Iraq has been pretty much out of the news in recent months (beyond the political stalemate coming after the elections in March to choose a new prime minister) but the latest "Wikileaks" document release have brought the country and the war back into focus.
As "Wikileaks" has done previously on the war in Afghanistan (and initially with the dissemination of an American combat video showing American Apache helicopters [without provocation] firing upon and killing innocent Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters) the latest "Wikileaks" release of more than 300,000 classified military documents relating to incidents in Iraq since 2003 reveals hardly anything new. However it does provide a fuller account of the involvement of private contractors (mercenaries) initiating deadly confrontations causing the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians, other private contractors, Iraqi military forces and even American military forces.
That is the most striking element (of this latest "Wikileaks" expose) that occurs to this observer, the extent and involvement of private mercenary contractors involved with so many deadly incidents in Iraq since the war began.
Conspicuously, as is the case in Afghanistan, there are more private contractors operating in Iraq than there are American military personnel. All are apparently funded by the Defense Department and are justified by the Pentagon supposedly because of the shortfall of available American troops.
Now the use of mercenaries has been with us since the American Revolution, but their use in such numbers in our current wars is a new phenomenon.
Except in rare instances, the often indiscriminate actions of contractors, aka killings were done with impunity and no fear of accountability.
Unsurprisingly, whenever the owners of these private contractor operations are confronted over incidents involving their men, they always seem to respond with "plausible deniability" as the reasons behind their deadly actions.
This is now the not so dark secret of private mercenaries in America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but also the revelations of their increasing use in clandestine operations in Pakistan, Yemen and even in Iran. They have been reportedly connected to CIA initiated drone and missile attacks in Pakistan and Yemen.
So though we hear the likes of General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) on war matters we never seem to hear them questioned or responding to the widespread use of private contractors in our wars.
Which brings the critical question of just who these private contractors are accountable to?
They have seemed (up to now) beyond the reach of Congressional committees as their existence has not been authorized by Congress.
We do hear these private contractors supposedly operate under contract with the Pentagon and would expect under the latter's guidelines and parameters set within those contracts.
But except for the incident in Baghdad involving "Blackwater" (now known as "Xe" services) that brought their men (involved with the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians) to a trial in the U.S. (where all were subsequently acquitted) the actions of these private contractors have been mostly unaccountable.
With the advent of the latest "Wikileaks" revelations highlighting private contractors involvement in so many incidents of killings initiated and/or involving them, maybe this will spur Congress to conduct hearings and force the Pentagon to reveal its connections with contractors, what oversight procedures they have (and are using) and who these contractors actually report to and are ultimately held to account in the Pentagon.
The private contractors operations are too great in number to keep under official wraps.
The American people deserve to know and have (beyond "Wikileaks") an official accounting of all private contractors actions.