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Subject: Question about mercenaries
mustavaris    4/3/2004 7:18:05 AM
There seems to be a few people here who know about war & law. One thing has come to my mind now and then and now again.. Those "civilian contractors" who are serving, oops working in Iraq.. Many of them are de facto mercenaries, armed guys with military background and military gadgets. What is their situation according to law? Are they free prey without much of the rights legal combatants do have? I dont know the details too well, but in my opinion (yes, its an opinion at the moment, cannot say that I knew) they are illegal combatants like not-to-be-mentioned ppl out there. Am I badly wrong? Is it this simple? Another question; on what grounds those ppl are allowed to carry military weaponry in Iraq? Doesnt international/iraqi law prohibit such? DISCLAIMER; this is not meant to be taken as an insult to those people of whom many are doing important work in Iraq and in many other dangerous corners of the world and setting their lives in danger while doing it, though I wouldnt praise their `noble`motives. Too much money involded;) Cheers!
 
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Horsesoldier    RE:Question about mercenaries   4/3/2004 7:49:17 AM
>>Many of them are de facto mercenaries, armed guys with military background and military gadgets.<< Are you sure they're armed? (Were the guys in Fallujah?) I heard an interview on NPR's Fresh Air with a former Special Forces officer who is now head of security for KBR (if I remember right). One thing he stressed was that his people were not armed when moving around outside secured areas specifically because being armed would void out their non-combatant status. On the other hand, there was a recent Army Time article (I think it has been discussed on one of the boards here) about a former SEAL, now contractor, gunning down an attacking Iraqi gunman with an improved 5.56mm round. I believe the current legal definition of Mercenary is as follows: Article 1 For the purposes of the present Convention, 1. A mercenary is any person who: (a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict; (b) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party; (c) Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict; (d) Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and (e) Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces. 2. A mercenary is also any person who, in any other situation: (a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of participating in a concerted act of violence aimed at : (i) Overthrowing a Government or otherwise undermining the constitutional order of a State; or (ii) Undermining the territorial integrity of a State; (b) Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for significant private gain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material compensation; (c) Is neither a national nor a resident of the State against which such an act is directed; (d) Has not been sent by a State on official duty; and (e) Is not a member of the armed forces of the State on whose territory the act is undertaken. Note that the guys killed in Fallujah were questionable to outright outside the definition in the following ways: 1(a) -- There to protect humanitarian relief workers. It might be murky to say they were recruited specifically to fight in Iraq -- they might be armed (or might not, as outlined above) but they're also there to teach and monitor force protection measures, etc. 1(c) -- US citizens, with the US being a party to the conflict. 2(a)ii -- The Hussein regime already being overthrown, the US contractors are there to stabilize, not destabilize the Iraqi government. 2(d) -- If a contractor is fulfilling a US goverment contract, and their inhouse or sub-contracted security specialists fall under that contract, are they not there on official duty? In any case, the UN critique of mercenaries stems directly from the events in post-colonial Africa, and the laws are somewhat peculiar to that time and place. Like so much else in international law, the wording reflects the interests of the powerful -- specifically note that as the definition is worded, neither the Gurkhas nor the French Foreign Legion (or the Spanish one, I suppose) can be legally considered mercenaries in a number of ways.
 
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celebrim    RE:Question about mercenaries   4/5/2004 12:51:13 PM
I appreciate the disclaimer, but in my experience most people who want to accuse the contractors in Iraq of being mercenaries are primarily interested in villianizing the contractors so that they don't have to increase the complexity of thier views on the war. The goal of that behavior is essentially to salve the nagging doubts that they felt after watching the images of the enemy savagely and barbaricly brutalizing humans. Such images challenge thier preconcieved notions about who in this conflict is 'evil', so to keep from feeling ashamed of themselves they villianize the victems. Essentially, they want to say, "It's ok what was done, because they deserved it." I've got no sympathy with that. I do have a little bit of sympathy for those that approve of the mission and its goals, but wonder about the means. Clearly, the use of private contractors in some areas is getting close to some gray areas. First, lets note that there are lots of definitions of mercenary. By the definition used in the 14th century when the term first began to be used, everyone in the US army is a mercenary. They all serve for monetary recompense, as opposed to feudal obligation or in payment of corvey (a service tax). In other words, they are paid for thier service to the State, rather than paying the State for its service to them. But clearly, such definitions of mercenary - while instructive historically - should be treated as being wholly obselete. The dictionary definition of mercenary is defined first as, "One that serves merely for wages, especially one hired into foreign service." Note that the first clause is the medieval definition of mercenary. It's the latter qualifier that should especially concern us. I can't speak to the motivations of the contractors, though I would doubt they are _only_ motivated for pay, but in modern times, the term mercenary is usually applied to soldiers who are hired either not by a state, or to fight for states that they are not citizens of. Clearly neither case applies here. The second definition of mercenary is even more instructive, "Serving merely for pay or sordid advantage. SYN: venal, greedy." I bring this up only because clearly the intent of most people who are defining the contractors in Iraq as mercenaries are doing so not because they are courious as to thier legal standing, but because they wish to apply the most negative slur to them that they think that they can get to stick. But, as for the money, these are men and women who have families and who have a hard time making ends meet on military pay. The current pay structure is set up more or less with the idea that only the senior officers will be married and have families. Modern social realities make it very hard on soldiers, requiring many to rely on thier family and community for charity in order that they might serve. Many buy extra equipment out of thier own pockets because the precurement process is clogged with red tape and congressional dickering. If you don't believe that, go spend some time in one of the small military towns that provide our soldiery and talk with folks. Its especially hard on our most skilled and educated troops - helicopter pilots, doctors, information technology specialists, special forces, logistics officers, and so forth - all of whom have very marketable job skills. Currently the army is working on setting Warrant Officer positions for of those high skilled people, but its having a very hard time competing with the public market place and was running for nearly a decade on a highly restricted budget but still required to have the same capabilities. So I personally am disinclined to be hard on a soldier who gives up soldiering to earn some money for his family. The definition of mercenary provided by the Geneva Conventions is very exact, and to qualify as a mercencary combatant you must meet six exacting standards. "(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict; (b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities; (c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party; (d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict; (e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and (f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces." The contractors in Iraq meet only some of them. "a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict." Certainly they were 'recruited', and their is an 'armed conflict' taking place, but it is not at all clear that they were recruited in a comba
 
