mercenaries, not contractors, not consultants

Albrecht Dürer Death and the Landsknecht

The NYTimes calls them "four security consultants" in an editorial today. In fact, they were mercenaries, although no one seems to want to call them that.

In an article which begins on the paper's front page we do manage to learn quite a bit more about these soldiers of fortune, beginning with some figures:

As many as two dozen [security] companies, employing as many as 15,000 people, are working in Iraq.
The U.S. occupies Iraq, but apparently can't do it without paid mercenaries. Blackwater U.S.A., the company which employed the victims of the horrific attack in Fallujah Wednesday, guards Paul Bremer, the American administrator.
In the northern city of Mosul, where Mr. Bremer met with about 130 carefully vetted Iraqis on Thursday, Blackwater guards maintained a heavy presence, standing along the walls facing the Iraqi guests with their rifles cradled. More than once, Iraqis and Western reporters moving forward to take their seats in the hall were abruptly challenged by the guards, with warnings that they would be ejected if they resisted.

. . . .

The rapid growth of the private security industry has come about in part because of the shrinkage of the American military: there are simply fewer military personnel available to protect officials, diplomats and bases overseas, security experts say.

To meet the rising demand, the companies are offering yearly salaries ranging from $100,000 to nearly $200,000 to entice senior military Special Operations forces to switch careers. Assignments are paying from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1,000 a day, military officials said.

In the country I live in military base pay begins at a little over a thousand dollars a month for the lowliest recruit. "Imminent danger pay" for a battle area like Iraq adds $225 to a soldier's base, but last Fall even that pittance was threatened by the same administration which employs expensive mercenaries when it comes to its own protection.

Final note: Mercenaries belong in boys' fantasy fiction only; they are outlawed by the Geneva Convention for very good historic reasons.

[image from Web Gallery of Art]

Can I draw your attention to another aspect of the use of mercanaries - the type of 'soldier' they are using.

An interesting article which points out that many of these consultants come from backgrounds in the security or police industries of some of the most repressive regimes of living memory - namely South Africa and Chile.

"We have grown 300 percent over each of the past three years and we are small compared to the big ones. We have a very small niche market, we work towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."

So business is good there....


"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals – the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system"

Well, I remember the pictures of the victims of the Chilean coup - Trade Unionists, Socialists, political activists, ordinary people. Massacred and tortured.

And now their on duty in Iraq. God help the people of Iraq.

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Published on April 2, 2004 11:47 AM.

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