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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 8th, 2007 - 00:57:03

Are thugs who defend �American interests� lesser thugs?
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 8, 2007, 00:55

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�Yeah, but if your life depended on it, wouldn�t you rather have those Blackwater guys by your side to make sure you stay safe?� That seems to be the mother of all questions that usually ends up closing the conversation du jour: America�s private armies.

As unsavory as it may be for many Americans to hear or read about the shameful and unforgiving acts at Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, and countless other places -- each and every account highly sanitized before being allowed to reach the current penumbra of public disclosure -- a clear majority continues to shrug their shoulders to the realities happening in Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter; some much preferring to change the conversation to a different topic, others showing a total lack of humanity by remaining bent on defending the indefensible.

Defending so-called �American interests� has often been the barricade of last resort for scoundrels and downright criminals, en route to their highly fortified refuge of patriotism: scoundrels and criminals fighting under the cover and propriety of an honorable flag, or even the redesigned Jolly Roger sans the skull-and-bones . . . but an equally strident symbolism; representing a corporate logo together with a lofty mission . . . all byproducts of what we�ve become: a nation of PR-managed people. If only someone would tell us once and for all just what those interests are that we�re so diligently and desperately trying to safeguard!

Is it economic interests that must be defended; and if so, exactly whose? Is it a military position of unrivaled strength that we must possess . . . and constantly show off; and if such is the case, is it to keep America safe from unprovoked harm, or is it in pursuit of what many feel is nothing but our leaders� �empire lust�? Is it terrorism, and its root causes, we are trying to eradicate; or could it be that it�s in our leaders� best interest to make sure terrorism not only survives but metastasizes?

When anyone talks about �American interests� in such universal terms, are they talking about interests for the American many, most of us: the citizenry; the hoi polloi; the once hoped-for classless class? Or, are they the interests of an American client, employer, or even a menagerie of corporate entities; or an often suspected elite class? All of these questions require answers if the people of these United States are to survive as free citizens, and the country is to remain a free nation; freedom defined principally as lack of fear from reprisal, and not just from dangers coming from without but from within.

This recent stir up involving Blackwater should serve as a wake up call to a reality our self-censored corporate media won�t dare touch, most politicians are unwilling to tackle and our government feels helpless trying to investigate being itself the architect and builder of this house of horrors that they�ve made of the Middle East.

Whether America�s contracted private armies serving in Iraq provide 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 mercenaries is not the issue. Numbers mean very little. But the sheer use of mercenary forces, call them peace keepers or body guards if that tones down these Rambo�s to a measure of acceptability, says everything. Wars are in most cases, by their essence, impossible to justify . . . and none can be afforded minimal legitimacy until every able-bodied person in a nation is ready to take up arms to defend their society, their nation. No armies-for-hire can ever be deemed an ethical undertaking by any society, and when it comes to bullies-for-hire, such undertaking is downright obscene.

But I�ll tell you what I find the most incredible aspect of it all. And that is, these Rambo-luminary mercenaries with a capital M -- for big money -- not only have a staff chaplain, but a place of worship to boot! Now we shouldn�t be shocked when we are told that even the devil has a guardian angel: a Blackwater peace enforcer to be sure!

Peace keeping, peace enforcing, private protection . . . just a way, a name, a license which is issued to career bullies not just to unrestrainedly �kick ass� but to determine who is to live and who is to die. Soldiers of fortune, mercenaries, legionnaires, corsairs . . . they all seem to find common valor in one thing: death; whether it involves taking your life or risking and losing theirs.

We, in the United States, are getting to the point where we are confronted with little differentiation in mission between those we call �our troops� and the private armies made up of �former troops.� Have we already forgotten how America�s military leveled a major Iraqi city, Fallujah, in angry response to the killing of four Blackwater military private contractors? Does anything else need to be said?

As to the question that was asked at the beginning of this piece . . . although I understand how thankful Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, Poland�s ambassador to Iraq, must be to billionaire Erik Prince�s privateers for whisking him away to safety during an attempt on his life a few days ago, I pass on the �opportunity� to ever have to thank these bullies for giving me protection against imminent danger. No, thanks, I wouldn�t care to have them by my side, and for that matter, nor would I welcome their chaplain.

� 2007 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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