18 October 2007

Blackwater: Mercenaries by Definition

"Progressive Daily Beacon" -- --- Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenaries, has been a huge financial supporter of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. That might explain why Mister Bush's State Department worked with Prince's people to try and cover up the latest Blackwater slaughter of civilians in Iraq, and could be a big part of the reason why so many Republicans came to the chief mercenary's defense during Congressional hearings. His fondness for and belief in all things Republican probably answers too, Erik Prince's problem with honesty.

Blackwater's Mister Prince has a problem with people calling his mercenaries well ... err ... mercenaries. He appeared on CBS's "60 Minutes," a onetime news program-turned Blackwater infomercial, and said with a straight face, "You know the definition of a mercenary is a professional soldier that works in the pay of a foreign army. I’m an American working for America."

Nobody is denying Erik Prince's claim of being a United States citizen. But he wasn't being honest about his corporate mercenaries, nor was he being completely honest about the characteristics that define a mercenary. Mister Prince chose to emphasize only half of the mercenary equation. Still, even then, he was misleading.

Erik Prince's mercenaries make a great deal of money. They're paid much, much, much more than the average U.S. soldier. Though Prince chose to ignore it, a mercenary is also defined as someone who is, "motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain." Prince would probably insist that the people in his employ are motivated by a desire to serve the United States' interests, which he would further argue is Blackwater's singular goal in Iraq. As far as Iraq goes, such a claim may or may not be true? If it were true, everyone in Blackwater could have joined the U.S. military. But obviously "a desire for monetary or material gain" played a role in their choosing Blackwater over the Army and the Marine Corps.

One wonders too -- as it relates to his men being hired out to corporations -- how Erik Prince would defend his company against the mercenary charge? Is the person defending an oil company's platform in Africa doing it out of a desire to serve his or her country, or is he or she doing it because the money is so damned good?

Still, even by Prince's own definition, he and his employees are mercenaries. "You know the definition of a mercenary is a professional soldier that works in the pay of a foreign army," Erik Prince rationalized.

Certainly Mister Prince realizes that the United States military is a foreign force occupying Iraq. From the perspective of the few Iraqis who actually survive an encounter with Blackwater, Mister Prince and his hair-triggered maniacs are professional soldiers working in the pay of a foreign military ... the United States military.

The point, of course, is that no matter how Erik Prince tries to spin and lie; he and every Blackwater employee in Iraq is a mercenary-(ICH/A. Alexander)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.