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Securing Sovereignty by Governing Security through Markets

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On September 16 2007 the employees of the U.S. security firm Blackwater became involved in a shooting incidence in the Nisour Square in Baghdad. They were escorting a U.S. State Department delegation, which according to the firm, came under attack. According to by-standers, the Blackwater employees opened fire unprovoked, shooting in all directions and seemingly at anyone moving, including those trying to flee or help those wounded. 17 Iraqis civilians died in the incidence and at least twice as many were wounded. President Al-Maliki immediately came out to "revoke Blackwater’s license” for operating in Iraq and Iraqi authorities engaged the process of ending contractor impunity in their country. However, it soon became clear that there was no license to revoke and that the Iraqi government may not have the authority to deny Blackwater the right to operate in Iraq, let alone decide the fate of private contractors more generally. On their part, the U.S. authorities promised to open their own investigation and expressed regret at the civilian casualties but did not end their contracts with Blackwater in Iraq or elsewhere. The incapacity of the Iraqi government to impose its authority and right to control the use of force on its territory, to hold Blackwater and/or its employees accountable for the incidence, made Jeremy Scahill conclude that: "nothing gives a more clear indication to the Iraqis that they don’t have a sovereign government” (2007). Scahill is right in pointing to the limitations of the Iraqi government’s role as the ultimate authority deciding on laws on Iraqi territory. However, it does not follow that the Mansour incidence is illustrative of the extent to which the private markets for force have undermined sovereignty generally.

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Anna Leander

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