(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)

From Wikipedia’s entry on the American Revolutionary War

Early in 1775, the British Army consisted of about 36,000 men worldwide… Additionally, over the course of the war the British hired about 30,000 soldiers from German princes, these soldiers were called “Hessians” because many of them came from Hesse-Kassel. The troops were mercenaries in the sense of professionals who were hired out by their prince. Germans made up about one-third of the British troop strength in North America.

On December 26th 1776 after being chased by the British army under Lords Howe and Cornwallis augmented by these “Hessians” led by Wilhelm von Knyphausen from Brooklyn Heights to the other side of the Delaware the fate of the Continental Army and thus the United States looked bleak.  The Continental Congress abandoned Philidephia, fleeing to Baltimore.  It was at this time Thomas Paine was inspired to write The Crisis.

The story of Washington’s re-crossing of the Delaware to successfully attack the “Hessian” garrison at Trenton is taught to every school child.

On March 31, 2004 Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater USA.

The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, were dragged from their cars, beaten, and set ablaze. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates.

Of this incident the next day prominent blogger Markos Moulitsas notoriously said-

Every death should be on the front page (2.70 / 40)

Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly.

That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

(From Corpses on the Cover by gregonthe28th.  This link directly to the comment doesn’t work for some reason.)

Now I think that this is a reasonable sentiment that any patriotic American with a knowledge of history might share.

Why bring up this old news again, two days from the 231st anniversary of the Battle of Trenton?

Warnings Unheeded On Guards In Iraq

Despite Shootings, Security Companies Expanded Presence

By Steve Fainaru, Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, December 24, 2007; A01

The U.S. government disregarded numerous warnings over the past two years about the risks of using Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms in Iraq, expanding their presence even after a series of shooting incidents showed that the firms were operating with little regulation or oversight, according to government officials, private security firms and documents.

Last year, the Pentagon estimated that 20,000 hired guns worked in Iraq; the Government Accountability Office estimated 48,000.

The Defense Department has paid $2.7 billion for private security since 2003, according to USA Spending, a government-funded project that tracks contracting expenditures; the military said it currently employs 17 companies in Iraq under contracts worth $689.7 million. The State Department has paid $2.4 billion for private security in Iraq — including $1 billion to Blackwater — since 2003, USA Spending figures show.

The State Department’s reliance on Blackwater expanded dramatically in 2006, when together with the U.S. firms DynCorp and Triple Canopy it won a new, multiyear contract worth $3.6 billion. Blackwater’s share was $1.2 billion, up from $488 million, and the company more than doubled its staff, from 482 to 1,082. From January 2006 to April 2007, the State Department paid Blackwater at least $601 million in 38 transactions, according to government data.

The company developed a reputation for aggressive street tactics. Even inside the fortified Green Zone, Blackwater guards were known for running vehicles off the road and pointing their weapons at bystanders, according to several security company representatives and U.S. officials.

Based on insurance claims there are only 25 confirmed deaths of Blackwater employees in Iraq, including the four killed in Fallujah.  You might care to contrast that with the 17 Iraqis killed on September 16th alone.  Then there are the 3 Kurdish civilians in Kirkuk on February 7th of 2006.  And the three employees of the state-run media company and the driver for the Interior Ministry.

And then exactly one year ago today, on Christmas Eve 2006, a Blackwater mercenary killed the body guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi while drunk at a Christmas party (the mercenary, not the guard or Vice President Abdul-Mahdi who were both presumably observant Muslims and no more likely to drink alcohol than Mitt Romney to drink tea).

Sort of makes all those embarrassing passes you made at co-workers and the butt Xeroxes at the office party seem kind of trivial, now doesn’t it?

So that makes it even at 25 apiece except I’ve hardly begun to catalog the number of Iraqis killed by trigger happy Blackwater mercenaries.

They say irony is dead and I (and Santayana) say that the problem with history is that people who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it.


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  1. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but one whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.  My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light.

    Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.  I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

    There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one.  There are persons too who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful.

    It is the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice.  Even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war.

    He is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it.  I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination, I bring reason to your ears and, in language as plain as A B C, hold up truth to your eyes.

    I thank God, that I fear not.  I see no real cause for fear.  I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.

    By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils-

    • a ravaged country
    • a depopulated city
    • habitations without safety
    • and slavery without hope

    Our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for whose fathers we shall doubt of.

    Look on this picture and weep over it!  And if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.

    • Tigana on December 24, 2007 at 11:58

    Thank you, ek, for shining light in this horrid midden.  

    • pfiore8 on December 24, 2007 at 16:49

    i think ek mentioned he was (as i am) a fan of xrepub…. reading ek’s essay brought this this particular xrepub diary to mind for its definition of mercenaries

    Well, one of the signs of the end of Republic and beginning of Empire is the use of paid mercenaries.  When your own citizens are no longer serving in your army – usually because the army is no longer being used for defense but instead for conquest – you resort to paying others to do so.

    The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

    Although private companies have played a role in conflicts since the American Revolution, the U.S. has relied more on contractors in Iraq than in any other war, according to military experts.

    History shows that empires often fall directly BECAUSE of the mercenaries they employ…… those that fight for pay demand more and better treatment – or decide that what is in their employer’s best interest is not in theirs….

    here’s the link to the full diary from, appropriately,  July 4, 2007

    • documel on December 24, 2007 at 16:50

    Some call the Iraqi fighters “insurgents,” if I were an Iraqi, I’d call them freedom fighters.  They have a more legitimate fight than did the Minutemen–their country was invaded by a foriegn country–by Christians on a Crusade, they’re fighting not only for independence, but for their God.

    • odillon on December 24, 2007 at 20:19

    it just got a bit harder. I feel the same as kos about how mercenaries’ deaths, when they are there to make big bucks, do not grieve me.

    But recently my dear niece got involved with a soldier who is just back in Iraq. He was a sniper, not sure what he does now. But it’s gotten to him. He seemed, the one time I met him, to be sweet and kind, a sgt who did not want to return to Baghdad but has. Now I’ve found out he’s been thinking of joining Blackwater and I’m shocked and upset because the war has gotten to him. It’s caused him to have what he described recently as “blood lust.” I wondered if he was just psyching himself up for combat until I learned he had thoughts about becoming a mercenary. I’m now thinking perhaps he is under stress and strain and doesn’t know what he’s thinking, or perhaps he’s got ptsd or a brain injury! But mainly I am so sad to realize that good people can go off to war and come out of it less so, really messed up emotionally and mentally as well as physically. I do hate war so much. And I hate those who cause it. And I hate those to capitalize on war. People like Eric Prince and G W Bush and Dick Cheney have a lot on the minus side of their eternal balance sheets.

  2. I though the story significant that I added it to today’s 4@4… I hope you don’t mind.

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