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23 September 2007


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Cold War Zoomie

"It will be argued that the "private armies" of US and other mercenary soldiers now in Iraq are not "accompanying" the US armed forces."

Where do these guys sleep at night, eat their meals, and buy their personal goodies like DVDs and toothpaste?

My bet is that they are billeted right alongside the active duty folks and USG civilians, with all living expenses paid for by DOD. An they probably have most, if not all, the MWR privileges as well.

Of course, someone has to press charges even if they are under the UCMJ, right?

Sidney O. Smith III

The actions of Blackwater and the like greatly endanger those in US uniform and ultimately all US citizens. If your first loyalty is to the US flag, then it becomes obvious that, like the neoconservatives, they are acting against US interests. Once again, the issue becomes of one of loyalty.

Look at it this way. If Blackwater operators murdered your kin in such a wanton manner, you‘d strike back by any means necessary. And this blowback is going to be directed towards the US. So anytime a Blackwater operator wantonly kills, Blackwater places in much greater peril our US troops, such as those 20 year olds patrolling Baghdad in humvees.

It’s obvious: the animating spirit of Blackwater has nothing to do with the US flag but is best described in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Blackwater does NOT arise out of the tradition as evidenced in the WWII handbook for US soldiers in Iraq. They are not part of the tradition that was at work during WWII.

No evidence exists that they incorporate what has been stressed at this website and basically arise from the following tenet: respect the local culture, that is how you win. All evidence is to the contrary.

The UCMJ opens the door to establish jurisdiction to prosecute mercenaries in Iraq. Here’s a lagniappe. Prosecuting mercenaries would do much to establish the US as Sun Tzu’s sovereign imbued with the moral law, which is paramount to winning (if you believe in Tzu). So prosecution of Blackwater not only addresses the question of injustice but also becomes a military tactic to win. It should be done in the interest of national security.

There’s a big problem with military prosecution. Based on the reluctance of the military to prosecute those in the Pentagon who sanctioned torture at Abu G and Gitmo, I am reminded of the ol’ saying…military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

This gives rise to an interesting question for law review types. Do civilian prosecutors have jurisdiction? Also victims of Blackwater may have a civilian cause of action. Odds of winning increase in a civil case because you do not have to worry about either the reasonable doubt standard or a unanimous verdict both of which are required in criminal prosecutions. Don’t forget punitive damages.

Several years ago, Col. Hackworth took a sure enough -- no kidding around stand opposing MPRI. Here’s Hackworth from years ago. He seems to pinpoint the origin of the tradition that today has given us Blackwater.

“While Ollie North's Contra boys and the mercenaries who botched up the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion might not have been so businesslike -- or so blatant -- they did establish an unfortunate tradition of hired guns sticking our nation into one minefield after another.

Dozens of ex-Army pals are presently working for the ever-expanding MPRI or other such military contractors in places like Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, ex-Yugoslavia and Colombia. We're talking booming business here.

But others have had the moral decency to say, "Take your high-paying mercenary job and stick it in your ear."

One still-serving three-war vet told me: "A number of contractors have been pitching me to work for them after I retire. I said no. There's no principles, no love of country, no honor -- just MONEY. I can't ... sell my soul for a buck."


Take a look at those who chose the military as a vocation -- a true calling. Despite any differences they may have between them, they all seem to agree on this point -- Blackwater is all about selling out.

Just a civilian opinion, but I’d be careful about privatizing two functions traditionally relegated to the State -- the administration of justice and the actual prosecution of war.


pl: All mercenaries in Iraq should be subject to UCMJ..

Perhaps these two paragraphs from the UN Security Council Resolution 1723 will be of interest to you.

The second is from the keyboard of Sec. Rice.

Affirming the importance for all forces promoting the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq to act in accordance with international law, including obligations under international humanitarian law, and to cooperate with the relevant international organizations, and welcoming their
commitments in this regard,


The forces that make up MNF will remain committed to acting consistently with their obligations and rights under international law, including the law of armed conflict.


When you answer the question "Why are there so many (100K plus) contractors in Iraq" you come to a number of political answers which need not be enumerated on.

We saw how Al Qaeda fouled up in Anbar by alienating the locals, can an out of control group of security contractors do the same, for sure and probably already have in a number of areas.

Thus why have our commanders in Iraq not brought these contractors under their control?

Yes, put them under the UCMJ and start enlarging our military so we do not get in this position again.


Am showing my age here, but kind of reminds me of Lockheed contractors in the 60's and 70's working in the Kingdom, building their own stills to subvert local ban on alcohol, partying (out of boredom) and generally living up to rep as the Ugly Americans. Except for the AK-47's, body armor and convoys of humvees, of course...

Wayne White

Pat, you are spot on with respect to the ROE under which Blackwater and the rest of the armed contractors should have been operating, along with some measure of meaningful oversight, right from the beginning.

