Dark Cloud logo

 

Home

Columns

Commentary

Dark Endeavors

The Hessians Are Coming!

no, wait, it's just Blackwater.........

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 05, 2009.

This all probably goes back to the warm, fuzzy feelings that Americans have always felt about mercenaries.

While revolutionary colonists viewed the red-coated British with cancerous eye, they truly hated the German mercenaries who served with them that we rather inaccurately lump under the term ‘Hessians.’ These were soldiers who’d been rented out by perpetually broke German princes to the Elector of Hanover, who happened to be George III. Something about being a soldier for mere money rankled, since they weren’t fighting for anything personally important to themselves, like freedom or even vengeance. Just money, or sometimes, not even money. And the feeling was, especially at the beginning, that they were just piling on, since few thought the Americans had a tinker’s dam of a chance against the King of England.

Even if some Hessian units were paid only in daily food, they were often the best soldiers on the field, having great unit cohesion and discipline. That made them even more hated, and the fact that Washington surprised and whupped them one Christmas at Trenton made that otherwise minor event a morale booster. About 5000 Hessians remained in the colonies after the war, married away, and became Americans. George Custer may well have been one of their descendents.

Despite all the righteous anger about foreign troops being used in what became the United States, it was also true that it was considered despicable in the British Parliament by a not huge but not insignificant number of its members. Mercenaries make everyone feel unclean, impure, hypocritical. If the war was righteous and worth fighting, why were one’s own citizens reluctant to join the ranks?

The French Foreign Legion is the most famous mercenary unit, and its attractions were many to the young men of a continent in perpetual upheaval. And beyond. Pete Seeger’s uncle Alan joined it during the Great War, and was killed serving under the French flag. The Flying Tigers in China were mercenary Americans, and not a few others joined the British forces to fight fascism. The difference is there was a specific cause that had not motivated their birth nation to action. They would not have served for Hitler or Franco.

Yet today, the United States is host to several mercenary units, including Xe which used to be called Blackwater. Blackwater was founded by Eric Prince, a former Navy Seal. His former partner, Joseph Schmitz, is a wealthy Californian with ties to every right wing scandal in Washington for decades. Both families have their share of crazies, Schmitz’ sister being Mary Kay LaTournea, the elementary school teacher caught having sex with a student not yet in his teens she later married after prison. This was during Schmitz’ ascent in the Bush administration, so it’s somehow strange that the connection between the two was muted in the main stream media. Schmitz, of course, comes from an Evangelical Protestant mid-West dynasty always screaming about family values, but they quietly supported their sister, which the cynical might find a tad hypocritical. Prince also came from such a right wing Christian household, but it wasn’t fascist enough for him, and he’s become a Roman Catholic of the sort one usually finds only in France, quietly scaring even reactionary Popes.

As a recent lawsuit filed by former Blackwater employees claims, Eric Prince very much sees himself as a Knight of the Temple, a Templar crusader come again, whose goal is to destroy Islam by killing Muslims and forced conversion. That’s the sort of language which annoys the secular Muslim communities around the world, the very people we don’t want to annoy unnecessarily, and those who don't favor Christian jihads.

Getting less coverage these days is the fact he tried to get the Bush administration to consider Blackwater and other mercenary units as a near fifth armed force, much like the Foreign Legion. That, so when his overpraised, under-disciplined, often flat out incompetent mercenaries get into trouble, actual American soldiers would be assigned to get them out, accruing casualties in the process. That hasn’t worked yet, but he has helped manage manipulation of our language, which is a big victory. We now, for some reason, call mercenaries “contractors”, which has a softer image, as if they were in Iraq to install hospital plumbing, as some contractors are. Or, as is charged, killing people after Hurricane Katrina in this nation as mere contractor security guards.

If the current charges of Blackwater knowingly torturing people, arms dealing with the enemy, and even worse prove true, those in the know should face capital punishment. Being treason, and all. That surely would not have happened under Bush or any current Republican administration. To aid that end, let’s not call mercenaries and guns for hire mere ‘contractors.’

They're god-damned Hessians, employed by ourselves this time around, and it doesn’t feel good.