Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Sunday, April 04, 2004

If Not “Mercenaries,” What, then?

The use of the term “mercenary” to describe the private military contractors in Iraq has provoked a considerable, and frankly distracting, controversy over the last few days. It is certainly true that most of these guys are not, in a strict sense, mercenaries. Most, but not all, are Americans. And we don’t actually know if they are motivated primarily by money – though we do know that they are earning quite a lot of it. What is also true is that the controversy over the use of the term has merely distracted attention from more serious questions, such as, “What were these guys actually doing?” Until we find a better term, I don't think we're going to get much closer to an answer.

Here's Skippy:

we regret our use of the word. until we can find a better one, we'll just call those guys who died in fallujah while working for money in a war zone outside of the standard military auspices, those guys died in fallujah while working for money in a war zone outside of the standard military auspices.

Until we can find a better term. The fact of the matter is, we need a better term. Most of the existing formulations fall flat. Civilian contractors, the most common phrase, blurs the distinction between these guys and ordinary construction workers or food service workers. Private Guard, a term the Times has used, makes them sound like the wanna-be cops who patrol your local shopping mall, which is hardly the case. These guys were highly paid, highly trained, former special ops guys, operating from behind a corporate veil.

So what do we call them? Rent-a-SEALs? Corporate Paramilitary Forces? CPF’s? Extra-Military operators? Do we go for a clever acronym, like Government-sponsored Non-Accountable Tactical Teams (GNATTs). I'd love to hear more suggestions.


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