Mecenaries, Redux

Mercenaries II:

Those of you who slogged all the way through the comments on the "KOS" post, below, will have come across a polite exchange between myself and Mike M. Mike was writing to challenge the use of the term "mercenary" to describe the Blackwater men killed in Iraq. I explained why I thought the term might apply.

It turns out that the lads at Southern Appeal know something that I didn't know, which is that there's a legal definition of "mercenary" in the Geneva Conventions:

Article 47.-Mercenaries

1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.

2. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;

(b) Does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;

(c) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;

(d) Is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;

(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and

(f) Has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

Under this definition, as SA's Owen explains, the men killed in Fallujah were not mercenaries. I gladly conceed the point. My use of the term wasn't formal--as I said, I didn't even know there was a legal definition. I've quite a few military and former-military friends who toss it around cheerfully at me. Some of these folks I've known since childhood, and others I've met since 9/11. I adopted the term in that spirit: as a kind of nickname, like "Grunts" or "Squids" or "Devil Dogs." It has the same kind of swagger to it. It won't surprise you to learn that someone whose first adult act was to join the Marines might find that appealing. Being ignorant of the legal issues, I had no reason to think there was anything wrong with it.

Nevertheless, Mike M. turns out to be perfectly correct. As Owen points out, KOS and others use the term "mercenary" as "a pejorative, one employed by those who would like to denigrate the dead." I certainly am not among that crowd, as I hope is clear from what I wrote below. Grim's Hall will abandon the term henceforth, and I apologize to any--as Mike--I've offended by accident.

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