Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



September 16, 2007 has been called Baghdad's "Bloody Sunday."' On that scorching afternoon in Baghdad, Iraq, a team of Blackwater Worldwide private military contractors slew seventeen Iraqi civilianS and wounded twenty-seven others. A Blackwater spokesperson claimed that the civilian contractors reacted in response to an attack by enemy combatants and "heroically defended American lives." Despite such claims, U.S. soldiers who arrived at the scene within twenty-five minutes found no evidence of enemy activity and characterized the event as criminal. Despite such evidence and notwithstanding four potential sources of criminal law-international law, host-nation law, U.S. civilian law, and U.S. military law-these Blackwater guards escaped criminal accountability for their actions on Bloody Sunday. Such private citizens employed by the U.S. military in undeclared wars had fallen into a legal loophole, practically beyond the reach of criminal law. They had become "the Untouchables."

Prior to Bloody Sunday, Congress had recognized that something must be done to bridge this gap and amended U.S. military law in 2007 to bring the Untouchables within the grasp of criminal law. This Note examines the legal loophole into which modern private military contractors had fallen and concludes that U.S. military law can, and should, be used to hold them criminally accountable.