Four mercenaries dead. Makes it sound like four murderous ex-soldiers with something to hide got killed. Maybe they deserved it, maybe not.
Four American civilians killed, their limbs ripped from their torsos, bodies charred beyond recognition, and hung from a bridge while men jump up and down and cheer. Certainly gives you a different mental picture, doesn’t it?
Well it turns out that the four Americans killed yesterday in Fallujah were former Special Forces soldiers providing security for food deliveries. That doesn’t make the tragedy any less poignant, their deaths any less shocking. (The New York Times has the grisly content here if you’re up to it. Caution: it’s quite graphic.)
But the fact that the four dead were soldiers for hire infuriated Markos Zuniga, who took occasion to say of the dead, “They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.” He later clarified (if you can call it that) his statement by differentiating between soldiers who are there on orders and mercenaries who are there to make a buck. (What of the soldiers who join to make a buck? What of the trigger-happy soldier who joins up because he likes to shoot things? Where do you draw the line?)
Markos is a former soldier. And he grew up in a war zone, so he can speak far more authoritatively than I about the horrors of war and the particulars of soldiers vs. private contractors doing work ordinarily reserved for soldiers.
But his comments are beyond the pale. He’s feeling the effects — apparently several of his larger advertisers have already withdrawn their ads, and I have no doubt that this story will continue (James Taranto picked up on it today for the Wall Street Journal Online, and Instapundit has links galore to much of the Right’s righteous rage here) over the next few days. (The original post, along with extended comments from dozens of individuals, can be found here.)
Indifference to human life is the very thing that Kos and others have accused the Bush Administration of. Demonstrating that same indifference when fellow Americans die while doing their job is inexcusable.
Kos has established himself as a young up-and-coming voice in the Democratic party, with the ear of Terry McAuliffe and frequent interactions with the party elite. With that role comes responsibility, and in insulting the men who died doing what they were trained to do he abused that responsibility. Kos seems to resent that these men were well paid, though it’s questionable whether even $150,000 to $200,000 is enough for what they were asked to do. (Do our soldiers deserve better pay? Undoubtedly. But why conflate the issue of low combat pay with these contractors doing their job?)
Kos owes his readers and the party an apology. A real apology, not the relativist rant that tried to attach proportional value to certain people’s deaths.
(For more on the work these contractors are doing in Iraq, see today’s New York Times for a good overview.)