Let's face it, since 2003 there have been numerous bits of data about alleged or real incidents involving violent, threatening or especially arrogant behavior on the part of contractors in Iraq.

By this time tens of thousands of Iraqis doubtless have witnessed acts of violence or sheer arrogance on the part of various contractor cadres. In a country in which very little can go a long way in helping to spread negative perceptions throughout the populace, the collateral psychological damage leading to even more deeply degraded Iraqi attitudes toward Americans in general might well be more severe than any of us can possibly grasp.

Some of the many concluded and pending cases of abuse on the part of members of the uniformed military in Iraq demonstrate just how difficult it is to maintain normal discipline in this sort of a combat/security environment, let alone if there is, by comparison, very little oversight.

If our effort in Iraq eventually fails, one less obvious and talked-about contributing factor would be the corrosive effect of years of contractor abuse along these lines.


A much better solution, at least for State, is to let it have its own security force. Or perhaps expand the Marine embassy security details to include personal diplomatic security as well.

There's also the problem of non-US citizen mercenaries. Is it really possible to hold a citizen of a foreign government in a foreign land accountable to the UCMJ?


As someone who has never served in the military, I find it hard to think of folks who provide "security services" for money as mercenaries. Are the security guards in a bank mercenaries? If not, what's the difference?

The problem, as I see it, is that these security contractors aren't subject to any laws or restraints. Bank guards can't just randomly shoot people and get away with it. Giving people guns and putting them in a dangerous situation like Iraq without any restraints is such an obvious potential danger that it scarcely requires discussion. Yet here we are forced to discuss it, because our government was too feckless to provide the framework that was necessary.

Thanks for bringing this subject up. Hopefully, someday we won't have to have this discussion any more.


it could be argued that the bush admin. does NOT want its praetorian guard blackwater and the other associated mercs operations in the iraq aor 'brought under control', for if it had truely wanted such accomplished, blackwater praetorians and the other mercs would have been brought 'under control' of our ucmj, a long ago.

Cold War Zoomie

"Or perhaps expand the Marine embassy security details to include personal diplomatic security as well."

That would require a change in their mission. Contrary to popular belief, a Marine's number one priority is to protect classified information inside the embassy, not the staff. And definitely not dips outside the embassy compound except in extreme emergencies.

It would be faster for State to enhance their existing security force.

Jean Soucy


And there you have it. Mercenaries are identified as Paid fighters who are not of a Nationality of the warring factions. US Citizens cannot be Mercenaries, as they are a nationality of the Warring factions, and should be held to UCMJ, but, and I do not use Blackwater, all of the PSD I have used are Eastern European, South African, (Aussi and Brit who may be considered warring factions) and Ghurkas. Not subject to UCMJ. I Think Maliki is making a fuss, and rightly so, to re-negotiate the Rules of Engagement of Private Security Forces. I would suggest he be careful what he asks for, as once they reel in these guys, they will start suffering unexceptable losses, and will leave. Maliki needs to be sure his security forces can fill that Security Vacuum.

W. Patrick Lang


I presume that you are not American.

I don't care what wikipedia says about mercenaries. They also say a lot of crap about me. These PMC people are soldiers whose only interest is in the money and that makes them mercs to me. pl

Jean Soucy

Col Lang

You assume incorrectly, I am an American with 26 years in US Army. Since 1992 have worked as a Military Trainer for Vinnel, General Dynamics,Lockheed Martin,TRW, MPRI, and Others. Since 2003 I hve worked on ytraining programs for Iraqi Armed Forces and other Iraqi Security Forces and The Afganistan National Army. I have seen the Security companies in action and do not always agree with there methods but appreciate their results. I have been called many things and mercenariy, though not true was not the worst. I saw your Bio, are you a member of SFA. Thanks for your forum. Jean Louis Soucy

Jon Stopa

The creation of private armies is one with Bush's privatizing Social Security, etc. If we need platoons of body guards, ie., a sort of light infantry units, then we should make them a part of a military chain of command.

And that pay, wow, that's going to really eat into a perception of fairness.

Jean Soucy

I never Thought to look at Wikpedia to see what they said about you, Thanks. I always thought you kept a good handle on the Tiger Force issue and were always fair to me. Never thought you might lean Left. Is Wikpedia right.


Thanks Col for exposing these PMC's for what they really are...

"Dogs of War"

Babak Makkinejad


An extra-territoriality convention shoved down Iran's throat by US after the 1953 Coup against Mossadeq's government severly damaged Shah's nationalist credentials and was used quite effectively in a fiery a speech by Aytullah Khomeini in 1961 - the speech that marked (in my opinion) the road to the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

I should expect similar reactions in Iraq.


i always look back to Rome for understanding:


The word soldier is derived from an Old French word, itself a derivation of Solidarius, Latin for someone who served in the armed forces for pay, as opposed to warriors in tribal society where every grown man is automatically a member of his clan's fighting force. Solidare in Latin means "to pay"; Roman soldiers were paid in solidi, so-called because they were a new type of solid gold coin brought in after a reform of the Roman money system."

