Modern Mercenaries on the Iraqi Frontier
April 3, 2004 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Modern Mercenaries on the Iraqi Frontier In his own way, Stevie is a modern soldier-of-fortune, paid by a private security firm to lead a 44-man unit that is protecting American officials in charge of rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. He left his native Glasgow, Scotland, to join the British army at 16, served for 24 years in conflicts around the globe, about half that time as a member of the special forces. In the shadowy tradition of his trade, he asked that only his first name be used and declined to say much about the wars he has fought. "That is one topic I'd rather not talk about," he said in his rich brogue, speaking by phone from the Baghdad villa run by Kroll Inc., the company that employs him. Some bloggers have gotten in trouble of late for using the M-word, but now a wider conversation on Kroll, Blackwater, and friends seems to be emerging. Is the presence of mercenaries --both nationals of coalition countries and foreign nationals-- in Iraq part of Rumsfeld's broader transformation policy? Is their presence in Iraq even legal in the first place?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (30 comments total)

 
i dont know...i think mercenaries would be abundant in an environment as instable as iraq...and possibly necessary. one could argue that the four "security personnel" were mercenaries. hearsay of course.
posted by bob sarabia at 10:14 PM on April 3, 2004


To be fair, the legal definition of a mercenary as a person who is hired "in order to fight in an armed conflict" doesn't really apply to these circumstances. Security personnel are not the same, I would think, as the military units who removed Saddam's government. They also operate under different rules of combat, presumably not returning fire unless fired upon first and not hunting down an enemy.

That said, if they aren't mercenaries, they are certainly collaborators and valid targets for the Iraqi resistance.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:18 PM on April 3, 2004


I didn't see a list of the signatories of the International Convention. Did the U.S. sign?

Interesting post Ignatius.
posted by ahimsakid at 10:22 PM on April 3, 2004


Security personnel are not the same, I would think, as the military units who removed Saddam's government.

Are they really hiring away SEALS and Rangers for $1000 a day to be security guards?

Oh, and here's a little more context on the Kos "scandal," as well as the right-wing blogosphere's camapign to disrupt his advertising/fundraising. Interesting stuff, IMO, in terms of blogs coming into their own vis-a-vis advertising and boycotts, regardless of where one stands.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:25 PM on April 3, 2004


From the comments at Ignatius's last link, with regard to the Kos 'screw the mercenaries' hoohaw :

"Unfortunately, the Angry Left conspiro-freakazoid Hate-Bush-Hate-America fringe is largely running the Democratic Party these days."

And they're going to eat your babies and shit in your slippers while you're sleeping!

"'Free speech', like freedom, is NEVER free."

Freedom is never free! Remember that, you America-haters!

Idiots line up on both sides of the imaginary fences the Americans build for themselves, which should be no surprise to anyone, of course.

What's really clueless and worrisome is this, from the John Kerry site :

"In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website."

That's pathetic.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:10 PM on April 3, 2004


What's really clueless and worrisome is this, from the John Kerry site :

"In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website."


Pathetic indeed. No wonder we get our asses handed to us by the right year in and year out. Do Republicans piss/dissociate themselves every time Grover says something stupid (which Kos' comment really wasn't anyhoo. the guy is a US veteran who also grew up in a place where mercenaries killed half the fucking doctors and teachers. he gets to not care when they die doing their illegal bullshit jobs.)? Of course not. I suppose it's no surprise that the best chance the Democrats have of winning this year is if they get a certain prominent Republican to serve as their VP.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:29 PM on April 3, 2004


chicken-
Perhaps the craziest thing about that Kerry link is the total disconnect between their decision and what the commenters (or "bloggers" as I believe they tend to be called in the parlance of political blogs) on his site had to say about it: people there tend to agree with Kos or at least think it is dumb to remove their link. Not that the yahoos on one's campaign blog ought to always be consulted, but pre-emptive pandering to Freepers can hardly be a winning political strategy, one would think.

Why do I vote again?

OK, no more thread monopolization from me.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:35 PM on April 3, 2004


ugh. that does suck.

Some good info on the 15,000! 'security personnel' over there. here
posted by darkpony at 11:40 PM on April 3, 2004


sorry. try this
posted by darkpony at 12:00 AM on April 4, 2004


The kos situation is pretty out there. I guess the freeper crowd needs to project on someone. I read kos's posts and they essentially were about how pissed he was that dead soldiers don't get airtime but dead contractors do and that our priorities are screwed up.

He's pretty much right, when the Clinton administraton was busy fighting terrorism and its other day-to-day activities it was also fighting the Monica-gate created by GOP. Nice move guys, thanks for distracting a whole administration while alqaeda was planning our demise.

This whole "win at any cost" mentality of the right has hurt all involved. Yeah, I dont expect politicians and their cheerleaders to stop being petty little thugs, but there's a solution out there somewhere. I hope.

What the Kerry people did doesn't bother me much, I don't see why they should involve themselves in a petty dispute between political neurotics hiding behind fake names on the web.

Ignatius: Why do I vote again?

The world of blogging may be important to you, but it isn';t to most people and I tend to sympathize with them. Step away for a second and you've got thousands of self-styled pundits yelling and screaming over every press release. Why would the Kerry campaign want step in that mess when it has nothing to do with them. Its classic erring on the side of caution. The blog world should be able to work out its own problems.
posted by skallas at 12:02 AM on April 4, 2004


The world of blogging may be important to you, but it isn';t to most people and I tend to sympathize with them. Step away for a second and you've got thousands of self-styled pundits yelling and screaming over every press release. Why would the Kerry campaign want step in that mess when it has nothing to do with them. Its classic erring on the side of caution

good point.
also: small derail/footnote
I was thinking about what would have happened if the Internet (and blogs) were as popular in 1994 as they are today. even if warblogs, as pointed out years ago here on MeFi, are "9-11's tackiest piece of memorabilia" I think that even in a pre 9-11 environment (when probably yelling about "camel-fuckers" and "savages" wasn't as acceptable as it sadly became today in certain parts of the Internet) the right wing bloggers would have gone nuts about Newt Gingrich -- I mean, this dorky right-winger politician talking bullshit about the "future", "technology" and stuff and having an Amazon wishlist when Dole and other prominent Republicans didn't even know how a modem looked like or what it was in the first place.
BUT
Gingrich's mistake (one of many) was that he became convinced that the Washington Times editorial page was somehow representative of US public opinion.
warbloggers (or liberals like Kos) shouldn't overestimate their importance in the real political world. unless they're reporting actual news or the appearence of news (like Drudge) or (much more rarely) creating some echo for a story otherwise killed by big media (Josh Marshall on Lott's segregationist gaffe), bloggers can't possibly be that influential outside of the Internet/Media world, which is self-referential by definition.
if this wasn't the case, one could build a political career thanks to one's political blog.
Congressman Kos? Senator InstaPundit? Senator Yglesias?
with all due respect, I seriously doubt that. ask poor Joe Trippi if you don't believe me.

consider one of the most successful (in Internet terms) bloggers out there: InstaPundit, his faithful readers (and juicy MSNBC deal) notwithstanding, would get his InstaAss instantly handed over to him in a Republican Primary. Even in Tennessee. All it'd take would be a serious local hack politician with a half-decent machine and something similar to a voter base. pontificate about "Idiotarians" in a TV ad? flaunting your valuable AndySully endorsement? well, I can already see the electoral success of that strategy. Reynolds would instantly go back to the academic tundra he came from in the first place.
same for his liberal counterparts.

bloggers can happily break enemies' balls organizing boycotts like they just did to Kos (suggestion: K, don't post angry. just don't. it's the first thing they teach you here on MeFi. don't post angry, don't post drunk. you'll get hurt sooner or later). organizing a boycott is one thing (and I don't see why liberal bloggers should not pay the rightwingers back, dig up some crazy racist shit posted by a right-winger and complaining loud enough with his/her advertisers). organizing a political platform is entirely another.
posted by matteo at 1:56 AM on April 4, 2004



(chronology mistake: I'm pretty sure Bezos launched his site in '95, not '94)

posted by matteo at 3:14 AM on April 4, 2004


As pathetic as the pulling of advertising from Kos is, really, who cares?
Why does he need advertising anyway? It's just a blog.
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:16 AM on April 4, 2004


Well, not really, Fat Buddha. Since Daily Kos went to kuro5hin-rusty's scoop CMS, it has become quite the high-volume community weblog, in some respects like a single-topic Metafilter (or kuro5hin, duh). Bandwidth bills are probably enormous. And, it must be said, Kos has raised well over $100,000 for the Kerry campaign in the last couple of months. It's a business now, which is supposed to mean that you watch your fucking mouth, right?

The money element is a sea-shift, and like matteo said, as the surfer on the swell of that particular wave, Kos ought not to post angry, perhaps, if he wants to maintain his so-important 'credibility'.

For my part, I say post however the fuck you want, as long as it's honest.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:05 AM on April 4, 2004


This image from the Blackwater website is very disturbing...
posted by moonbird at 7:46 AM on April 4, 2004


ahimsakid, no, the US did not sign.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:04 AM on April 4, 2004


Well bugger me, stavrosthewonderchicken, I stand most humbly corrected.

