Don't call them mercenaries*

Once, on a Caribbean island, I met a grizzled old man who told me that when he was a boy of about twelve an American Navy officer had offered him an opportunity for adventure: he could travel to the Philippines -- where the U.S. occupation forces were ruthlessly suppressing a domestic insurgency -- and get $5 dollars for the head of each rebel he turned in to the Marines.

The image of the boy on an island far from home, swapping severed heads for a fin -- conveyed to me with an off-putting smile decades later by the old man he had become -- has stuck with me ever since. He'd been a twelve year-old, Third World mercenary in the employ of the world's most powerful nation.

I thought about that when I read that private U.S. military firms are reportedly recruiting men in the Philippines to serve in Iraq (but not to cut off anybody's head).

Things seem to have come full circle:

Outgoing Labor chief Patricia Sto. Tomas will look into the reported recruitment of Filipino mercenaries to serve as private armies of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sto. Tomas reacted to reports that several Pinoys [a term for Filipinos] either in active service or AWOL of the military and police are being lured to join the training for mercenaries in Iraq in Subic [Bay] and Clark [Field].
The labor chief admitted that the recruitment could not be stopped since these are done surreptitiously by some American firms …
[It was reported] that about 300 Pinoys have already been recruited to be trained as mercenaries in exchange for about $1,200 to $5,000 take-home pay.
What American firms, you wonder?

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