Thursday, April 03, 2003

Mercenary Position

Iraq claims that it is being attacked by American "mercenaries." From Radio Netherlands (emphasis added):
The language used by al-Sahaf is emotional and passionate. When he's really on form, savage invective against the coalition comes flooding out of his mouth. He regularly calls the British and American soldiers 'criminals' and 'mercenaries', 'mass murderers' and 'imbeciles', who are performing outrageous acts of aggression against the Muslims of Iraq.

I would expect for someone in al-Sahaf's position to use "savage invective" against coalition troops. I would expect coalition troops to be labeled "murderers" or "infidels" or even "bringers of distasteful pop music." But where did "mercenaries" come from? I'm not at all clear on what makes "mercenary" an insult in this context. Even if coalition forces did in fact use mercenaries -- and nowhere have I heard any evidence for that weird charge -- what is the relevance? Is he trying to imply that these aren't the "genuine" U.S. and British troops? Or is "mercenaries" an awkward translation that has some other shade of meaning in the original?

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