A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is an individual who takes part in military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any other official military. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms of payment rather than for political interests. In the last century, mercenaries have increasingly come to be seen as less entitled to protections by rules of war than non-mercenaries. Indeed, the Geneva Conventions declare that mercenaries are not recognized as legitimate combatants and do not have to be granted the same legal protections as captured soldiers of a regular army. In practice, whether or not a person is a mercenary may be a matter of degree, as financial and political interests may overlap, as was often the case among Italian condottieri.
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- "Mercenaries?" I ventured. "Agh! Mercenaries!" Bob exclaimed, like I had stabbed him. "Now that's the worst thing you can be. Worse than a prostitute. Your life is the most valuable thing you got. Die for your own freedom, that's great, but kill and die for a buck? He looked at me again, shooting more wisdom out of his violently pointing finger. "Never do anything just for money!"
- Paul Jury, States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction (2011), p. 168
- They go by many names- mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, wild geese, hired guns, legionnaires, contract killers, hirelings, condottieri, contractors, and corporate warriors- these men who have fought for money and plunder rather than cause or patriotism. Soldiers of fortune have always played significant roles in warfare, they are present on the battlefields of today, and they certainly will be a part of whatever combat occurs in the future.
- Michael Lee Lanning, Mercenaries (2005), p. 1
- The need for soldiers of fortune has and will change little. Their organization into corporate-owned private military companies is a major evolution, but mercenaries will exist wherever warfare exists.
- Michael Lee Lanning, Mercenaries (2005), p. 234
- Today, 75 percent of U.S. forces in Afghanistan are contracted. Only about 10 percent of these contractors are armed, but this matters not. The greater point is that America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars.
- Today, more contractors are killed in combat than soldiers—a stunning turnaround from the start of the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, when fewer than 10 percent of casualties were contractors. By 2010, more contractors were dying than troops. However, the real number of contractor deaths —versus the “official” tally—remains unknown.
- Most of those fighting for the United States abroad aren’t even Americans. Private military companies are multinational corporations that recruit globally. When I worked in the industry, my colleagues came from almost every continent. According to a recent Pentagon report, just over 33 percent of private military contractors in Afghanistan are U.S. citizens.
- Many of the larger private military companies also hire local “subs” or sub-contractors, often invisible to U.S. government officials and reporters. In 2010, during the height of the wars, a Senate investigation found evidence that these “subs” were linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-Coalition activities. Similarly, in a 2010 report titled “Warlord, Inc.,” the House of Representatives found that the Department of Defense had hired warlords for security services. What happens to these subs when the big contractor goes home? In some notable, alarming cases, they go into business for themselves, breeding mercenary markets in the wake of a U.S. intervention.
- Giving birth to such markets is just one of the many ways that contractors encourage dangerous policymaking. Unlike the Pentagon or CIA, private military companies do not report to Congress, circumventing democratic accountability of the armed forces.
- Contractors, then, allow policymakers to wage war outside of the public eye. Their deaths rarely attract headlines the way those of fallen American soldiers do.
- No international laws exist to regulate the mercenary industry. What we’re left with: If anyone with enough money can wage war for any reason they want to, then new superpowers will emerge: the ultra-rich and multinational corporations. Oil companies and oligarchs should not have armies.
- Sean McFate, "America's Addiction to Mercenaries" The Atlantic, (12 August 2016)
- Blackwater founder Erik Prince is pushing a plan to deploy thousands of privately-hired mercenaries to topple the Venezuelan Maduro regime- and many veterans are saying, “Put me in, coach.” In an extreme case of capitalism in action, the monarch of mercenary companies has been soliciting investment and support from Venezuelan exiles and influential conservatives. Prince has offered to send over 5,000 mercenaries to help Juan Guaido, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition forces.
- The oppressed were organized in Liberation Movements which started guerilla warfare against their oppressors. Though poorly equipped, their determination and commitment led to unexpected success. To combat the national liberation movements, the imperialists could no longer come out in the open and expose themselves. This would make them lose face. All they wanted was to "invisibly" control these countries. It is in this context that the modem mercenary has become an important tool of imperialism. Mercenarism as a form of soldiering is used as a vehicle for fighting the liberation movements and independent developing countries.
- C.M. Peter, "Mercenaries and International Humanitarian Law", 24 Indian J. of Int'l L., 373, 377-78 (1984); as qtd. in Marie-France Major, "Mercenaries and International Law", Georgia J. Int'l & Comp. L. 103 (1992), p. 106.
- ...that war be and the same is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their Territories; and that the President of the United States is herby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect, and to issue to private armed vessels of the United States commissions of marque and general reprisal, in such forms as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the Government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the subjects thereof.
- He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.
- We do not murder. We do not torture. We do not, you may be very certain, we do not execute. We have no truck with crimes of passion or hatred or pointless gain. We do not do it for delight in inhumation, or for some cause or belief- I tell you, gentlemen, all of these reasons are in the highest degree suspect. Look into the face of a man who will kill you for a belief and your nostrils will snuff up the scent of abomination. Hear a speech declaring a holy war and, I assure you, your ears should catch the clink of evil's scales and the dragging of its monstrous tail over the purity of the language. No, we do it for the money. And because we above all must know the value of a human life, we do it for a great deal of money. There can be few cleaner motives, shorn of all pretense.
- Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (1989), p. 46. Said by the character Dr. Cruces.
Film and Television Quotes
- Mercenaries! That were paid to come over here to make us crawl, and to wipe us out. We've just sent a message to the British cabinet that will echo and reverberate around the world! If they bring their savagery over here, we will meet it with a savagery of our own!
- Finbar in The Wind That Shakes the Barley
- Listen, sister, I'm not in this for you, and I'm not in this for your revolution. I'm in it for the money. I expect to be well paid.
- Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Your friend is quite a mercenary. I wonder if he really cares about anything. Or anybody.
- Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- "If I told you to murder an infant girl, say, still at her mother's breast, would you do it, without question?"
"Without question? No. I'd ask how much."
- Tyrion Lannister and Bronn in Game of Thrones/Season 2: "The Nightlands"
- I guess a man's got to do what he's best at
Ain't found nothin' better so far
Been called mercenaries and men with no country
Just soldiers in search of a war
- Steve Earle, "Mercenary Song", Train a Comin' (1995)
- And we're bound for the border
We're soldiers of fortune
And we'll fight for no country but we'll die for good pay
Under the flag of of the greenback dollar
Or the peso down Mexico way
- Steve Earle, "Mercenary Song", Train a Comin' (1995)