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View Diary: Mercenaries, war, and my childhood (368 comments)

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  •  Inconsistent? (3.00)
    I'm sorry, but I don't see any inconsistency at all. I wrote a condemnation of him here, I condemned him on my blog, and I told him that I didn't think that what he wrote as an explanation was enough.

    What I'm saying is that unless you know someone is doing something despicable, it's heartless to claim that their deaths are less to be considered than the deaths of American soldiers, which is precisely what Kos did up there (never mind the absolute insensible and horrible comment that started all this). These were Americans, and most of them were veterans.

    The proper response, if you are horrified at what happened in Fallujah, is to condemn the horrid nature of the attacks on ALL of these people and also point out that the reason WHY they were so horribly killed is that they were put into a city where people hate them and weren't given enough support to ensure their safety.

    Since when did we use pay grades to determine the inverse value of a human life?

    I think it's completely possible, by the way, to know what these people are doing. So I have no idea what your third sentence is saying...

    •  Thanks for the explanation (none)
      There have been many condemnations of kos' statement based on a notion of empathy: "we don't know why another person does something, so we can't judge it." Your statement looked like such an argument at first. With your explanation, it doesn't. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

      I do, however, think a case can be made for personal responsibility. If you choose to go to an unjust war, then it places your actions in a different category than someone who chooses to defend his or her country and gets sent to an unjust war. (Of course, that opens the whole can of worms of whether one thinks this is a just or injust war--but that's part of the point, if you go with your country's military, it's not your choice to make.)

      I also think that this:

      the reason WHY they were so horribly killed is that they were put into a city where people hate them and weren't given enough support to ensure their safety

      Gets you right back to the question of pay grade. The reason they're getting paid $1000/day is because the job description entails going to places where they aren't given enough support to ensure their safety. The reason why they were killed in such an insecure way (without Marine backup) is because they're mercernaries.

      I'm NOT saying that justifies hanging a corpse from a bridge. I'm simply saying that when you go into some place as a mercenary, chances are much higher that you're going into a situation where something like this can happen. Legally, too, your role as a mercenary makes it more likely (since you don't fall under the category of legal combatant).

    •  Not heartless at all (3.92)
      What I'm saying is that unless you know someone is doing something despicable, it's heartless to claim that their deaths are less to be considered than the deaths of American soldiers, which is precisely what Kos did up there (never mind the absolute insensible and horrible comment that started all this). These were Americans, and most of them were veterans.

      In fact, realistic.  Our world is FILLED with the deaths of people that are, in our culture, less to be considered that the deaths of US citizens ALL THE TIME.  We do it constantly.  We do it outside of our culture and within our own culture; we register people's whose deaths matter and those who matter less.  And there are sociologically-determinable factors as to how we do it.  You don't mourn the death of every person on the planet every day, do you?

      Your disagreement with Markos is simply over how those boundaries of attention are drawn, he's drawing his differently, he has specific reasons for doing so and has supplied you with those reasons.  

      It seems to me that Markos reasoned response for his own boundary drawing provides a much more useful map of the question of this gut-wrenching but not universal response we call "grief" than the rather simple one or two dimensional model that gets tossed around in US public culture.  We don't deal with grief well, we tend to simplify and trivialize it.  And we tend to "normalize" that simplicity into a very ideologically dangerous map of good vs. evil.  

      Do I respect that the families and friends of those 4 "consultants" who were killed have endured a loss and that their loss have been made egregiously public in a very uncomfortable way?  Yes.  Do I have sympathy for them?  Yes.  Do I even find it deeply troubling that these 4 individuals, in their deaths and the actions that followed their deaths, have had to serve as proxies for all of us in the expression of this very deep rage toward US governmental politicies and also US citizens, now?  Yes.  But none of that changes the fact that these "consultants" are certainly much closer to the center of the actions that are fueling the rage than am I, are Iraqi citizens, especially women and children, than are, even, the bulk of our soldiers on the ground.  That is simply true.  Whether dispicable or not, these people were actively engaging in actions (by their own choice) that don't work to help things and quite obviously work to hurt things and in doing so, are indirectly involved in the harm that befalls other people.  That's just an obvious truth.

      "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

      by a gilas girl on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 03:46:20 PM PST

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      •  OT--sorry (none)
        Ok, everyone who was suggesting a gilas girl to be chosen as a guest poster?  I agree with them, based on her string of kick-ass comments here.
      •  Not obvious (none)
        Whether dispicable or not, these people were actively engaging in actions (by their own choice) that don't work to help things and quite obviously work to hurt things and in doing so, are indirectly involved in the harm that befalls other people.  That's just an obvious truth.

        No, it's really not.

        A mercenary can be a looter and a rapist. Or a mercenary can keep an honest employer from being killed by looters and rapists.

        You are absolutely right to argue that Bremer, Rumsfeld and the rest of the Injustice League are stupid to employ mercenaries in lieu of American troops. (That is, you're right to argue that point, as long as you also support an increased troop presence in Iraq to replace those mercenaries.)

        But you're wrong to assume that those mercenaries are by definition unhelpful people who are inflaming Iraqi outrage. In many circumstances, they are security guards who earn their pay by defending innocent people against criminals. They don't deserve our judgment or our scorn.

        Blame Rumsfeld. Blame Bremer. Most of all, blame the murderers in Fallujah. Don't blame the victims. As far as we know, they died honorably and deserve our utmost respect.

