Washington Post

recently won a Pulitzer Prize for its series on private security contractors in Iraq–a story The Nation‘s

Jeremy Scahill

has been covering for four years. Jeremy’s latest report on Blackwater follows:

For the first time since 1968, the Pentagon has charged a civilian contractor under military law, after a March 10 memo from Defense Secretary

Robert Gates

asserted greater military authority to prosecute contractors for crimes committed abroad.

Alaa Mohammad Ali

, a dual Canadian-Iraqi citizen who worked for the US corporation Titan as a military translator, stands accused of stabbing a fellow contractor on February 23.

Yet six months after the Nisour Square shootings, no charges have been brought against the


personnel responsible for the incident, despite a US military investigation that labeled it a “criminal event.” While lawyers, military officials and legislators debate the particulars of Ali’s case, the gorilla in the room is the stunning lack of accountability of the shadow army of 180,000 contractors in Iraq. Not a single armed contractor has faced charges for actions in Iraq. Instead of holding these forces to the same standard as active-duty soldiers–at least sixty-four US soldiers have been court-martialed on murder-related charges alone–the Bush Administration continues to reward Blackwater for its lethal conduct with new contracts and de facto legal immunity.

Ali, an Iraqi who fled Saddam’s regime only to return as a translator in the US occupation, is the token example of the new “crackdown” on contractors, while the American contractors alleged to have gunned down seventeen civilians walk around free men–further proof that the outsourcing of Washington’s war has been morally bankrupt from day one.


In January launched a rotating guest blog,

Passing Through

, featuring monthly stints by some of America’s keenest political bloggers. Now up is

J. Goodrich

, an economist and the proprietor of the blog

Echidne of the Snakes

. Her articles on the healthcare crisis and many other pressing social issues have appeared in The American Prospect and Ms. magazine. Look for her posts on our website through April.


According to the most recent samplings of public opinion from five major polling outfits–CBS News/New York Times, Pew Research Center, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Gallup and Associated Press/Ipsos–an average 
of 75 percent of the public believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. Pew reports that more than half of middle-class survey respondents have been treading water or falling behind over the last five years, “the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in nearly half a century of polling.” A CBS News/New York Times poll recently found that 81 percent of Americans believe “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track”–which pretty much says it all.