It's no secret that the U.S. has more than a few public relations problems in Iraq.
This PR situation got worse the other day when private security forces from the North Carolina-based Blackwater organization killed eight Iraqi civilians while defending a State Department convoy.
As a result of the killings, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered Blackwater to cease operations in the country. Today, the AP reports, Iraqi newspapers "trumpeted the government's decision." According to the AP, Nouri al-Maliki's decision plays well in Iraq, where private security contractors are highly unpopular.
There's no great surprise here. From the Iraqi point of view, the use of private security contractors adds insult to injury. First the U.S. invades and occupies the country, then it employs hundreds of armed men—not U.S. soldiers—to look menacing and shoot up the place in the conduct of their jobs.
This situation was bound to cause confusion. What are the rules of engagement for armed U.S. civilians in Iraq? Are they the same as the military rules? Whose rules and laws apply when civilians are killed?
Under these circumstances, the questions are easy. The answers are not.