Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The use of government contractors to provide security services in Iraq (read, "carry guns in a war zone") has raised a lot of interesting questions for the contract law community. Historically, use of private force under vaguely government authority was common; much of the colonization of America was done by private entrepreneurs using force under Royal charters that often allowed them to kill as many natives as necessary. The Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to grant letters of marque (left) to private shipowners to wage war on enemies. As late as 1856, the British East India Company operated its own empire with its own army. Even today there are private armies in many countries.
But over the past century, the U.S. and other developed countries have elected to entrust the use of force in war zones to their own employees rather than private contractors. That means that the war in Iraq has raised significant issues about who should be using force, who should be watching those who apply force, and exactly what contract law has to do with all this.
George Washington's Steve Schooner is quoted in an interesting piece that goes over the issues in a story today from the Associated Press.