The number of “private contractors” in Iraq is estimated to be around 130,000 – slightly lesser than the 157,000 U.S. troops presently deployed in that country. The work of these contractors includes servicing advanced weapons systems and providing security.
Some people refer to these “private contractors” as “mercenaries”, being paid to fight a war that is ordinarily fought by a government’s armed forces.
A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict who is not a national of a Party to the conflict and “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”. As a result of the assumption that a mercenary is exclusively motivated by money, the term “mercenary” carries negative connotations.
At this point, maybe you don’t care calling the “private contractors” in Iraq and Afghanistan as “mercenaries”.
Maybe that would change if you know that Filipinos make up one of the largest single groups of these “private contractors”. Of those killed in Iraq between March 31 and July 3, four “contractors” are from the Philippines. The death toll for private contractors in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has breached 1,000, in addition to the 13,000 wounded contractors. (Read the complete news article).
Indeed, the increasing participation of “private contractors” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars again brings the spotlight on overseas Filipino workers (I’m not sure if the ban on deployment to Iraq is still in place, but such ban had been disregarded a long time ago).
We won’t go to a lengthy disquisition on this diaspora, because so many articles had been written about the sorry plight of OFWs and the insufficiency of assistance/protection provided by the government which calls the OFWs as the new heroes. Suffice it to say that it’s sad, nay, tragic, that many of our new heroes are dying in, and for, another country.
(As an aside, I agree with the statement of Bong Amora that there should be a greater unity among the OFW groups to ensure more representation in Congress as party-list representatives. This is easier said than done, but it must be vigorously pursued to ensure that the voice of overseas Filipino workers is heard).