Are contractors mercenaries?

Some of the lefty blogs have started calling the “civilian contractors” in Iraq mercenaries. The idea being: they’re mostly ex-military and they’re in Iraq for the big bucks. Guns for hire, mainly.

But my understanding of the term is that a mercenary would fight under any flag in any land if the paycheck is big enough. Does anybody seriously think former Navy Seals are going to hire on for brushfire wars in central Africa or take jobs protecting drug kingpins in Colombia? Could happen, I suppose, but it seems unlikely.

What’s really happening in Iraq is that guys who signed up for enormous risk as U.S. special-ops troops are finally getting some of the monetary rewards denied them by us, the U.S. taxpayers.

Having all these private employees and all their lethal training outside Pentagon control raises any number of worrisome issues, but that doesn’t really mean they’ve become mercenaries in the widest meaning of the term.

So keep an eye out: “mercenary” has a politically charged meaning these days … it’s become a fresh buzzword that we should be keeping out of news copy, except in direct quotes.

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