Recent events suggest that what was a local conflict in Iraq could soon become a regional conflict, as both Iran and Israel have recently joined in the fighting in the war-torn country. What do these developments mean for private military contractors?
Officials believe that an Iranian-backed militia group launched a pair of rockets into Baghdad’s Green Zone. One projectile landed about a half-mile from the American embassy. There was no immediate word as to casualties. The Iraqi government is trying to maintain close ties with both America and Iran, at a time of escalating tensions between these two nations.
Isreali airstrikes against rebel weapons depots and other installations have added fuel to the fire. A coalition of Shiite militias said Israeli drones carried out the attacks. During an interview on a Russian TV station, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically accepted responsibility for the attacks. When asked if Israel operated in Iraq, Netanyahu said “We act in many arenas against a country that desires to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart these plans of Iran.”
In a statement, the Hezbollah Brigade blamed the United States for Israel’s belligerency. “Be sure that if the confrontation between us starts, it will only end with your removal from the region once and for all,” the group said.
In the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), obscure local conflicts often mushroom into larger wars. In March 1905, German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Morocco. This country is strategically located near the point where the Medeterranian Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. This country also has a long history of instability, as Europeans, Berbers, and Arabs have jockeyed for control of Morocco through the centuries.
Perched atop a white horse, Wilhelm encouraged nationalist forces to resist French incursions into Morocco. The French began beating war drums, but cooler heads soon prevailed. What became known as the First Moroccan Crisis set a series of events into motion. The dominoes continued falling, eventually leading to World War I in 1914.
America has been down this road before as well. In the mid 1950s, South Vietnamese President Ngo Diem convinced the Eisenhower administration, which was staunchly anti-communist, to support its fight against communist-affiliated rebels. Diem skillfully portrayed what was basically a civil war as part of the Cold War. About 10 years later, Lyndon Johnson reluctantly upped the ante in Vietnam. In 1964, he told Assistant National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy the worsening conflict “worries the hell out of me” because “I don’t think it’s worth it, I don’t think we can get out, and it’s just the biggest damn mess.” Nevertheless, Johnson concluded that “if you start running from communists, they’ll chase you into your own kitchen.”
Given the historical conflicts in the Middle East and the volatile political climate, an escalation is possible in Iraq. If that happens, private military contractors will probably be front and center.
Contractors in Iraq
Military planners often talk about the “tooth-to-tail” ratio in field armies. According to American law, regular servicemembers always form the tooth. Military contractors cannot participate in any offensive actions. That’s largely why the United States has not signed international mercenary protocols. Mercenaries are illegal in the United States.
Nevertheless, there is considerable pressure, both at home and abroad, to reduce American overseas troop commitments. American politicians do not like sending servicemembers to fight in foreign wars. Foreign politicians do not particularly want American soldiers to bunk in their backyards. If private military contractors in Iraq and elsewhere form the tail, as is frequently the case, everyone is happier.
Frequently, the tail is considerably larger than the tooth. So, during active combat periods, contractors serve in positions like:
- Defensive Operations: Contractors verify identifications at places like the Green Zone and escort convoys through potentially unfriendly territory. Contractors also guard military installations.
- Weapons Support: Combat operations have changed a lot since the aforementioned 20th century conflicts. Technologically-advanced weapons, like stealth fighters, drones, and cruise missiles, now provide much of the punch. These weapons do not put soldiers at risk, but someone must operate and maintain these weapons. Many times, that “someone” is a private military contractor.
- Personnel Support: Servicemembers in the field have the same basic needs as everyone else. They fight better if they have things like cooked meals, clean clothes, comfortable places to sleep, clean running water, a waste disposal system, and things to do during their off hours. In most cases, private military contractors provide most of these services.
If bullets are not flying, contractors still play a vital role in Iraq and elsewhere. For example, overseas contractors often train military forces. These individuals can overcome both the language barrier and the cultural barrier. Additionally, contractors also help rebuild destroyed infrastructure in places like Iraq and Syria.
All these contractors risk injury. There are no rear areas, cease fires, and peace treaties in the Global War on Terror. In places like Iraq, every square mile is an active war zone. Militant attacks or suicide bombers can materialize anywhere at any time.
Because of these risks, the Defense Base Act compensates injured contractors, whether they wield assault rifles or pneumatic hammers. Compensation is available for:
- Trauma Injuries: Gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds, and falls constitute most overseas contractor trauma injuries.
- Occupational Diseases: These conditions, such as joint pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, occur slowly over the course of more than one work shift.
Generally, compensation includes money for both lost wages and medical bills.
A written report starts your claim for compensation. This report should briefly state the circumstances which led to your injury. Since there is no need to prove negligence or fault, there is no reason to go into the details.
Shortly thereafter, victims and their lawyers usually attend settlement conferences. A third-party mediator, who has reviewed the medical records and other important paperwork, tries to forge a settlement. Many cases settle at this point but most do not.
Instead, most cases proceed to the final stage, which is an administrative law review. At this trial-like hearing, an attorney can introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments. Since the insurance company knows attorneys have these advantages, many cases settle out of court on favorable terms.
Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. for more information about DBA eligibility.