I acknowledge that there are some good, decent people working for military contractors in Iraq. Just as I am certain there are good, decent Iraqis driven into the insurgency by the deaths of wives or children killed by trigger-happy mercs working for those same military contractors. The problem is with a system that outsources military jobs to private companies.
The Problem with Outsourcing War
Military contractors are hired because there are insufficient active duty military personnel. Rather than induct American citizens to fight the Iraq War - an act that would have quickly turn the public against the war (You can have your little war, just don't bother me with it.) - the Bush Administration threw money at the problem. The result is a multifaceted disaster.
Two stories about Kellogg Brown & Root will illustrate my point. On June 9, 2005 a column of non-KBR trucks was ambushed west of Baghdad. The survivors made it to Al Taqaddum Air Base where KBR has the services contract. Although individual KBR employees wanted to help they were ordered by KBR management to offer no assistance. In fact, KBR had deliberately neglected to inform the other company of the dangers of that road before the ambush. In 2004, Halliburton (then parent to KBR) was accused of dragging it heels on constructing military bases in Iraq and for threatened to withhold food service for U.S. soldiers inside Iraq. Imagine if you will the consequences if an army quartermaster had made such a threat? In 2006, KBR received over $6 billion in U.S. government contracts.
Competing firms treated as the enemy, business interests placed above soldiers welfare, this is the problem with privatizing the war. BlackWater cowboys are only a symptom of this systemic problem.
ROE vs RUF
There is little difference between "Rules of Engagement" and "Rules on the Use of Force." Both are jargon terms for "when you are allowed to shoot someone's ass off." This article has a Marine JAG explaining the subtle differences between ROE and RUF. Coalition Provisional Authority memo 17 has the orders which removed contractors from Iraqi justice. Annex A of that memo has the RUF for contractors. They are all nice and pretty but meaningless without a means of enforcement. Soldiers who violate the ROE face court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and hard time in Leavenworth. When a contractor violates the RUF he faces, well, nothing. If the company is politically powerful like KBR and BlackWater they will continue to get nice, fat, profitable contracts. The dead bodies, they don't care guns but KBR's negligence can kill too, are just the price of doing business.