Friday, February 09, 2007

Reflecting on The 'M' Word

Quite simply, a person who does not wear a uniform and operates in a war zone carrying out functions that soldiers usually do and, most importantly, carry arms, all of this in return, only, for a salary are, in the English language, called mercenaries.

Listening to a story Amy Goodman is covering about "private security contractors" in Iraq:

What I notice is that both the title of the book by the guest she has, and the title of the segment itself on the Democracy Now! website use the "M" word, but no one besides that guest/book author uses that word.

Several things come up in this regard:

Firstly, why doesn't Amy use the word? I have a feeling it's because she doesn't want to get too far outside the mainstream of American discourse and sound like a crazy hippy.

Secondly, why won't Congressman Waxman use the word? He is looking at--and quoting--evidence about private persons carrying arms and wearing armour and so on. Why won't he call a spade a spade?

And the common person on the globe today--American or non-American. And even Muslim activists. Why won't anyone use the word?

In the segment above, Jeff Cahill asks why there is no follow up on a private contractor killing a civilian. And I don't understand why Jeff Cahill is even talking about Iraqi law which, as he says, has been completely compromised. In previous decades and centuries, as the global community moved towards nation states and a respect for the rule of law and justice on an international level, the phenomenon of mercenaries was one that was given special attention. Basically, they were declared illegal. Meaning that such a person is, by definition an illegal combatant of the most clear, well-defined kind. And meaning that, in the context of war, it was a crime to be one. A war crime.

[One problem, however, is that the Geneva Conventions do leave a weird loophole for citizens of a country that is a "party to the conflict". See the Wikipedia for more. Of course, maybe we need a better word for people who are private players under contract to a country that is party to a conflict...a privateer, maybe? Of course, that was the origin of the phenomenon of Pirates, wasn't it?]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are not right. No uniform means a spy. A mercenary wears a uniform; he is hired from another country; for example the Engish used German soldiers in American in the American Revolution. They wore their Hessian uniforms.