The Iraq War, Politics, and Inadequate Information: A Case Study of Congressional Oversight of Private Military Contractors, 2004




Shaw, Kimberly

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



When four Blackwater military contractors were brutally murdered in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004, the images shocked American policymakers and citizens. Their deaths raised critical questions about the roles and activities of private military contractors operating alongside the military and in active combat zones. The primary congressional committees responsible for oversight of defense policy, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), had several opportunities in the weeks following the murders to ask administration officials about the number and activities of private military contractors in Iraq. At the same time, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans were focused on transferring power to the interim Iraqi government in July 2004. Furthermore, the 2004 presidential election loomed large while congressional Republicans sought to retain control of both chambers. This paper provides a historical case study of ineffective congressional oversight with significant policy and military consequences through analysis of the HASC and SASC’s hearings and legislation as the committees attempted to conduct its oversight of the DoD and understand the role and numbers of private military contractors.



Iraq war, Military contractors, US civil-military relations