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America's hired guns in Iraq

Fri, Apr 13th, 2007
Posted in Commentary

Mercenary - a person who takes part in an armed conflict and is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain.

As a young student studying the United States War of Independence I remember having a particular disdain for the Hessian mercenaries who fought for the British against our fore bearers. You might remember them, they were German mercenaries, about 30,000 of them and they constituted almost a third of the English forces facing George Washington and the Continental Army.

There was just something wrong with the idea of being paid to fight in some war they didn't even believe in, to kill other human beings for money. Even at the tender age of twelve my moral compass was offended by that idea. Surely we (USA) would never resort to that type of moral bankruptcy. Guess again!!

President George W. Bush in his January 2007 State of the Union speech talked about a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the war - a Civilian Reserve Corps. "Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush said.

Ah, but what is really disturbing is that we already have hired "civilians with critical skills to serve" much to the consternation of our military leaders. Our tax dollars are already paying for the outsourcing of violence in Iraq or as some put it, the "privatization" of the war. Sound familiar? You know, the now old Neo-Con babble that privatizing anything is a good thing, social security, schools, killing. It's all the same. Right?

According to a Government Accountability Report there are already 48,000 "private soldiers" working in Iraq. Some making $1000 per day.


These guns for hire are recruited in the US, South Africa, Chile and other countries as well. Besides the repugnance of killing for money there are some other very real downsides to the use of mercenaries.

• Mercenaries are not accountable to any law, the Geneva Convention or the type of chain of command often associated with regular armies.

• It's in the interest of mercenaries and the firms they work for, to keep Iraq in a constant state of war since their work is for money not our national interests. Their main goals may be diametrically opposed to our own military goals.

• They give a false sense of the real situation since they are not counted as casualties as are standard military personnel and the impact on insurgents and civilians is also unknown.

• A recent UN report warns that these mercenaries are often trained in the inhumane methods of torture; they often employ these methods against the local population further complicating an already chaotic situation and often putting our regular troops in further danger.

• Negative impact on the morale of our brave men and women who have left their families and communities to serve their country for very little money.

• Our moral standing in the international community is being seriously diminished. Further alienation of our allies and neutral countries is not in the best interest of the US.

Where has our moral compass gone? Has the US public become so morally bankrupt that we are OK hiring professional killers to do our work? The fact of the matter is that instead of instituting a politically unpopular draft to supply an adequate number of troops, President Bush has decided single-handedly to "privatize" this war. As a nation we've been pushed across another moral threshold, only you and I can help us regain our moral high ground. Contact your elected federal officials.

Kevin Kelleher lives in Houston County.

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