These mercenaries are accountable to no one but their corporate bosses.
Small numbers of mercenaries have been used in many modern wars, from Vietnam to Central America. The most famed modern mercenary force is France’s tough Foreign Legion.
The rise of powerful mercenary armies within the United States, and their use in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an entirely new, deeply disturbing development.
Last weekend, mercenaries from the U.S. firm Blackwater gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians during an attack on a convoy they were guarding. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, ordered Blackwater’s thousands of swaggering mercenaries expelled from Iraq. But his order was quickly countermanded by U.S. occupation authorities.
There are 180,000 to 200,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries in Iraq — or “private contractors” as Washington and the U.S. media delicately call them. They actually outnumber the 169,000 U.S. troops there. Britain pays for another 20,000. At least half are armed fighters, the rest support personnel and technicians. Without them, the U.S. and Britain could not maintain their occupation of Iraq.
Vice-President Dick Cheney took Vietnam’s lesson to heart by championing use of mercenaries for nasty foreign wars. But democracies should have no business unleashing armies of hired gunmen on the world.
Worse, these private armies hardwired to the Republican Party’s far right are a grave and intolerable danger to the American republic. Congress should outlaw them absolutely. The great Roman Republic held that mandatory military service by all citizens was the basis of democracy, while professional armies were a grave menace.
And they are paid so much more than ordinary military people that using them runs up the cost of the war enormously.
UPDATE: CNN has an article up today called "Iraq: Blackwater staff face charges". Here's an excerpt:
I wonder if the Iraqi government will be able to pull this off. Let's hope they at least are able to make enough noise that the world will take notice.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi government will file criminal charges against employees of U.S. security firm Blackwater who are blamed for a gun battle in Baghdad in which civilians were killed, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Sunday.
It is unclear how Iraqi courts will attempt to bring the contractors to trial. A July report from the Congressional Research Service said the Iraqi government has no authority over private security firms contracted by the U.S. government.