall Moves South

Berlin Wall Moves South

Baghdad is building a concrete wall along the border to stop Islamic State militants from moving from Syria into Iraq.

The wall started in Nineveh, which is in northwestern Iraq. According to an unnamed official, the wall is about seven miles long and eleven feet high. There is no word as to how much of the 300-mile Syria-Iraq border will eventually be walled. In January in the Kurdish-controlled province, IS fighters attacked a prison to free fellow jihadists, sparking days of clashes that killed hundreds of people. Officials believe many prisoners escaped, with some crossing to neighboring Turkey or Turkish-held territory in Syria’s north, according to one observer.

However, a low-level jihadist insurgency has persisted, flaring up particularly in rural and mountainous areas between Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region and northern outskirts of the capital.

Situation in Iraq

The long-running and divisive Iraq War is now little more than a chapter in a high school history book. But the conflict drags on, and contractors still have responsibilities in the country.

The current round of unrest began in 2019. Many people were frustrated with government corruption and with Iran’s constant intervention into Iraqi affairs. Continuing issues with the Kurds in the north, IS throughout the country, and later, the coronavirus pandemic, made the situation even more tense.

In December 2019, Iranian-backed militants launched a rocket attack against a U.S. airbase. That attack, which wounded several people and killed a private military contractor, sparked a series of retaliatory attacks between the United States and Iran. One of these attacks, an American drone strike, killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the second-most-powerful person in the country. However, since former President Donald Trump left office, tensions have cooled somewhat. Nevertheless, a permanent solution to the crisis remains elusive, and flashpoints continue.

Domestic unrest ratcheted up as well during this period. Between 2019 and 2021, roughly a half-dozen would-be Prime Ministers tried to build coalition governments, against a backdrop of significant domestic disturbances, many of which were violent. Finally, a party led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won parliamentary elections in November 2021. But his Sadrist Movement secured only 73 of parliament’s 329 seats. So, his government might not last long, either.

Contractors in Iraq

Although the Iraq War has ended, significant American military assets remain in Iraq. If war comes with Iran, Iraq would be an important staging area. That is one reason for the domestic unrest. Many Iraqis are not happy that their country would essentially be a military base in the event of armed conflict.

Public frustration over the protracted Iraq War was the main reason the Americans left. They will not tolerate a large military presence in Iraq. Contractors fill in the gap that departing servicemembers created.

Armed contractors serve a variety of functions. They help reassure a jittery population that they are protected. They also help jittery politicians feel protected. Perhaps most importantly, armed contractors deter militant activities.

Flexibility is important in today’s Iraq. The situation could change overnight, and it could change drastically. With one phone call, the DoD can put contractors in place to protect American assets, provide security at a public gathering, or fill any other need.

As a bonus, this flexibility is much less expensive for the government. Regular servicemembers are tremendous assets. But they represent a lifelong financial commitment. As for contractors, when their deployment contracts end, the government’s financial commitment ends as well. Taxpayer money funds the Veterans Administration healthcare and disability structures. Private insurance companies fund the Defense Base Act, a similar injury compensation program. More on the DBA below.

As another bonus, contractors in Iraq mean deniability in Washington. As mentioned, many Americans have little stomach for another protracted U.S. military mission in Iraq. Since contractor numbers do not count in the official deployment figures, or the official casualty figures, the American commitment looks smaller.

This deniability is in effect on both sides of the globe. Many Iraqis do not particularly like many Americans. Contractors know how to blend in. Furthermore, they usually do not require large barracks or any other official presence.

Injury Compensation Available

All these activities have a number of inherent risks. These injury victims are usually entitled to compensation for their lost wages and medical bills. However, the Defense Base Act insurance company does not simply give these benefits away.

Strict time deadlines usually apply in these cases. Reporting deadlines are usually not a problem in gunshot wound and other trauma injury cases. Even after a relatively minor incident, most victims see doctors and file reports. Occupational disease claims, like PTSD, are different. Initially, it is hard to distinguish between post traumatic stress, which is a lot like situational depression, and PTSD, which is a chronic condition. So, by the time they file reports, the claims deadline has passed.

Normally, these victims still have legal options, thanks to the delayed discovery rule. However, the claim is much more complex.

Additionally, injured contractors do not have to see a company doctor. In most cases, they may see the doctor of their choice. So, their medical bills are often higher, mostly because a company doctor only does the minimum necessary.

As a result, most DBA claims do not settle quickly. Instead, they proceed to a settlement conference. A third-party mediator reviews the medical records and other paperwork in the file. Then, the mediator tries to facilitate a settlement between the two sides.

Since this conference happens so early in the process, it rarely succeeds. So, most claims proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

An ALJ hearing is basically a private, non-jury trial. The ALJ, who serves as both legal referee and fact finder, is usually a Department of Labor employee or contractor. So, the ALJ is reasonably independent. Furthermore, at this hearing, lawyers may challenge evidence, introduce evidence, and make legal arguments. This combination usually encourages DBA insurance companies to settle these claims on victim-friendly terms.

For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.