Captain's Quarters

The Rough Riders:

A contractor writes from Fallujah. I won't excerpt it; it's worth reading in full. I've been considering the question of the legal status of contractors since KOS made an issue out of people who do our kind of work. If we aren't mercenaries--as has been established--just what are we?

I think I may have sorted it out. Article 4, Section 1 of the Geneva Conventions provides that P.O.W. status applies to:

Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
Section two:
2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Either of these terms would seem to apply. A militia is a possibility, as it is also composed of civilians under arms, directed by military authority. A Volunteer Corps, like Theodore Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" may even be a better explanation of the status of contractors. Like Roosevelt himself--who was too blind to gain service in a regular army regiment--the "Rough Riders" were men who demanded to serve their country in her wars, regardless of the demands of the bureaucracy.

I'll leave it to the lawyers to hash out which one is correct. Either way, I prefer "militiamen" or "volunteers" to "contractors," which tends to suggest that the contract, rather than patriotism, is the motivating factor. I'd like to propose that we adopt "Rough Riders" as a nickname for such contractors. I have to imagine any of them would feel honored by the name, and it shows the real spirit behind the movement.

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