Mercenary leader splits hairs to defend his mercenaries

Posted: October 18, 2007 in Blackwater, lies, mercenaries, military, war

According to Blackwater CEO Erik Pri(n)ce (, the word “mercenary” is an inflammatory and slanderous term used by critics to malign his company and its employees. Whatever. I looked up the word on Wikipedia, and found (according to Article 47 of the Laws of War) that:

2. A mercenary is any person who:
(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.


Erik Prince, not a mercenary leader

So basically, the only thing separating Blackwater from what we would consider “traditional” mercenary units is that they are, as he said, Americans working for the American government. So we can eliminate criterion (d). We’ll also leave aside questions of their motivation (for now). As to the other criteria, they have been (a) serving abroad in combat operations, (b) taking part in the hostilities, (c) doing so to make money and lots of it, (e) are not members of any uniformed armed forces, and (f) see above.

So apart from (d), they are, indeed, mercenaries.

Of course, my definition is a lot cleaner and simpler. A mercenary is an individual or unit who:

  1. Is civilian in nature; i.e., not associated with any country’s military service,
  2. Is carrying weapons and engaged in combat operations in a theater of operations,
  3. Is getting paid to do it.

The bit about “material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces” is academic. I mean, why else would you risk your life if you didn’t have to or had not taken an oath to do so?

Exactly. You’d be nuts. Or a thrill-seeking asshole.

So, if he really wants to prove his employees are not mercenaries, he really only has to do one thing. He needs to put them on the same pay scale as every other legitimate soldier, sailor, airman and marine in Iraq today. I think a starting salary equivalent to E-5 ought to do it.

We’ll see how many of his so-called “contractors” stay on when their daily pay drops from $500 to $1500 per day to barely more than $100.

Oh, and he can make them subject to U.S. and Iraqi law, while he’s at it.

No matter how many hairs Pri(n)ce wants to split, his thugs are still mercenaries and he’s still a mercenary leader. Blackwater is an embarassment and a disgrace.


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