Everyone's a Consultant

Everyone’s a Consultant by pendragon David Whelan The photos coming out of Fallujah are particularly nasty these days, particularly the dismembered, burnt security guards who were ambushed by local guerrila fighters. As terrible as this is, my attention has strayed to the nomenclature now surrounding this type of “hired gun” and the role these people play, particularly in light of historic roles of soldiers in American history.

Iraq is a place where horrible things happen these days. Whether this is because of religion, culture, or just the plain stresses and terrors of war, it’s hard to say. But the over-reaction of the American press to the deaths of the 4 men in Fallujah are the typical navel-gazing, blindered reporting that seems to be common this war.

First, no-one is a security consultant in Iraq armed as these guys are armed. They’re mercenaries, soldiers for hire. There’s nothing negative about that connotation. This is a time-honored role, and one’s honor in military service need not derive from the political or other leadership dictating how that service is delivered. Security consultant makes it sound like they’re not expecting to be blown apart by the same rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher or detonated roadside bomb as the state military. These men (I assume there are women) are not taking a hiatus from their supermarket parking lot surveillance jobs. They’re highly trained, highly skilled, highly paid professionals who know, or should know, the work-life balance to which they’re committing.

Second, how can the government hire (or allow Paul Bremer to hire) the staff of Blackwater Consulting and other mercenary organizations on the one hand, and then decry their lack of control over these “civilians” on the other? As with most things in this war – and in President George W. Bush’s ecomony, outsourcing is the watchword. Not enough US soldiers? Bring in the United Nations peace keepers to help out, even though the commander in chief neither sought nor valued input, which would have likely proven insightful and correct in hindsight, from their national leaders. Sending senior diplomats abroad? Nevermind all the many well-trained security professionals in the U.S. government, military or otherwise, who could have provided security. No, let’s do national security based on responses to “requests for proposals” (RFPs).

It will be interesting to see how this role progresses. While they have been around for centuries – Julius Caesar used them against the Gauls – their role has always been as the brass knuckles, the paid talent to ensure an outcome. If the terrorist threat is now becoming a function less of state sponsorship but more of disassociated, privately funded specialists, then perhaps there will be a simultaneous growth in multi-nationally funded private armies that begin to operate without political sanction to address the threats their shareholders are most concerned about. The international crime syndicates are low-life versions of this change – imagine what a privately organized army of even 1500 or more special service veterans could do in nearly any developed or undeveloped country to destabilize governments or control resources.

Perhaps in future, the press will wring their hands less as more mercenaries become involved – and are injured or killed – but give these honorable soldiers their due: they were prepared for their job and they did their best to do their job, regardless of who paid the bills.

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