Contractor or mercenary?
I've struggled with what to write about the story in today's Washington Post
, but it seemed too important to just let it ride.
The article is an excerpt from a new book by Post reporter Steve Fainaru, called "Big Boy Rules: America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq." The article, while sad, is definitely worth a read.
The story of the life and death of Jonathon Coté puts a very human face on the shift in how contractors have been used in the Iraq War.
Coté worked for a security company and was kidnapped and killed. Fainaru raises important questions about the policy implications of using private contractors to fill security roles in a war zone. Coté's company provided security for convoys, people and facilities.
At 23, his death is sad and the fact that his death and the deaths of other contractors is largely ignored is a shame. Apparently, no records are kept of those deaths, except by the individual companies.
While I recommend the story, one thing that kept jumping out at me was Fainaru's uses of the word mercenary to describe Coté and the other security guards.
I know Fairnaru is trying to make a point, that he believes that the government has gone too far in how it uses contractors. I'm not sure I would call them mercenaries, but I'm not sure what the right word is.
Is Fairnaru off-base? If contractors are fighting battles for the U.S. government, which is what the use of the word mercenary implies to me, then it makes me wonder what is the definition of "inherently governmental?" How far is too far?
Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 01, 2008 at 9:54 AM