Editorial Page Slimes Private Guards in Iraq as "Mercenaries"

The editorial page rubs our faces with the inflammatory phrase "mercenaries." But who protects New York Times reporters in Iraq?

In an editorial with the misleadingly bland title "Legal Loopholes in Iraq," the Times editorial page took a leap into left-wing logic Monday, referring to private security contractors like Blackwater as "mercenaries."

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refers to the lack of legal accountability that allows mercenaries working for the American government to kill Iraqis without fear of prosecution as 'a lacuna' in our law."

The editorial writer seemed determined to rub readers' faces with the word, using it three times in a short editorial, even though "private contractors" would have been more accurate and less inflammatory.

"Baghdad's attempt to prosecute United States mercenaries for crimes against Iraqis is not unreasonable. Fuming after Blackwater agents contracted by the State Department mowed down 17 Iraqis in Baghdad on Sept. 16, Iraqis were incensed when they found out that State Department agents investigating the incident offered the guards a form of immunity from prosecution under American law.

"Beyond corroborating the State Department's incompetence, the spectacle of Washington letting its trigger-happy bodyguards off the hook wiped out whatever residual sense of legitimacy Iraqis may have still attached to the United States' mission.


"That folly was compounded by the decision to allow gun-toting mercenaries to run around Iraq without any clear legal tether holding them accountable to Iraqi law, American criminal law or military law.

"The killings in Baghdad last September were not the first crimes involving private contractors working for the American government. Still, four years after the start of the war, not one contractor has been prosecuted for crimes committed against an Iraqi."

As Ace of Spades put it: "Am I to understand that when a NYT reporter actually bothers himself to leave his hotel, his security is being provided by - as his paper terms them - 'mercenaries'?"

Indeed, Times reporter Dexter Filkins was recorded at a journalism conference in a January 2005Frontline special talking of his experiences in Iraq:

"'We go through money like jet fuel. We have two houses with blast walls on all sides, machine guns on the roof, 45 armed guards. We have three armored cars - they cost about $250,000 each. We have at least one security advisor there all the time - he's about $1,000 per day. Sometimes we have two."

And of course, Times reporters often hire armed security guards to accompany reporters on assignment