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celebrim    PS: It's also instructive to read the next section...   4/5/2004 12:55:11 PM
While we are talking about Mercenaries, anyone who is interested would do well to read the next section governing the protection of civilians. While we are wrangling about whether we are in violation of the spirit of international law, or enemies have no compulsion against flaunting it utterly - and indeed make it their expressed operational doctrine to do so.
 
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mustavaris    RE:Question about mercenaries to Celebrim   4/5/2004 1:53:42 PM
"I appreciate the disclaimer, but ..." In fact I have been thinking about bringing this question here for a pretty long time and it was more or less coinincidence when it happened when it did. Although it may be possible that the word mercenary was brought into my mind when I first heard those accusations. I have no sympathy for such behaviour weŽve seen in Fallujah nor I do say that they got what they deserved. But it cannot be ignored that those guys knew what they were doing and they certainly knew that they were going to danger their lives when they took their asses there. And as an atheist I donŽt think that the mutilation made them feel any worse. It was mere a barbaric show of `victory`. Dead are dead. The Question is how they are going to punish those morons who mutilated the bodies..got their faces etc.. obviously those guys showing their bravery & manhood werenŽt the same people who killed the guys. But in any case, they should be punished... Maybe timing wasnt the best and often I say things my way which may make some people nervous, but thats my way and IŽll take all the crap I earn with such behaviour. The answers I have gotten seem to be quite interesting and complete. I thank you (and Horsesoldier) for them. DonŽt get too serious with that Mogadishu deja vu, now there is 2nd round coming and maybe thats the last one for Fallujah. Now my opinion... I guess that Celebrim put it pretty well in the last phrase; they (civilian contractors in Iraq) are not acting as mercenaries. I really dont have anything to add. Cheers!
 
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Savant    RE:Question about mercenaries to Celebrim   12/6/2004 2:57:32 PM
The term Mercenary in the classic sense used to denote rogue style warriors hired for staging and helping along military style coupes, over-throwing govts or repelling coups and countering the over-throw of govts. Famed for not having any loyalty to anyone except themselves and the mighty dollar, some people still believe they have caused many of the modern day headaches of Africa. However Executive Outcomes had a very positive finish in Sierra Leonne effectively driving out Taylor backed RUF rebels and restoring the .S.L. Govt. so they cant be all bad now can they? (feel free to post other examples here, this is only one off the top of my head) I dont see much relation to pmc contractors being mercenaries. Most were hired to be security for one thing or another, whether its people, property or munitions, food....whatever, and the fact that they are attacked and assaulted and have to to use weapons to repel these attacks, do not make them even close to being mercenaries in the true and classic sense. I see it as just another spin by the left to de-bunk the Iraq conflict, and it brings somewhat of a disgrace to the good fellows who have given thier lives for an honorable cause.... mainly being the security of Iraqi citizens and property which they were hired to protect.
 
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jastayme3    RE:Question about mercenaries to Celebrim   3/15/2005 7:24:45 PM
I don't see what the point about mercenaries is. They are as old as warfare. Making someones motives for fighting an issue in deciding their status under international law is rather odd, especially as many of the people who design such statutes sound odd questioning others motives. Mercenaries should be held to the same standards as other soldiers. I don't see how they make war any worse by their presence then by their absence. And at least if they know how to do it competantly they might shorten it. As for the contractors in Iraq; aren't they working for a state of which they are a citizen?
 
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jastayme3       9/29/2008 1:45:52 AM

The term Mercenary in the classic sense used to denote rogue style warriors hired for staging and helping along military style coupes, over-throwing govts or repelling coups and countering the over-throw of govts.

Famed for not having any loyalty to anyone except themselves and the mighty dollar, some people still believe they have caused many of the modern day headaches of Africa.

However Executive Outcomes had a very positive finish in Sierra Leonne effectively driving out Taylor backed RUF rebels and restoring the .S.L. Govt. so they cant be all bad now can they? (feel free to post other examples here, this is only one off the top of my head)

I dont see much relation to pmc contractors being mercenaries. Most were hired to be security for one thing or another, whether its people, property or munitions, food....whatever, and the fact that they are attacked and assaulted and have to to use weapons to repel these attacks, do not make them even close to being mercenaries in the true and classic sense.

I see it as just another spin by the left to de-bunk the Iraq conflict, and it brings somewhat of a disgrace to the good fellows who have given thier lives for an honorable cause.... mainly being the security of Iraqi citizens and property
which they were hired to protect.

Actually mercenaries in the classic sense were real soldiers fighting real wars between rival states. The kind of mercenary you are describing is a niche left when the evolution of standing armies and nation-states made mercenaries superfluous.
 
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