        I'm sorry, I don't mean to badger you, and I actually meant to retire from this topic after my last post. Your comments are certainly thoughtful -- thanks for sharing them.

        •  Mercenaries as "security guards" (none)
          Just to clarify: I have a lot of trouble with the notion of private "security guards" too, so I don't think I'm inconsisent at all; I'm just outside the mainstream.  

          But in all honesty, living in NoVa very close to the Pentagon and in a neighborhood filled with these types of "security experts" I have some [reasonable, I believe] doubts that they are simply "security guards trying to earn a good living".  There is a political position and an ideological worldview implied in their choice of career move, and its one with which I have a long-standing political, human and sociological disagreement.  So I blather away.

          But blather not indiscriminately.  

          Not an attempt at persuasion, only one of clarification.

          "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

          by a gilas girl on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 07:43:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  there is apoint that I think both you and Kos miss (3.83)
      what we are seeing is the creation of an off-theshelf and uncontrolled and highly trained private army.  When the US govt pays huge amounts of money to train people like Green berets and Seals, and then after relatively short periods of service (okay, 6 years may not seem short to most of us) those people turn aound and basically become guns for hire.

      They are not under the control of the civiolian authority of the United States. They are execrising military force in a way that will be seen by those against whom they execrise it as an action of the United States government, and yet the are NOT representing the US Government, nor are they subject to the strictures of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

      Eventually, if this process is allowed to continue, we will see similar such militaries here in the United States  -- many security forces now are approaching this, which many do not realize.

      Such forces will not be limited by things like Posse Comitatus, and may well be used in wyas that most of us here will find quite horrifying.

      I might note  -  we object to the various militias around Iraq as represent a threat ot properly organizing a new nation.  How is our introduction of our own militias any different?

      And while this aprticular group may all ahve been American, it is quite well documented that some of the people inovlved are former S African military and the like.

      Whether or not these people foramlly meet the legal definitions of mercenaries under the treaty is beside the point.  I seem to remember a fair number of conservatives who were quite upset at such parsing of lnaguage under the presidential adminstration immediately past.

      I apologize for how disorganzied this post is  -- I am writing it in 5 minutes bewteen teaching classes on the last day before Spring Break.  But the mere presence of such groups in Iraq is something that should be being trumpeted as proof of the fialure of this administration to properly plan  ...   Shinseki was right, and no matter how many of these paid military we hire, it will be insufficent, as well as

      1.  costing siginficantly more per person
      2.  represent a further degree of instability  - heavily armed people not under the control of US millitary command
      3. represent a further thumb in the eye to the people of Iraq, and thus
      4. serve as just one more recruiting boost for Al Qaeda and the like

      i m a teacher & proud of it

      by teacherken on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 04:03:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Military/Security Contractors should be outlawed (4.00)
        I fully agree with your post.  Congress should promptly outlaw these contractors.  No person or organization should be paid by the US government (or indirectly by government contractors) to perform security functions.  

        This is a direct threat to our republic, since there appears to be nothing that would prevent their use within the US.

        Unaccountable military force is clearly extra-constitutional.  The Constitution spells out the only legal use of military forces by the government.

        "pay any price, bear any burden"

        by JimPortlandOR on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 05:29:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I agree teacherken with your point (4.00)
        I know this administration is not big on history, but let's go back to when Rome was sacked in the 16th century by French mercenaries, as one example of out of control rule by mobs.  We cede control of the military to organizations which have absolutely no accountability to US citizens and we will reap the whirlwind.  This is simply another administration push to privatize and the long term prospects are quite horrifying.

        rhc

      •  A tip from Machiavelli (3.50)
        Funnily enough, the question of Mercs comes up in Machiavelli's The Prince: what he says ain't good.  A merc can be bought, and sells himself as a profession.  So it's a LOT easier to subvert them if your fighting them.  Mercs are also not under civilian control: if their company can make more money by turning on the gov't, they will.  Several powerful empires have had problems with mercs, and it's generally a sign of decline: more money than intelligence on the part of the powerful.
      •  Right on (none)
        all this pious grieving is irritating.
        •  Can I be slightly more generous? (4.00)
          all this pious grieving is irritating.

          I'm not sure that 'irritating' is how I would characterize it, more like 'disturbing' and for very specific and political reasons: its part of the unthinking patriotism and  religious exploitation of shared principles that the right wing have successful co-opted into their political bag of tricks.  Because of that, even when non-right-wingers engage in similar logic, my warning flags go up, because it signals yet another long-term discursive/politcal battle the right wing machine has won, because we so readily accept the terms of engagement.

          For me, its not "irritating", its "foreboding".  

          "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

          by a gilas girl on Fri Apr 02, 2004 at 07:50:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  exactly (none)
            thank you.  yes it is disturbing. We see our party hoping to win by being more vigilant against terror, more "supportive" of our troops - the question of whether the nation should be maintained on a permanant war footing, terror or no, is lost - any competition between military and social expenditures cannot be mentioned.  Its one thing if this posture is tactical - if it is wise for the Kerry campaign to take this or that tone - but it is dismaying to detect it here ostensibly among friends.

            Kos' remarks and explanation were both refreshing - for frankness in the first case and for acknowledging reality in the second.  For some of us anyway, mercenaries and military adventures are anathema.  

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