Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hired Guns, Loose Cannons

By Eric Margolis
The Toronto Sun

"Munich - Private armies have a very sinister reputation in Europe.Memories still linger of Germany’s post First World War army veterans, the Stahlhelm, and Nazi Brownshirts, who battled Communist street toughs in Munich and Berlin.

Europeans remember Italy’s fascist Blackshirts and, most recently, Serb neo-fascist gangs like Arkan’s Tigers and the White Eagles who committed some of the worst atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Germany also remains haunted by folk memory of the hordes of blood-crazed mercenaries who turned much of this nation into a wasteland during the savage 30 Years War. The name of the great mercenary captain, Wallenstein, still resounds, and of those most feared mercenaries of all, the ferocious Swiss, who once terrorized Europe.

Wrote Machiavelli: “where there is gold and blood, there are the Swiss.” The Vatican’s Swiss Guard is a faint reminder of the “furia Helvetica.”.......


Vice-President Dick Cheney took Vietnam’s lesson to heart by championing use of mercenaries for nasty foreign wars. But democracies should have no business unleashing armies of hired gunmen on the world.

Worse, these private armies hardwired to the Republican Party’s far right are a grave and intolerable danger to the American republic. Congress should outlaw them absolutely. The great Roman Republic held that mandatory military service by all citizens was the basis of democracy, while professional armies were a grave menace.

How ironic that colonial America, which rose up in arms in response to the British crown’s use of brutal German mercenaries, is resorting to the same tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe wants no more of private armies. Americans have yet to learn this painful lesson."

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