After reading a recent Stars and Stripes article about DoD considering the use of contractors in place of U.S. military “boots on the ground” in Iraq, I asked a long-time friend if such an approach was “do-able.” His answer caught me by surprise.
My friend, whose name I will not divulge for matters related to his personal security, is a retired Army Green Beret who’s worked several post-retirement stints as a Defense Department “hired gun” in war zones. In answer to my question, he said, “Yes, and it’s already happening.” That, however, isn’t what surprised me.
He went on to explain that he and his fellow contractors (a.k.a., “trigger pullers”) “don’t have to call three different commanders in order to shoot back” the way their uniform-wearing U.S. military colleagues do.
That’s right! Contractors work under Rules of Engagement that make sense in combat, while U.S. military warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq remain hamstrung by ROEs that, too often, get them killed.
Why is this allowed to happen? One expert quoted in the aforementioned article seemed to know the answer:
Employing contractors is a way to avoid deploying military forces, since contractors aren’t considered “boots on the ground” in conflict zones;
“The government always seeks to minimize boots on the ground to reduce domestic political risk;” and
“The American people and media do not consider a paid contractor to represent them in the same way that they do a soldier.”
It’s a shame we allow our nation’s top officials to get away with this politically-driven double standard that, too often, has resulted in brave young men and women being killed.
All American warfighters, military and contractor, should operate under the same ROEs — that is, the ones most likely to keep them alive! At the same time, it would help if members of the national news media would report on this double standard until it is changed.