Sunday, November 26, 2017

Second Oldest Profession In The World - Mercenaries!


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10 Things You Don’t Know About Mercenaries
By Sean McFate, co-author of Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel
May 12, 2016
Military industry. Special forces or anti-terrorist police soldier, private military contractor armed with weapon during clean-up operation, mission
Sean McFate is a former paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and private military contractor—mercenary to some—working mostly in Africa. His novel is based on his experiences as a “private sector soldier.”
1.  It’s the second oldest profession.
Much of military history is privatized. The word “mercenary” comes from the Latin merces (“wages” or “pay”); today it connotes vileness, treachery, and murder. But it was not always so. Being a mercenary was once considered an honest albeit bloody trade, and employing mercenaries to fight wars was routine throughout most of military history: King Shulgi of Ur’s army (2094–2047 BC); Xenophon’s army of Greek mercenaries known as the Ten Thousand (401–399 BC); and Carthage’s mercenary armies in the Punic Wars against Rome (264–146 BC), including Hannibal’s sixty-thousand-strong army, which marched elephants over the Alps to attack Rome from the north. Rome regularly employed mercenaries, and mercenaries were how wars were fought in the European Middle Ages. In fact, they were called condottieri or “contractors,” and they formed multinational companies, termed “free companies,” just like Blackwater and Aegis today. Private military force has been the norm rather than the exception in military history, and the last four hundred years of big national armies are outliers.
2. The merc trade was resurrected by the US
For a few hundred years, states cooperated to outlaw mercenaries and privateers (mercenaries of the sea). This came undone after the Cold War. Surprisingly, mercenaries were not revived by weak and failing states seeking security in an insecure world. Rather, it was the world’s military superpower—the United States—that invested billions into the private military industry. For example, in 2010 the Pentagon appropriated $366 billion for contractors; that’s 5 times the UK’s entire defense budget. Today’s private military industry is a multi-billion dollar affair.
3. Contracting may be the new American Way of War
Why did the US, with the world’s most powerful military, need contractors? Because the All Volunteer Force could not recruit enough American’s to sustain two “long wars.” In 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Iraq War would last: “Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When it didn’t, policy makers faced ugly choices. They could withdraw and cede the fight to al Qaeda. They could have a Vietnam-like draft to fill the ranks. Or they could contract out the difference. They went with contractors. In Iraq, 50% of the US force was contracted. In Afghanistan it was 70%. In WW2, it was only 10%. Is contracting America’s new way of war? It’s a fair question.
4. Most contractors who fight for America aren’t even American
When I was in the industry, I worked alongside people from all over the world: Mexico, Ghana, Australia, Canada and so forth. Private military companies are just like any other multinational corporation: they recruit globally. They also pay people different wages. For example, a specialforces soldier from Honduras with similar training and background as me would get paid much less. Just like shirt sweat shops around the world, the private military industry looks for cheap labor.
5. More contractors were killed than troops in recent US wars
 Contractors are also making the ultimate sacrifice for America’s security. Research shows that more contractors were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan than soldiers. The actual number of contractors killed is probably higher than we know, since the US government doesn’t collect such data and the companies generally do not share it (it would be bad for business).
6. Mercenaries are proliferating
 Hiring private military companies isn’t just a US thing anymore. Now that the US has stopped employing large numbers of private military companies in Iraq and Afghanistan, this multi-billion-dollar industry is seeking new clientele. Consequently, the market for force is expanding, finding new supply and demand. In the past year alone, mercenaries have appeared in many combat zones:  United Arab Emirates hired them to fight in Yemen , Nigeria hired them to defeat Boko HaramPutin hired them to fight in eastern Ukraine; they’re fighting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. Mercenaries are fighting pirates too.  The US’s heavy reliance on military contractors both increased their numbers and also de facto legitimized their use. Now other countries and consumers are following the US lead, globalizing the industry.
