Since September's now-famous Baghdad shootout that led to the deaths of 17 Iraqis, numerous critics have assailed contractors with Blackwater USA, as well as security contractors in general, by labeling them as reckless cowboys.
But leading the chorus denouncing contractors has been a different posse of "cowboys," this one composed of reckless members of Congress. Their careless rhetoric and soldier funding ambushes amount to the very same thing they accuse Blackwater of doing -- shooting first, and asking questions later.
Recently, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 13 other members of Congress have introduced legislation to turn the Blackwater incident into an excuse to bar all security contractors from performing their essential role in securing Iraq. Now, Congress sits before the end-of-year recess determined to ambush not just contractors, but also our soldiers serving abroad by attacking their needed funds.
If these politicians succeed, they will only make the U.S. military's job harder. And American soldiers -- as well as ordinary Iraqis -- will face a less stable, more dangerous situation.
With victory in Iraq a distinct possibility, who is being the irresponsible cowboy now?
Unlike the myth that every security contractor is an "out of control" electron set upon creating an unstable situation, many members of Congress seem more suited for the title.
The facts speak clearly.
Congressional opponents of this war seem determined to push a policy of defeat. They pre-judged the "surge" as a failure and made bold proclamations that there was little the military could do to stem the violence. They castigated the senior military commander in Iraq after confirming him with their full support -- and ignored the reports of genuine progress as they tried to shift their attacks to the Iraqi political arena. And now they have let loose with a violent ambush on soldiers' needed funds.
Who are the reckless cowboys now? And who holds them accountable?
While Congress has the rightful power to call for hearings and investigations, who calls Congress on the carpet for damaging the soldiers' and contractors' mission? Americans have the vote and the telephone line, but what a sad day for our nation if personal, political advancement wins out in time for congressional recess.
These critics may claim that their actions support the troops, but Americans know different. And so do the soldiers. It would seem that irresponsible members of Congress -- not the selfless soldier and contractor -- are the real cowboys in this dust-up.
LTC Steve Russell, U.S. Army, (Ret.), is the founder and chairman of Vets for Victory and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.