Hired Guns

Phil Carter has an excellent piece in Slate summarizing the legal and practical problems of using civilian contractors as combatants. A key point:

The first set of problems arises from the legal status of contractors. Armed contractors—like the four men ambushed in Fallujah last week—fall into an international legal gray zone. They aren’t “noncombatants” (as unarmed contractors are) under the 4th Geneva Convention, because they carry weapons and act on behalf of the U.S. government. However, they’re also not “lawful combatants” under the 3rd Geneva Convention, because they don’t wear uniforms or answer to a military command hierarchy. These armed contractors don’t even fit the legal definition of mercenaries, because that definition requires that they work for a foreign government in a war zone, in which their own country isn’t part of the fight. Legally speaking, they actually fall into the same gray area as the unlawful combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There’s more at the Intel Dump.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.