7. The private military industry threatens democratic accountability
Relying on the private sector to do America’s bleeding is not only un-American, it’s dangerous. It creates a strategic dependency on the private sector to sustain war. It also offers policy makers “plausible deniability”; when a mission is politically sensitive or risky, policy makers may turn to the private sector rather than risk US Army soldiers doing something questionable. Contractors don’t count as “boots on the ground” and threaten democratic accountability of the armed forces. Congress often has no idea of who’s being contracted, why and for how much, even though they write the checks. This facilitates mission creep and lowers the barriers of entry into conflict.
8. More mercenaries means more war
Mercenaries are incentivized to start and expand war for profit. Out of work mercenaries may become brigands, preying on the weak. Or they become racketeers, demanding “protection” money from cities and states, like the mafia. In other words, more mercenaries means more war. There’s a lot of historical evidence for this from the European Middle Ages, when mercenaries were routinely used. Even popes hired mercenary armies.
9. You can’t regulate mercenaries
If the US regulated this industry to harshly, the industry would move offshore, beyond the reach of regulators. Worse, there are no robust international laws to regulate this industry. Even if there was a new Geneva Protocol on the topic, it would be difficult to enforce. For example, who’s going to arrest mercenaries? They shoot back, and can kill your law enforcement. Realistically, no president is going to send II Marine Expeditionary Force into Yemen to arrest mercenaries. Nor will the UN.
There is an attempt among some industry actors to self-regulate, called The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers’ Association (ICoCA). However, it’s a laughable affair since private military companies must generally self-report crimes, which they’re not incentivized to do. Even if they do, there are few serious consequences for them. Lastly, the mercenaries that we’re seeing emerge in places like Africa and the Middle East are least likely to sign up for the ICoCA in the first place.
10. Mercenaries are a symptom of something far more unsettling
Mercenaries change war and world order. Offering the means of war to anyone who can afford it alters who, how and why we fight. Mercenaries are becoming more common, and the ultra-wealthy and corporations will become new kinds of superpowers.
What will this world look like? It is already here, operating unseen. Today, the Fortune 500 are more powerful than most countries, and they can hire military and intelligence capabilities. And they do. Conflicts today are fought for an uncomfortable range of reasons that include national, commercial and private interests.
Sean McFate. Photo courtesy HarperCollins
Shadow War is set in this new world and is based on actual events and my own experiences. Tom Locke, the main character, is a high-end mercenary caught in a very complex and dangerous geopolitical game. LeCarre used George Smiley to expose what was really going on during the Cold War, as only a MI6 officer would know it. Similarly, Tom Locke reveals what’s truly going on in our post-Cold War world. And it’s not what you see on cable news.
The return of the dogs of war: what's it like to be a soldier for hire?
It’s one thing to pull the trigger for your country – quite another for a corporation. As a new report reveals how private military contractors have changed the face of conflict, they reveal how conflict has changed them
Emine Saner @eminesaner
Saturday 6 February 2016
‘Misfits who can’t or won’t fit into civilian life’ … Iraqi and foreign members of a private security company in Baghdad in 2007. Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
When you are a soldier in the military, and you’re firing at an enemy alongside several other soldiers, you don’t know if it was your gun, your bullet, that killed someone. “I’d rather not know,” says Stephen Friday, who spent 12 years in the British army before becoming a private military contractor (PMC) in 2008, working in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first time he ever shot somebody, and knew about it, “was as a PMC. The firefights were a lot closer, a lot more personal.” It was also more dangerous. As a soldier, he had once come under fire for seven hours in Baghdad, but as a PMC, “I would say it was worse. When you’re in the army, you’ve got an army behind you. As a PMC, you can’t call for back-up, you can’t call fire missions in. Certainly my worst incidents were as a PMC rather than in the military.” He was shot at by snipers, survived a handful of roadside bombs and a grenade attack, and once a bullet lodged in the bulletproof glass of his vehicle, inches from his head. “There was a stage in 2009, for a period of about three months, where we were probably losing guys every second or third day. It was violent, and emotionally difficult.”
