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Monitoring the “peace and stability industry”

By Laurie Bennett

September 25, 2007 at 6:31am

Members of the International Peace Operations Association will have plenty to talk about at their October summit in Washington.

The trade group with the Orwellian name is an association of private military contractors, including besieged Blackwater USA, which faces investigations abroad and at home.

The association was formed in 2001, and has grown rapidly with the increased use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its mission is to “promote high operational and ethical standards of firms active in the peace and stability industry.” One of its stated aims is to combat the perception that its members are war profiteers.

“Although we have come a long way, there is still an unfortunate level of suspicion leveled at the private sector in our field,” association President Doug Brooks wrote in the May edition of the group’s journal. “Effective stability and peace operations require a proactive and engaged private sector with appropriate rules, transparency and oversight.”

The industry is likely to get much more oversight than it bargained for, in the wake of the recent deaths of Iraqi civilians fired upon by Blackwater guards.

As the Associated Press reports today, North Carolina Democratic Rep. David Price has been trying for years to strengthen regulation of private contractors. The GOP-controlled Congress wasn’t interested, he said.

Price has proposed legislation requiring government contractors to be covered by federal criminal codes. His bill would also establish FBI investigative units in war zones.

But another Democrat, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman has promised hearings on Blackwater, calling the shootings “an unfortunate demonstration of the perils of excessive reliance on private security contractors.”

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