I have to admit I had never heard of the chap before this.
posted by Fat Buddha at 9:34 AM on April 4, 2004


bloggers can't possibly be that influential outside of the Internet/Media world, which is self-referential by definition.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

chicken-
You're exactly right on the fundraising angle. If Atrios and Kos were Bush fans, they would be called Rangers or at least Pioneers. Those two blogs will bundle more than $1 million to Kerry this year. Skallas, Fat Buddha- blogs may not represent the mainstream, but no one that donates heavilly to political candidates does. That's the point. One needn't spend big to promote ideas that are wildly popular right out of the box. Quite simply, certainly blog communities bought a seat at the table, and now we're being kicked out for passing a little gas. The point isn't that Kos is losing ad revenuw (in fact, he's not, planty of non-candidates have bought ads now, the cue is just shorter), but that these candidates are being scared away from fundraising opportunities in a way that Republicans would never countenance.


For my part, I say post however the fuck you want, as long as it's honest.


The dishonesty of the reactions is quite striking. Most of the form letters that right-wingers were using to complain omitted Kos' comparison of Mercenaries to soldiers, and then complained as if he was calling our soldiers enarie," which is sort of opposite of what he did say.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:53 AM on April 4, 2004


Kos said:

Every death should be on the front page (2.62 / 32)

Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.
That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.


Personally, I think Kos can go screw himself for that comment.
posted by Plunge at 5:54 PM on April 4, 2004


Do you think that mercenaries have as valid a role in combat as real soldiers?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:00 PM on April 4, 2004


come on, Kos is right. The young men and women serving in Iraq are doing so honorably, even if it is on false pretenses from the commander-in-chief. The merceneries, they are war-profiteering scum. Let them take a bullet that might otherwise take a US soldier. Screw them.
posted by jmgorman at 9:20 PM on April 4, 2004


billions of dollars from oil flowing out

This is an untruth. Please stop repeating it.

Iraqi Oil Exports delayed from both North and South.

DUBAI: Iraq is facing difficulties in exporting oil from both its northern and southern fields, the Middle East Economic Survey reports in its Monday edition.

Exports of Kirkuk crude through the Turkish port of Ceyhan will be delayed until mid-April, the industry specialists say.

"Technical problems in Kirkuk, mainly rising water cut, have delayed pumping to Ceyhan for the time being," MEES says.

Iraq auctioned six million barrels of Kirkuk crude in March (200,000 per day for the month) and was planning to have a back-to-back sale of a monthly average of 270,000 bpd in March and April, MEES notes.

And plans to export around 250,000-300,000 bpd of Basrah Light from Khor al-Amaya are also in trouble.

"The major international firms are reluctant to send their vessels to the offshore facility in the northern Gulf, despite the fact that SOMO (State Oil Marketing Organisation) has offered a 0.10 cents a barrel discount for crude loaded during March and April," says the weekly newsletter.

"SOMO is considering asking a specialized firm to survey the route and the safety of the infrastructure of the old export facility to reassure the international oil companies."

Only five vessels have loaded so far from the Khor al-Amaya facility which has been open for around a month. Exports in March have averaged only about 100,000 bpd, with the crude destined mainly for India, MEES says.

On Thursday, an explosion set ablaze a major oil well west of Kirkuk that feeds exports through Turkey.

Oil-rich Iraq has been struggling to reopen its export pipelines, which have been repeatedly attacked, particularly in the north, by insurgents fighting the continuing US-led occupation.

And on Wednesday officials said Iraq's main oil export pipeline from the southern town of Basra to the Faw pensinsula was on fire due to a technical fault.


Your imagination and wishful thoughts can not change the facts.
posted by y2karl at 9:48 PM on April 4, 2004


GAO Says Army on Road to Ruin
posted by homunculus at 3:10 AM on April 5, 2004


The merceneries, they are war-profiteering scum.

Assuming, of course, that money is their only motive. Most people I know who work do so for more than their salary. Our soldiers are paid too, you know, and many of them joined the army for basically economical reasons.
posted by callmejay at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2004


Assuming, of course, that money is their only motive. Most people I know who work do so for more than their salary. Our soldiers are paid too, you know, and many of them joined the army for basically economical reasons.


But soldiers in our volunteer army still answer to Congressional oversight and, in the long run, the will of the people. The use of mercenaries instead of real military forces is antidemocratic in that it skirts public opinion: would Americans still buy into the "War on Drugs" if dozens of American soliders were coming home in bodybags from Colombia every year, instead of mercenary soldiers? Would the US military brass (and not just the Pentagon civilllians) have thought that fighting real wars in Central America in the '80s was smart? We don't know, because they chose to fight proxy wars instead.