Why did he do it? For the money, of course. There were periods when he could earn up to £10,000 a month, tax-free (his contracts, like many PMCs, were deliberately set up to favour tax avoidance by restricting the amount of time he was in the UK). How would he feel about being called a mercenary? “I would find it offensive,” says Friday. “There were definitely mercenaries out there. I sit here and say I did it for the money and that’s something that would be in alignment with being a mercenary, but there are certain stereotypes that don’t apply to me.” We meet at the small business he set up with the money he had saved before leaving the job in 2014, and despite first impressions – Friday is covered in tattoos, with a gruff voice and is built like an armoured personnel carrier – he seems surprisingly gentle and thoughtful.
There were important differences between himself and the stereotypical idea of a mercenary, he says. He made an effort to integrate with local communities, and became friends with Iraqi and Afghan colleagues with whom he keeps in touch. He would see the shocking behaviour of other PMCs, particularly Americans, and think that at least he wasn’t like them. But it still comes down to money. “I can’t play the moral high ground,” he says, leaning back in his chair. Serving as a soldier in the army must be fairly easy on your conscience – regardless of what you think of foreign policy, the decision to go to war was taken by a vote of elected MPs, you are supposedly protecting British interests and there may be some kind of humanitarian element, however misguided. But when you are a PMC doing it for the money and working on behalf of a corporation, does that make pulling the trigger different? “Certainly. Like I say, I can’t play the moral high ground card.”
An ArmorGroup officer in in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2007. London-based ArmorGroup was one of the largest private security companies in the country at the time, with 1,200 staff. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
This week, the charity War on Want released a report highlighting how UK firms dominate the vast private military and security industry, estimated to be worth somewhere between $100bn and $400bn (£69bn-£275bn) a year. The sector boomed in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, cashing in on outsourced operations and legitimised by the large contracts given out by the US government. Many of today’s big companies are run by former senior military personnel and the language is sanitised and corporate – risks and “opportunities” are “managed”, there are “on-the-ground services”. There are “contractors” or “consultants”. There is rebranding: Blackwater, the infamous US private military corporation whose employees opened fire on Iraqi civilians in September 2007, killing 17 and wounding 20, has gone through two name changes.
“We did our first investigation into this 10 years ago when it was going haywire around Iraq and Afghanistan,” says John Hilary, executive director of War on Want. “We noticed two things – the first was that private military companies were operating in a legal vacuum; there is no regulation of their activities. And second, as a result, some were being involved in more and more dubious scenarios. Their security function had expanded into the area of what we would consider to be private military operations, and they were being used almost as a mercenary force in conflict zones. Fast-forward 10 years and the UK government has explicitly said it is not interested in any form of regulation [of private security companies], just self-regulation.” The Swiss government has banned any Swiss-based private military and security companies from taking part in conflicts.
Hilary points to the hundreds of Colombian fighters deployed to Yemen to fight alongside the Saudi army, and apartheid-era South African “soldiers of fortune” fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is, he says, “a return to the idea of the ‘dogs of war’, that you can call in mercenaries to fight on whatever side. The thing about the mercenaries, which we know from memoirs of those who served in Iraq, is you have no chains of command, you have no control over what they do.” The action of these “armies”, he says, is “sowing disturbance and destabilisation in countries which are already trying to fight off the threat of potential civil war.”
Members of the US company, Blackwater, in Baghdad, Iraq. Blackwater became infamous in 2007 when its employees opened fire on Iraqi civilians, killing 17. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images
The private military and security industry is highly sensitive to criticism of this kind. The Security in Complex Environments Group was set up to develop standards for British security companies working abroad, and has representatives of giants in the industry such as G4S and Olive Group, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on its executive committee. Its director, Brigadier Paul Gibson – former director of counter-terrorism and UK operations – says that the private security world has changed since the days of Iraq in 2004 and 2005, when some companies “were operating in quite a fast and loose way”. “There have been a number of processes to get to a position where responsible private security companies are properly managed, properly regulated and have human rights very much at the heart of the business model.” There is, he says, “a huge amount going on in order to ensure that people are operating in an appropriate, transparent manner and are accountable for their actions.” He says this includes the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers.
But it is voluntary. There will be some who decide not to adhere to it. How can you govern what they do? “I can’t. You’re always going to have rogue companies in any business sector. If a client is prepared to take a risk by using a private security company that is not regulated, that is a matter for the client. That is absolutely not the way British private security companies are currently operating.” Would international legislation not be better? “That might be something that is reached at some point. I don’t think that is a sensible thing to do unless everybody, globally, is doing it. There are a couple of UN working groups looking at this issue, but they are struggling to get consensus.”
I ask him if he understands why some people find private security companies distasteful, or even abhorrent, and he pauses. “People have their own views. Private security companies who are operating at the moment are providing a service to clients. Without that service, there is a huge amount of commerce and government business that would not take place. Private security companies are guarding British ambassadors who are operating in very difficult parts of the world, are helping the extractive industry to conduct their lawful business, are ensuring that ships can go across the Indian Ocean without being interfered with by Somali pirates. I think that is all very laudable.”
John Geddes runs Ronin Concepts, which is based, like many private security companies, in Hereford, where the SAS has its headquarters (at least 46 firms employ former members of the special forces, 
according to War on Want’s report). He spent 22 years in the army, becoming a warrant officer in the SAS, before a PMC in Iraq in 2003. In the dramatic opening chapter of the book he wrote about this time, Highway to Hell, Geddes vividly describes the time a vehicle he was in with a British news crew was about to be targeted by insurgents in a blacked-out BMW, and he fired on the car with his AK-47, killing the driver instantly.
His company runs some security operations, but it mainly trains contractors, and he has seen more than 1,000 former military personnel go through his courses. What do they have in common? “They’re pretty much misfits who can’t or won’t fit into civilian life,” he says. They tend to be older. “Wars are fought by 18- and 19-year-olds. The average age [of a PMC] is mid-30s, early 40s. In some companies there is an upper age limit of 49.” He insists it’s not really about the money. “It’s the camaraderie, being with like-minded people, it’s the guns, the adventure, the diverse activity. That’s why they do it.” Being in the army, for many soldiers, becomes such a huge part of their identity and when they leave, they are bereft. “I went through that myself. This kind of work is therapeutic. When they’re home on leave [from a contract], they just want to get back out there.”
Members of a private security company pose on the rooftop of a house in Baghdad in 2007. Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
He says he doesn’t like the term mercenary. “You’re working for the right side of the fence most of the time as a PMC. Mercenaries work for everybody, they’ll go for the highest bidder on either side – that’s my perception of a mercenary. The main difference is that a PMC’s role is to protect and escape, rather than engage and attack.”
Friday agrees, but says not every PMC – or company they work for – sees it like that. Companies take their style and practices from the military, but this also encourages a military attitude, he says. “They’re taking boys out of the military and they’re used to going on active missions, looking for trouble. They’ll still be in that offensive mindset [as a PMC], even though they should be thinking defensively. Our job was to defend. Say you’re a client. We get attacked, we chuck you in the vehicle and drive off as fast as we can – that’s a successful mission.” But the work would attract many former soldiers who want to see more action. “It was very macho, very egotistical, and that wasn’t really my cup of tea. Everyone had to have the latest scopes, the latest bit of technology. There were people who just wanted to look good with their kit.” There were contractors he describes as trigger-happy, looking for a fight. “And essentially our job was to run the fuck away, not stay and get in trouble. Certainly some companies were responsible for breaches of discipline or rules of engagement [and for encouraging] an offensive mindset, by making it so similar to the military.”
Friday gave up his job 18 months ago. He will be 40 this year, and has spent nearly half of his life in some kind of military role, during which he has experienced – and inflicted – acts of extreme violence. As a private contractor, he says, “It was a good living, which set me up nicely. Whatever the risks were, it was worth it in monetary terms.” But there are other costs. He knew the longer he did it, one day his luck would run out, and he became tired and disillusioned. He thought the war should never have been started in the first place. “There are vast amounts of money to be made from private military contracting and these people have their political interests, same as any corporation. War is money, war is profit.
Some names have been changed.
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The Dark Side of "Soldier of Fortune" Magazine: Contract Killers and Mercenaries for Hire
The magazine caters to mercenaries but tries to broaden to its appeal to war fans, weapon-lovers, fanatic anti-commies and those who enjoy reading about blood and guts.
By David Holthouse / Media Matters for America
September 15, 2011
6 Legendary Mercenary Armies From History
By Evan Andrews
June 29, 2015
Going back to ancient history, some of the world’s most feared fighting forces were made up of freelance warriors who weren’t aligned with any particular nation or king. Many of these soldiers of fortune were little more than glorified killers who sold their skills to the highest bidder and switched sides at will, but others employed rigorous codes of honor and chains of command as sophisticated as most national militaries. Get the facts on six of history’s most infamous and influential private armies.
The Ten Thousand
As chronicled in the historian Xenophon’s “Anabasis,” the “Ten Thousand” were a motley assortment of Greek warriors contracted by Cyrus the Younger to help oust his brother King Artaxerxes II from the Persian throne. In 401 B.C., the Hellenic soldiers-for-hire—many of them hardened veterans of the Peloponnesian War—fought alongside Cyrus and his rebel army in a clash with the King’s forces near Baghdad. While the Ten Thousand held their own in combat, Cyrus was killed in the battle, and the mercenaries’ generals were double-crossed and murdered while trying to negotiate a retreat.
Under pursuit from Artaxerxes II’s troops and hostile natives alike, the surviving members of the Ten Thousand were forced to band together and fight their way out of enemy territory. After electing Xenophon as one of their new leaders, the army of rogues embarked on a grueling nine-month odyssey that took them from the heart of Babylonia all the way to the Greek Black Sea port at Trapezus. Despite facing constant ambushes, punishing weather and famine, they arrived on friendly soil with nearly three fourths of their numbers still intact. Xenophon’s account of the Ten Thousand’s fighting retreat has since become a classic tale of heroism, and even served as the inspiration for the 1979 cult film “The Warriors.”
The White Company
Sir John Harkwood
The White Company was one of the most infamous of the so-called “free companies”—bands of for-profit soldiers who conducted the lion’s share of warfare in 14th century Italy. The unit first rose to prominence in the 1360s before falling under the command of Sir John Hawkwood, an Englishman who had been knighted for his service in the Hundred Years’ War. With Hawkwood at the helm, the White Company became known as one of the most elite mercenary armies in Italy. Its troops—a cultural hodgepodge of English, German, Breton and Hungarian adventurers—were renowned for their skill with the longbow and the lance, and they terrified opponents with their lighting-quick surprise attacks and willingness to do battle during harsh weather or even at night.
In an era when Italy was splintered between warring city-states and medieval lords, the men of the White Company made a killing auctioning their services off to the highest bidder. Between 1363 and 1388, they fought both for and against the Pope, the city of Milan and the city of Florence, but they were rarely out of the field even during times of peace. In fact, when unemployed, the adventurers often kept their coffers full by launching raids on nearby villages and towns.
The Swiss Guard
Today, the Swiss Guard is known as striped-uniformed protectors of the Pope in the Vatican, but their history stretches back to bands of mercenaries that flourished during the Renaissance. More than one million Swiss adventurers fought in Europe’s armies between the 15th and 19th centuries. These troops were among the first European soldiers to master the use of pikes and halberds against more heavily armored foes, and by the 1400s, their revolutionary tactics and sheer ruthlessness had earned them a reputation as the best contract troops money could buy. Swiss mercenaries often worked for the French, and they fought and died in large numbers during the French Revolution.
A small contingent of 150 Swiss soldiers of fortune began serving as papal bodyguards in 1506, and the unit endured as the official watchmen of the Vatican even after Switzerland banned its citizens from working as mercenaries. Still clad in their brightly colored Renaissance-era uniforms, the Swiss Guards of today are required to be Roman Catholics, stand at least 5 foot 6 inches tall and have a military background. Their role is often ceremonial, but in the past they have been required to fight to protect the pontiff. During one attack on Rome in 1527, nearly four-fifths of the Swiss Guard were slain while defending Pope Clement VII from capture.
The Flying Tigers
Officially known as the American Volunteer Group, the famed “Flying Tigers” were a three-squadron force of fighter pilots who fought with the Chinese against the Japanese during World War II. The unit was first organized in early 1941 in the months just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Eager to impede the Japanese takeover of China while still remaining neutral, President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed former U.S. military officer Claire Chennault to quietly recruit fighter jocks from the ranks of the U.S. Army Air Force. The risks were high, but so was the pay: while most Air Force pilots received a salary of around $260 a month, Chennault’s mercenaries earned between $600 and $750, along with a $500 bonus for each Japanese aircraft they shot down.
Around one hundred American contract pilots arrived in Burma in mid-1941, where they were assigned to protect a crucial supply road from Japanese attacks. The “Flying Tigers”—famous for the iconic rows of shark teeth painted on the noses of their P-40 fighters—went on to rack up an unprecedented combat record. Despite flying slower, less maneuverable fighters than the enemy, the Americans downed 296 Japanese aircraft and destroyed more than 1,300 riverboats, all while only losing 69 planes and some two-dozen men. The group was officially disbanded in July 1942, but some of its members later rejoined their old units and served for the remainder of World War II.
The Catalan Grand Company
First organized in 1302 by the adventurer Roger de Flor, the Catalan Grand Company was primarily composed of rugged Spanish veterans of the War of the Sicilian Vespers in Italy. Left unemployed at the conflict’s end, De Flor and his mercenaries contracted themselves to the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II, who brought them to the Eastern Mediterranean to fight off invading Ottoman Turks. The 6,500-strong Catalans succeeded in sweeping the Turks away from Constantinople, but their penchant for wanton sacking and looting also drew the ire of the Byzantines. In 1305, De Flor and some 1,300 of his men were ambushed and killed by another group of mercenaries in the Emperor’s employ.
Rather than disband, the surviving Catalans embarked on one of the bloodiest and most bewildering adventures in medieval military history. Following an abortive attempt to establish an outlaw state in Gallipoli, they marched to Greece and found work as muscle for the Duke of Athens. But when a dispute arose over back pay, the Catalans once again went to war with a former employer. After crushing the Greek armies and killing the Duke at 1311’s Battle of Kephissos, they found themselves the de facto lords of the Duchy of Athens. Amazingly, the mercenaries managed to consolidate their power and rule over large swaths of Greece for more than 75 years until an army from Florence finally defeated them in battle. The remnants of the Catalan Grand Company disbanded shortly thereafter.
The Varangian Guard
The descendants of Norsemen who originally ventured south as pirates and traders, the Varangian Guard were a band of Viking mercenaries paid to serve as the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor. The Guard first took up their post in the late 10th century for the Emperor Basil II, who preferred the axe-wielding barbarians to his more easily corruptible countrymen. The unit immediately proved useful in putting down a rebellion, and they went on to serve as the protectors of Constantinople for over two hundred years.
At first, the Varangian Guard was almost entirely composed of hard-fighting, hard-drinking Vikings, but by the late 11th century their ranks began to be filled out by Englishmen, Normans and Danes. Winning entrance into the unit was no easy task. Initiates had to demonstrate their prowess in battle, and were forced to pay a small fortune in gold as an entrance fee. Still, the gifts showered on the Varangians ensured that its members left extremely wealthy, and some even went on to achieve positions of immense power. One of the most famous guardsmen was Harald Hardrada, who later claimed the throne of Norway.
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