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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

"Mercenaries" was the term we used in the past for this brand of defense contractor. These days, the private companies that provide logistical support and security have a new veneer of credibility. Currently, we're using these guys to secure oil fields and to provide support when the invasion of Iraq happens (probably sometime after the softening of Iraqi defenses by British and American warplanes, which I should add is illegal and not covered by the No-Fly-Zone agreements). Mercenaries have several major problems. Often they're often not as well-trained or disciplined as regular army troops. Some of these guys have past military or law-enforcement experience, but often security companies will hire whomever they can get to fulfill recruitment quotas. There's a great book called "Firepower" by Chris Dempster and Dave Thomkins, two mercenaries who went to Angola in 1976 and witnessed, among other things, the massacre of 13 British citizens by "General Callan". He had been hired by Holden Roberto, the leader of the FNLA, as a field commander. The British recruits had been told that they'd be performing mainly support tasks -- driving trucks, teaching, working as mechanics, but when they got to the field Callan gave them guns and told that they were going to fight. 13 of the men rebelled, attacking some of the other mercenaries and then running for the Zairean border to get out of the country. When Callan caught them, he had them taken to a field where they were brutally gunned down and their bodies were left to rot. The FNLA at the time was receiving funds, arms, and other forms of support from the CIA, and while they weren't recruited directly by the CIA, Roberto was using the money he got from the CIA to pay Callan. Throughout the conflict the CIA hired other groups of mercenaries with similarly ineffective results. Modern mercenaries work for large companies, are better equipped and trained, and have the prestige of the company to worry about. Nevertheless, even the better-equipped and trained mercenaries are still hired guns, and money can't buy loyalty or patriotism (despite our blatant attempts to do just that with Turkey, among others). Mercenaries pose a terrible threat to the security of an operation and to the general public, and we should be very concerned about their use in a conflict with Iraq.

Andrew 10:50 AM : |


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