Hungarian Mercenary Killed in Iraq

Despite the makeup, the war in Iraq is dirty business

Last week four people were killed in Iraq when their car came under attack. Among them was a Hungarian. Although deaths resulting from bombings and killings have become routine in Iraq, the death of one Hungarian made immediate headline news in Hungary. In the US and other countries which have suffered casualties in Iraq, such an immediate response to what has become a "routine killing" of an individual has long been abandoned.

One reason for this is because unlike other countries which have been involved in Iraq, Hungary has been spared the worst. With this latest death, the total number of Hungarians killed in Iraq climbs to three. The first was the death of a civilian working in Iraq who was killed by US marines when "he failed to stop" at a checkpoint. For many, this version of events is highly questionable. However, as the US is an ally and that Hungary was (and still is) dependent on the whims and wishes of Big Brother, the Hungarian government decided not to probe any further and uncritically accepted the American version of events. Hungary's second casualty, meanwhile, was military and came about "the usual way"; a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle in which the soldier was riding.

Without a doubt Hungary's relatively low troop commitment (a couple of hundred at the time) contributed to the low fatality rate. The country no longer has soldiers in Iraq, only a few military advisers to help "train" Iraqi soldiers. Hungary's foreign legion may have returned home, however it didn't stay very long. It soon was redeployed to Afghanistan, albeit in a smaller number than in Iraq. After all, the country is undergoing a severe financial crisis and austerity measures have been introduced; even the military has to pull a little on its wide belt.

Given the fact that the Hungarian commitment in Iraq was almost negligible (except for propaganda purposes at home and in the US), and that killings of the sort which took place last week is commonplace nowadays in Iraq, the death of a Hungarian would seem to be a minor footnote in the daily grind of the attention economy. Indeed, while initially the news was treated with some importance in Hungary, it has since disappeared from the media radar screen.

Yet the importance to what happened last week is not so much how or why it happened, but how it was reported. As elsewhere when such an incident occurs, Hungarian media reported the incident as a "security guard" killed in Iraq. After more than three years of bloodshed and lies, it's time to throw away the euphemisms and have people and events called by their proper names. In this case, it wasn't a security guard but a mercenary that was recently killed in Iraq.

When we think of security guards, we usually think of individuals in smart uniforms employed by large stores and shopping centers. Admittedly, in Hungary this image is a little different: instead of smartly dressed persons you can approach, they are reminiscent of thugs or skinheads, usually dressed in black, whose sole purpose is to instill a sense of fear. Like the police in Hungary, the way they look and project themselves is one of intimidation, much like that of a rival, and not the benign helping hand which one would expect of a parent or guardian.

This aside, even by Hungary's crude standards the "security guard" killed in Iraq was far from this ideal. The fact that the person had received one year's training at a special American camp raises questions as to what kinds of security guards are employed in Iraq.

The so-called "private military contractors" killed in 2004 at Fallujah, which precipitated an American offensive in the area (which was more in the form of a massive revenge killing), is a case in point. The brutality with which these individuals were killed made it clear as to who these people really were. The company they worked for, Blackwater USA, describes itself as a "military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company".

Mercenaries are not tolerated in any conflict, for they represent the lowest form of humanity. In modern times, they tend to be concentrated in areas of low intensity conflict, where deploying traditional armed forces might be too risky politically, diplomatically, or economically. In essence, their job is to kill or be killed specifically for money; soldiers and other combatants, on the other hand, although there is a measure of remuneration involved, nevertheless do it for a sense of duty, however perverted this sense of duty may be.

It's about time we stop being so coy, and learn once again to read between the lines of the so-called "news" we receive each day. As with the term "collateral damage" which was used extensively in the 1980s and 1990s to mask the true horrors of war, especially on civilian populations, "security guards" and other like terms are still being used to mask an ugly and illegal war. Likewise, we are beginning to forget what the war in Iraq was all about: a war to control the supply of oil.

This was made blatantly clear two weeks ago when the British newspaper The Independent reported on a new Iraqi law which would give oil companies such as BP, Shell, and Exxon-Mobil 30 year contracts to extract Iraqi crude. The companies would be allowed to take up to 75% of the profits until they recouped the initial drilling costs; after that, they would collect around 20% of profits, which represents twice the average for such deals.

No matter which way you look at it, the reality is stark: the US is involved in a perverse "red for black" trading relationship -- exchanging American red blood for Iraqi black oil. The use of mercenaries only reinforces the fact that the war in Iraq is a dirty war, and that the longer we accept the euphemisms used to describe various aspects of the conflict, the dirtier it becomes. (John Horvath)