April 02, 2004
How To Tell A Mercenary In One Easy Lesson

I hate to quote one of the viler trolls still infesting some of the less-often-fumigated parts of the Blogosphere, but something 'JadeGold' wrote over at HobbsOnline is worth answering in detail.

He (she? it?) insists that the four Blackwater emplyees lynched in Fallujah are properly described as 'mercenaries', and this opinion seems to be near-universal in the leftmost quarter or fifth of the political spectrum:

What makes them mercenaries is that they're not there out of any sense of patriotism or duty or country; they're there for money. Period.

And the pay is good, around a $1000 per day.

I take it that that "Period" means they are motivated purely by money.

A simple thought-experiment may help clarify the question. Suppose these four men were still alive, and were sitting around their temporary quarters (hotel? tent?) in Iraq when a local brought them an offer to join the "resistance". Suppose they listened carefully to the details of the offer (I know, this is already getting into Fantasyland), and were firmly convinced that it would be no more dangerous to help Iraqis kill their fellow Americans than it already was to help Americans do whatever it was they were helping them do for Iraqis, and that they could get away with it in the long run. Suppose they were offered a substantial pay-raise, to $1,200 or $1,500 or $2,000 per day. Once convinced that the increase in pay was not outweighed by an even greater increase in risk, anyone properly describable as a mercenary would take the offer immediately. After all, as 'JadeGold' astutely puts it, mercenaries are "not there out of any sense of patriotism or duty or country; they're there for money".

Would these men have taken such an offer? Would they even have listened to such an offer to the end? Would they have allowed the messenger bringing such an offer to leave their presence unmolested? If you think the answer to these questions is "not only no, but Hell no", then you agree that they were not mercenaries. If you still think they were mercenaries, I recommend that you not say so out loud around their families or their service buddies or in fact anyone who's not a moral and intellectual cretin like your own pathetic self. That will still leave you plenty of opportunities to express yourself to an appreciative audience, for instance in the comments on DailyKos and several other left-wing blogs.

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P.S. Is there any evidence that these particular guys were making anywhere near $1,000 per day, after expenses? That sounds like the kind of figure recruiters and credulous reporters might throw around. I don't doubt that a few specialists with unusual combinations of knowledge (e.g. advanced computer hacking + fluent idiomatic Iraqi Arabic) might earn that much, but I suspect the standard rate is rather lower. Or is $1,000 / day what Blackwater charges per person, including overhead and expenses, which would of course be substantial? When I worked in computers years ago, I believe the company charged the government 2.5 times my salary for my services, despite the fact that I didn't need to be fed or lodged or transported anywhere at all, much less halfway around the world. The markup was necessary to cover fringe benefits and management costs, along with a profit that was far less 1.5 times my salary.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 02, 2004 07:20 PM