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The high cost of mercenaries

October 04, 2007

Re "In defense of Blackwater," Opinion, Oct. 3

Max Boot claims that mercenaries are a fact of war, echoing testimony by the Blackwater USA founder that the U.S. has relied on contractors for all its wars. Both are spin. We may have a history of hiring private contractors to support such non-battle duties as cooking, laundry and transportation, but we have never before hired heavily armed mercenaries to engage in combat in war zones. Blackwater and others were not hired by the Defense Department nor commanded by the military. They were hired by the State Department, which lacks the expertise and legal authority to raise and manage armies.

The Bush administration initiated this action in secret, yet no one objected until Iraq tried to exercise its alleged sovereignty and expel Blackwater. We don't need more oversight; we need a return to the rule of law and the return of all soldiers to military control.

Jeff Hersh

Austin, Texas

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Boot states that the military does not like private security companies because employees make more money than the military. Perhaps Boot should see what happens after Blackwater opens fire on Iraqis and leaves the carnage for the military to clean up. Perhaps he should serve in one of the battalions trying to win Iraqis' hearts and minds and try to explain why Iraqi women and children have been killed by Blackwater. Our military is left to try to explain the actions of these mercenaries who follow no rules or regulations and appear to be answerable to no one. No employee has been found criminally liable. The Department of Justice has not done anything.

Too bad that Blackwater has USA included in its name -- I didn't think our country stood for mercenaries who follow no rules.

Gwen Packard

Veyo, Utah

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Re "Blackwater depicted as an aggressor," Oct. 2

Exactly who is surprised by this news? George Washington could give you details on the evils of mercenaries. The only lessons this administration has learned from history have been the wrong lessons.

Mark Temple

Huntington Beach

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Re "The business of war," editorial, Sept. 30

Blackwater USA is not, despite your suggestion, an example of applying the corporate model to managing national security. Our military in theory can provide the same security services to State Department officials as Blackwater but is unable to do so because we lack the necessary personnel -- the result of a volunteer force. The underlying reasons are sound: It avoids an unpopular draft, devotes a greater part of the military to perform combat functions and reduces the costs of training, medical care and pensions.

If Blackwater were not used, your editorial would ask, "Why aren't State Department personnel being protected in Iraq?" Regrettably, your editorial masks the pivotal question relating to reinstituting the draft, given the reality that exists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Robert C. Gusman

Calabasas

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