The legio had an extreme form of punishment, decimation. For example Crassus, who was ignominiously wiped out by the Persicos at Carrahae, ordered it on one of his legios after a defeat by the slave army of Spartacus.

W. Patrick Lang

I thought you might be foreign because you don't use a US PSD.

Me, Left? I think Bush's foreign policy is stupid. That doesn't make me
"Left." Let's see - If Jefferson, George Marshall and Robert E. Lee were "Left" then maybe I am too.

Seriously, the Jacobin neocons at AEI and in OVP are not conservatives. They are radical revolutionaries. They want to change the world and they want the change NOW, like a three year old wants his way. I know that is not possible. The world changes itself on its own schedule. I am a conservative. They are not.

Wikipedia is a mixed blessing. The entry on me has been vandalised a number of times. The entries are correct but some of them are things that I find unimportant while other things that were important are left out or have been removed by "editors."

I am a life member of both SFA and SOA. pl

Jean Soucy

A Lot of folks want to say that US private contractors make so much money and that if you work for one you are a mercenary. I have been their and I have met so many of them. Cooks making $50,000,Truck Drivers making $60,000 and Fire Fighters making $80,000. Project Managers making $130,000. That is not much compensation for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 49 weeks a year. The Tax Break helps, but they are constantly in danger. and it is the everyday, simple occupations that make up the most of the Private Contractors. Not the few PSD Types that Blackwater, Triple Canopy, Global Security, ETC... employ.

Jean Soucy

Sir, I Understand your position. Your site tends to be a bit more cerebal than this old CSM can follow, but I try to contribute where I can based on my experience, but some of these contributers are way over my head. JLS D-6662 Life



You said:
Any "agreement" having been made by Bremer's CPA is subject to revision by the US government."

I believe Judge Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia (US District Judge) has ruled that the CPA was not an 'instrumentality of the US Government. If the contractors can't be sued for defrauding our own government since the CPA was not a government entity then those same contractors certainly don't have immunity from US law by claiming they are following foreign rules/laws while working directly under contract to the US Government. If contractors are on/using our bases and/or logistical (or other) support they should be forced to follow US law, including USC Chapter 10 as you point out. That would be a step to bring them under control.

Alternately, if contractors like Blackwater claims they are working for a foreign concern then we should bill them for the services the US Army provides when they bail them out of trouble they start. Take the money, then let the contractors go back to the Iraqi government and try and get reimbursed!

Domestically the Congress should be asking Mr. Prince how he is running Blackwater if the conduct of his employees is harming US national interest and endangering the lives our or soldiers.


William R. Cumming

An interesting analysis of the development of the modern armed forces of the nation-states is contained in the 1982 book by historian William McNeil "The Pursuit of Power" describing the industrialization of the use of force since the year 1000 A.D. He explains why the hiring of the Conditerroti (sic)in 14th and 15th Century Italy led to the development of State directed armies and navies. Clearest explanation I have seen as to why States don't just hire armies and navies.
Fundamental reason is the States wanted to have complete control over organized violence. Also has great analysis of why the development of modern weapons led to the MIC (Military-Industrial Complex). Basically the expense of modern weaponary and technical complexity. Royal Navy from 1860 to 1914 prime example given. That Navy only tied at Jutland because they adopted an inferior range-finder to the Germans. Worth re-reading if read before as is his "Plagues and Peoples."

Martin K

Sir. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how the use of Blackwater reflects on OPSEC? I would assume that if Blackwater is tasked with diplomat convoys, etc., this would amount to protecting high value targets. I would assume in extension, US forces would be required to assist if one of these convoys go wrong, and also that there must be some sort of official exchange of information-cycle in place. As you earlier mentioned to me, anyone can be subverted, doesnt this leave a big hole in US security?

As for the psychological effect, imagine Chicago awash with 10000 unmarked shooters dressed in black in addition to an occupying army and local civil war. Thats about Baghdad for ya. Now, the Baghdadis cant get mad at their local warlords or the US , guess who are the hated ones? Just wait for the first Blackwater-prostitute/"rape" story to come.


Dear Col. Lang,
Agreed: neo-cons are radical revolutionaries, since they want basic, far-reaching change. But I think you do yourself a disservice to call yourself a conservative without indicating that you believe in democracy and due process of law. The neo-cons believe in authoritarian rule and American domination of the world through authoritarian puppet regimes. They are like the 19th century imperialists . They don't use the term "Manifest Destiny" often, but I think the term, and they way it was used to justify dispossessing non-white peoples on the North American continent and then the Pacific and Caribbean, is very relevant. Those who believed in Manifest Destiny always argued that the peoples to be conquered were INCAPABLE of self-government.
Your blog has the most original, informative comments of any that I have encountered.

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