Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When Is a Soldier Not a Soldier?

When is a soldier not a soldier?  When he or she is a mercenary . . . or part of the growing “private military”, also known as private security contractors (PSC’s).

In Iraq, a soldier is not a soldier when he or she is in country paid indirectly rather than directly by the United States government.  A soldier is a PSC and not a soldier when he or she works for a private contracting firm receiving billions of tax dollars for the privilege.  A solider is a PSC and not a soldier when he or she can act with impunity in violation of local, national and international laws without consequence.

In practical terms, when I have encountered enlisted US military soldiers in Iraq, they were eager to hear a word from home, and apologetic of their limitations in hospitality (such as forcing Iraqis to remain standing in ankle-deep mud in the cold and rain for an ‘audience’ with a higher up, while inviting westerners inside for warmth and comfort. [Side note: we stayed outside with our Iraqi friends]).

When I have encountered private contractors, whether security or otherwise, they have refused eye contact or engagement, have fired upon a vehicle I was riding in (a ‘friendly’ warning shot), have been rude to Iraqis and others, and have generally created a cringingly bad impression of the United States and its citizens, to say nothing of their actions of violence towards the unarmed civilian population whose language they do not speak and whose cultural norms they apparently do not care to understand.

It is widely reported that the United States is leaving Iraq effective December 31 in terms of its military presence.

Which brings us back to the opening question: when is a soldier not a soldier?

The fact is that the United States is not leaving Iraq in terms of its presence of force.  Security contractors will largely take the place of US military personnel.

And whenever government officials of the United States, whether Democrats or Republicans, speak of our forces in Iraq, they studiously avoid mention or inclusion of PSC’s, who, for some time, have actually made up the majority of our on-going presence in Iraq.

Honesty and integrity loathe the misuse of language and false categorization that create this mass denial of reality.

Why is it so important that the American people be led to believe that our occupying presence no longer exists in Iraq?  Why do we so misuse language that it no longer effectively communicates anything of importance?

When did Jesus’ admonition, elegant in its simplicity: Let your yes be yes and your no be no, get forgotten in our collective consciousness?

When did a soldier stop being a soldier?

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