We are talking about military and paramilitary forces that don't answer to anything resembling a democratic apparatus. The common parlance says that we are supposed to call Blackwater, Kroll, etc "corporations," but if they were from Central Asia they'd be called "warlords."

Warlords are bad.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2004


BTW, Atrios has requested that Kerry de-link his blog as well. It's funny to me that people like matteo, who seem so knowledgeable about the blogosphere, are missing why this is a big story: It has nothing to do with bloggers turning into presidential candidates - it's about blogs as a new and surprisingly successful way to raise money at a truly populist level.

Atrios and Kos just went to the freakin' DNC Unity Dinner and hobnobbed with candidates and actual presidents, specifically because of this factor. But what the candidates don't seem to realize is that it's the honesty and forthrightness of the people writing the blogs that attracts readers and motivates them to pony up money when Kos or Atrios suggests they do.
posted by soyjoy at 10:11 AM on April 5, 2004


But what the candidates don't seem to realize is that it's the honesty and forthrightness of the people writing the blogs that attracts readers and motivates them to pony up money when Kos or Atrios suggests they do.

What the candidates do realize is that one jackass comment like Kos's has the potential to destroy a candidacy. The fundraising is nice, but we're talking about a drop in the bucket. If the association to a blogger has the potential to be perceived in a negative light because the author sat down half-cocked and made moronic comments, then a disassociation is a very wise move.

What do you expect, that Kerry should agree? "This morning, John Kerry came out in support of popular blogger Kos, asserting that retired soldiers providing security for corporate interests in Iraq are, quote, 'scum' and deserve to catch a fucking bullet in the head."

Give me a fucking break. You people are that stupid. John Kerry isn't.

What Kos said is disturbing. The on-topic comments in this thread are disturbing, as well.

The merceneries, they are war-profiteering scum. Let them take a bullet that might otherwise take a US soldier. Screw them.

How poignant. I've often noticed that the most hate-filled rhetoric about a war arises from those who claim to be against it. The longer their cries go unheeded, the more frustrated they get, the more they, themselves, begin to take pleasure in horrific atrocities that occur because it gives them the opportunity to claim more talking points for their failing argument.

It's almost amusing in a sad, pathetic sort of way.

There's a lot of work to be done in Iraq, and most of it needs to be done by people who aren't soldiers. These people need protection from the Iraqi resistance, who will kill anyone they can get close to whose skin isn't the correct shade of brown. There aren't enough soldiers to perform this service of protection, and in reality, you need highly trained personnel to handle the type of threat that Iraqi guerrillas are capable of launching.

That said, if they aren't mercenaries, they are certainly collaborators and valid targets for the Iraqi resistance.

This is exactly the reason why they're necessary. Valid targets for the Iraqi resistance, are they? Is that all civilian security guards, or just ones with military experience? Or is it anyone who carries a weapon? Or is that any American, or any non-Iraqi in the country who may be there only to aid in the rebuilding of the country? The truth is, insomnia, that to the Iraqis and apparently you and some other posters, anyone with a white face, a Western background, blue eyes or a foreign passport is potentially working for the occupiers and is therefore a "valid target", right?

Judging by this comment from a related thread, it seems that you would cheer loud and proud whenever the freedom fighters kill, maim, burn, mutilate, and hang a Westerner, especially anyone who disagrees with your employment statistics for Iraq:

Hell, if you go to Fallujah, maybe they'll even show you the view from the top of the bridge.

Pretty happy about that, aren't you. Even posted an image on your own blog, the most vivid close-up you could find.

I'm sure insomnia believes that the Kerry campaign should link to his website. After all, he's a true American, and all the grassroots liberals appreciate his forthrightness and honesty while commenting on the American scum and their status as valid targets for the Iraqi resistance.
posted by David Dark at 1:54 PM on April 5, 2004


The fact is Iraq was invaded, illegally and is now occupied. It would be extremely arrogant to believe that all Iraqi's will collaborate with the victorious invader. If the US was invaded I suspect most people would consider it a duty to resist; we should not be surprised when Iraqi's resist. We should not be surprised if people who look like the enemy are attacked and killed and we should most certainly not glorify or codify with euphemism the role of mercenaries.
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:16 AM on April 6, 2004


Don't know if anyone still reads this thread, but this piece in Time deals with the subject as well.
posted by mr.marx at 7:03 AM on April 6, 2004


What do you expect, that Kerry should agree?

Atrios answered that rhetorical question in the post I had linked to, but Wonkette does so even more concisely.
posted by soyjoy at 7:21 AM on April 6, 2004


« Older Flashmob Computing...  |  Its a vast left wing conspirac... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments