Saturday, September 5, 2009

This is why Mercenaries Suck

I am going to assume that everyone has heard about our "contract security" and the "situation" they have with them in Afghanistan. If not, short and sweet was that a group of hired contract security guards who were supposed to be protecting the US Embassy and other US State Department building/compound in Afghanistan are now being investigated for having drunken orgies complete with naked dancing, hookers and lots of booze (in a supposidly Muslim country too I might add). Several guards have told investigators that they were hazed, forced to perform sex acts for their bosses for good shifts and that the multination force couldn't even talk to each other due to language differences. Which was really great since the guys that they couldn't talk to were Gurkas and arguably the most effective guards they had.

I am a professional soldier, and I don't have much use for mercs. Historically speaking, mercs (usually) are not effective fighters or soldiers. Yes, there are exceptions, but not many. Usually the biggest issues with them are discipline related, and if the chain of command for them is hazy, they rapidly can go out of control. The 30 Years War in Europe is a great example of how out of control mercenary forces can get. Other most recent examples of stupid merc tricks are Abu Gurabi (contract interrogations without supervision which spilled over to a regular unit), Blackwater (take your pick, but the famous ones are the shootout in Baghdad which killed a lot of civilians, the heliocopter getting shot down becuase they were in a hurry, or lots of other smaller incidents, some of which I saw firsthand), and Triple Canopy (had the initial contract to protect US diplomats in Iraq and got fired after one year). This one, however takes the cake.

Simply put, the mercs don't fall under a military chain of command so the military cannot hold them accountable if they jack up. And the civilians they work for frequently don't want to really dig down as this stuff is something they don't understand or don't want to be bothered with. So the mercs can get a pass for doing some outragous stuff. And this makes the problem worse by who it attracts.

I have dealt with mercs in Iraq. The high pay and rather loose discipline attract a bad crowd. Frequently, the guys I talked to were prior military, with over five years in but usually less than 15 years in. This is important because it indicates something. A military retirement is 20 years service, and a initial hitch is usually 4 or 5 years. Most mercs were over 10 years in, so why not go all the way for retirement? Because they wouldn't have made it. Usually discipline problems. I heard a lot of "the army was just jacked up and wouldn't let me do my thing, or do what would have worked, or let us really get tough". Translation: I couldn't follow the ROE and other orders, I was trigger happy and I had trouble with authority. So, ex military with discipline problems? Why not join a high paying group that shoots first and rarely asks questions?

The State Department requently has issues with the Defense Department. I can understand that, but for crying out loud we can follow orders and have discipline. I can't say this mistrust is why State is hiring so many mercs to protect them. I know that State is short security personnel because of the various wars we are in so that is probably a more realistic reason. But this is what you get when you really don't want to be bothered with "details" on security because its something you don't get or think is beneath you. But how are they going to punish these guys? If the army did this, how many coals would we be raked over? But what about these clowns? What can they do aside from fire them? Can they be brought to court? Can they be sued? Can they be punished in any way? THe contract can get jerked, another one awarded and you know what? They will probably hire the same boneheads to do the same thing.

This should be a scandel equal to Abu Garabi, these are STATE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES having ORGIES! But since they are mercs (and a couple of other political reasons I will not go into) they fall into a nice grey area. So now, the US Army is having to provide guards to guard the guards while this is "looked into".

This alone should be the biggest argument for a professional military you would ever need.


  1. Amen. I don't understand they they haven't assigned more active military to be the guards (they have USMC as guards at embassies don't they?) so that state and defense work better together. Here's hoping for reform but it appears that the contractor bug is deeply infected into all parts of the government and it will take time to remove the idea that contractors can do it better than the federal government.

  2. WE have Marines guarding the actual embassy, but if you have more than that you start running short of people quick. This is a large operation so they need more than the platoon or so of Marines you would have.

    I do honestly think some of this is due to the friction between Defense and State (we can blame Rumsfeld for a lot of that), but I am still holding my opinion that a lot of this is due to the State Honchos not really caring about stuff like this.