I received a rather strongly-worded comment from Doug Brooks in response to yesterday's post about contractors in Iraq. I was originally going to reply in the Comment area, but I realized that this was not an issue to be resolved by a piece of text on the scale of a comment. Rather, the comment I received was opening a door for further discussion; and I would like to use this post to go through that door.
For those (like myself) who read the comment and did not immediately recognize "IPOA" in the Signature, a Google search quickly revealed that it stands for the International Peace Operations Association. I suspect I am not the only one who has not heard of this organization before. Therefore, I think the best way to put Doug's remarks in context (particularly since his blogger profile is not sharable) would be to reproduce the IPOA Mission statement in its entirety (so as not to be accused to selective editing). Here is the text:
The International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) is a trade association whose mission is to promote high operational and ethical standards of firms active in the Peace and Stability Industry; to engage in a constructive dialogue with policy-makers about the growing and positive contribution of these firms to the enhancement of international peace, development, and human security; and to inform the concerned public about the activities and role of the industry.
IPOA is committed to raising the standards of the Peace and Stability Industry to ensure sound and ethical professionalism and transparency in the conduct of peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction activities. In this respect, all of our member companies subscribe to the IPOA Code of Conduct. The IPOA Code of Conduct represents a constructive effort towards better regulating private sector operations in conflict and post-conflict environments, and reflects our belief that high standards will both benefit the industry and serve the greater causes of peace, development, and human security.
Innocent civilians form an overwhelming majority of the victims in low-intensity conflicts around the world. Alleviating their suffering and bringing long-lasting solutions to these conflicts is one of the most serious challenges facing the international community in the 21st century. IPOA believes private companies and organizations specializing in peace operations can make a major contribution to this effort by providing fast, successful and cost effective solutions.
As a forward thinking organization at the forefront of the debate on the Peace and Stability Industry and its role in contemporary conflict, IPOA welcomes comments and criticisms from those concerned about the role of the private sector in conflict and post-conflict environments, be they from the government, NGOs, the media, or academia. IPOA is a dynamic organization open to debate and dialogue, and welcomes constructive feedback.
I suspect that the best way to read both Doug's comment and the text to which he is objecting is in the context of what I would take to be the primary sentence of this Mission statement: "IPOA is committed to raising the standards of the Peace and Stability Industry to ensure sound and ethical professionalism and transparency in the conduct of peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction activities." If Doug wants to go after someone like Scahill, then he would need to do it by refuting Scahill's questioning the "sound and ethical professionalism and transparency" of Blackwater, rather than accusing those, like Bromwich, who focus on a word like "mercenary," of trivializing a serious issue. Doug should also make it clear whether or not "the management of electrical systems at facilities in Iraq" falls within the IPOA scope of "Peace Operations;" and, if so, whether, in the interests of "sound and ethical professionalism and transparency," they will commit themselves to a fair and equitable examination of the best interests of Staff Sgt. Maseth's family and act accordingly.
I suspect that, were Bromwich to read Doug's comment, he would take it as just another layer of euphemisms. Since I have no ax to grind in this matter, I am willing to withhold my opinion pending further investigation. By way of a personal disclaimer, however, I should note that I have a lot of problems with that word "industry" in "Peace and Stability Industry," since the usual connotation of "industry" is grounded in a profit motive behind the provision of a product or service; and I do not find that connotation particularly compatible with, for example, seeing to the needs of "victims of low-intensity conflicts around the world." Nevertheless, if Doug's comment was an "official" statement on behalf of IPOA, then, bearing in mind my own perspective, I would prefer to see how that organization will apply its Mission statement to the Maseth case rather than read further diatribe against the use of the word "mercenary!"