Monday, February 12, 2007

Other “Mercenaries"

Arkin’s use of the word mercenaries to describe U.S. forces in Iraq (type his name in yahoo to find, I'm not spreading his bilge) reminds me of two things, first A. E. Houseman’s Epitaph On An Army of Mercenaries, here and secondly of the “mercenaries,” formerly known as volunteers before our Orwellian friends decided that volunteer might send the wrong message, who have played such a prominent roll in the history of our people.

After all it was volunteers that made parliament’s victory in the English Civil War possible. It was volunteers who formed the core of the Continental Army that won the American War of Independence. Volunteers by the millions carried the American republic on their bayonets through four long hard years of war.

In this last context one might point to the politicization of the Union Army, those dreadful mercenaries, who voted overwhelmingly for one party during the election of 1864 but if I noted who they voted for and which party against, I might be accused of “questioning the patriotism” of Arkin or even of waving the bloody shirt.

Nor is this the end of volunteers in the history of our people. The Spanish American war was fought by “mercenaries” most famously the Rough Riders a.k.a. the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The Boer War was fought by “mercenaries” from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape Colony and Natal.

Among the English Speaking People the draft is an innovation first seen (briefly) in the American Civil War and more frequently during the 20th Century. It is my hope that aside from militia forces for local defense, conscription will never be seen again among our people. Lets leave conscription to the French who invented it and the Germans who perfected it.

No comments: