Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Stuff You Need To Know: Mercs in Iraq

The other day my mother and I forgot our unspoken rule to not discuss politics, since she's so screamingly wrong about most of it.(just kidding, Mom) And, of course, the subject of The Shrub Prince's little skirmish came up. To her credit, she admits that the war was a mistake, but we disagree on what to do now. Personally I'm beginning to think that an immediate, albeit phased, withdrawal cannot possibly make matters worse over there, and might just remove the major rallying point around which all two dozen factions are gathered...namely us. She said that a US pull-out would leave the area in shambles, and I said that there are more than enough mercenaries there to take care of things for quite some time. She looked at me like I had just said that Scooby Doo and a battalion of muppets were on duty there, and asked me just where I had heard that particular bit of BS. Unfortunately my main source for that was The Daily Show, but only those of us who watch it know that it's not all jokes. So, in all fairness to fairness, here is some actual research into the merc situation.

In March, 2004, The reported that the Pentagon hired the Blackwater company, whose antics in post-Katrina New Orleans were less than thrilling, to hire commandos to augment the security around oil fields in Iraq, and add to the nearly 10,000 private soldiers already in the country.

In January of 2007, Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." wrote in the LA Times that there were approximately 100,000 'civilian contractors' in Iraq, 48,000 of whom were working as 'private soldiers.' The going rate for a merc in Iraq can be as high as $1,000 per day, which is a great deal more than PFC John Q. Public makes.

On June 4, 2007, reported that Britain had 21,000 mercs working in Iraq, and that Paul Bremer, upon leaving the post of Coalition Provisional Authority enacted Order 17 which effectively exempts anyone but Iraqis from prosecution under Iraqi laws. This has given the mercs wide latitude in their actions, some of which have been less than honorable. In fact, some would call them war crimes.

Ok, here's the part where I tell you my opinion of this whole mess. Regular visitors here know that I have been against this war since long before it began. In my opinion Saddam Hussein was never a threat to anyone but his own people, and maybe Kuwait, and we had no business going into Iraq in the first place. That being said, however, since we are now up to our eyeballs in this dung heap Bush has created, I say let the professionals fight it out, and bring our soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors home. Mercenaries have been around since Og the Tiny offered Tonda the Hirsute and extra mammoth haunch to hit Eegah the Obnoxious with a rock that night after sundown. I know our military is all volunteer now, and they know what they are getting into when they enlist, but many do so out of a sense of patriotic idealism, and it is patently unfair to ask them to die in a war that, rather than increase US security, actually diminishes it. Granted Order 17 does make oversight of the mercs difficult to the point of impossible, and that needs to be addressed, but these men and women know full well the dangers they face, and since their only allegiance is to cash, let them get well paid for the risk. I can tell you from personal experience, no enlisted personnel below the rank of E-6 is making squat for the privilege of catching a bullet for Uncle Sam. And if you have been paying attention to the news lately you'll know that the Bush administration cares less for wounded soldiers than it does for frozen embryos. Bring our people home, and let those who kill for a living blow the crap out of each other.

Y'all have great weekend.


Turtle said...

If your mother has any further doubt, I can introduce her to a rather interesting gentleman. He works as "Head of a security firm" and makes frequent trips to Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Another provocative post. I agree the war was a mistake and a change is needed to resolve the problem. However- I challenge your definitions here. Our all vol military ARE people who kill for a living. Additionally, ifwe bring home our official hired killing force without any other change I believe we will simply be funding a militia with our tax dollars- which, in my opinion would be saying- hey- fighters, your lives are wioth less than American lives. This is a sentiment I cannot get behind.

I do not feel bad for "the brave men and women" of the US military. This is a job they signed up for. I feel sorry for the innocent civilians who are living a life of hell on earth during this war- and for the Americans who are morally opposed- but forced to pay for this horrible war.

Turtle said...

Very interesting view on the military. Dead wrong, but interesting. I am probably really misreading your post, but it sounds like you have a rather low opinion of the military.

The majority of people who serve do not sign up to "kill for a living". In fact, if you mentioned to most of the newer signees that they might have to kill, they'd nod their head and say that they knew that, but the thought most likely never crossed their mind. Most of them really don't even realize what they are signing up for.

And an overwhelming number of military jobs are "Non-combat". This means they are trained to do a specific function, which does NOT relate to killing people. THey consist of mechanics, firefighters, engineers, secretaries, technicians, nurses and even computer geeks. And now these folks find themselves in a warzone, thrust into a world of blood, death and fire, and they... are... terrified.

Lately, it is a misplaced sense of patriotism. Don't get me wrong... I am quite thankful for their sacrifice, and it IS a sacrifice, but I wish they had a much better idea of exactly what they are getting into. They think they have a grasp of what is going on, and what to expect, but they have no idea. No idea. They are in a world that they did not sign up for.

Folks sign up to get advanced technical training that they would not be able to afford in "real life". They sign up for educational funding. They sign up for (subpar) medical benefits. They sign up because they don't want to spend their lives slinging fries at the local McDee's and have few options for anything better. They do not sign up to be a stationary target in the training ground of the world's worst villains. They do not sign up to die. They do not sign up to kill. Yes, some might, but the vast majority, and I can not emphasize this enough, DO NOT SIGN UP TO BE KILLERS!

As for the "Private Security Firms", they are paid far, far, far better than our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends in the military. Far better. And they know precisely why they are there, and what they need to do. They are trained professionals, not young kids who only want to be able to make a decent living when they get out. Their lives are not worth less. They are worth quite a bit more.

Perhaps you'd like to venture with me and visit a friends widow, and explain to his 3 children how you do not feel bad for the loss of their daddy, because that's what he signed up for. Even though he drove bull-dozers, he signed up die.

I, too, am very much opposed to this war, but I am not suffering from Rectal/Cranial Inversion Disease and care about what is happening to our troops.

Marius said...

I can see both sides of this issue. I, as is Turtle, am a veteran of a non-combatant position. Mine was in the Air Force, and I suppose that a case could be made for the fact that all military jobs ultimately support combat operations. I was fortunate that I did not have to experience any death first-hand, albeit non-combat oriented, as Turtle did, however Monkey is correct that we all knew that killing might come with the job. My point was not that our military should be spared the killing. My point was that many, if not most, of the people that enlist in the US military do so out of a feeling of patriotism as much as out of a need for a job, and to send them to die for a cause that has nothing to do with patriotism is repugnant to me. Sending mercenaries to die for such a cause is less repugnant since they don't really care what the socio-political landscape is as long as they get paid. As for the Iraqi civillians who are being slaughtered wholesale over there, I fear that more of them are being killed by other Iraqis than by coalition forces. Does that excuse it? No, of course not. If we had never started this conflict than many thousands of innocent people would still be alive. It is an ugly situation, and there are no pretty solutions to it. Thank you, President Bush.