Something that makes me absolutely crazy about IZ culture is the whole PSD situation. Personal Security Detail teams are essentially patriotic mercenaries. They will whine and complain like little girls and possibly threaten you physically if you dare to call them by that name, but that's because none of them know how to open a dictionary.
mercenary / adj. & n.
adj. primarily concerned with money or other reward (mercenary motives).
n. (pl. -ies)
1 a hired soldier in foreign service.
2 a person available for paid hire
Okay you can argue the 'in foreign service' bit, but not really. PSD teams guard mainly Americans, it's true, but there are also several American companies contracted as PSDs for Iraqi officials as well, and it's supposedly ALL in the service of making Iraq more secure, anyway. And most of the money is coming from Iraqi Reconstruction funds, so it's to no one's benefit to get all semantic about it... actually you could reasonably call me a mercenary based on definition 2, but I'll play the semantic card for myself in that it could mean anybody that's got a job then, is a mercenary. But that's ridiculous. And mercenary generally connotates fighting for money, which I am not. So now that that log is out of my eye, let me address the splinter that is mercenary culture in the IZ.
The camp I used to be in charge of life support for had 600 of these pampered prima donnas living in it, so I am uniquely qualified to comment on them. They are generally big pumped up rednecks. When I leave Iraq and enter normal society for vacation, I feel alot bigger than I used to because here everybody is built like a superhero. They get their own caravan room and bathroom, and are given power and water 24/7, and are usually provided with TVs and DVD players, cable and internet. Their assignments are usually not more than 3 to 4 hours long, a couple of days a week, if that. They may or may not venture out into dangerous parts of Baghdad on those assignments. They drive like maniacs, shoot to kill with little provocation, and act like the gods of Iraq. In fact, they seem to be stuck on the very silly highschool-like self appointed moniker of 'Baghdaddy', as in "Who's your Baghdaddy?!", to be seen on T-shirts worn by retarded Americans all over the country. To be fair, anybody can buy these T-shirts at the PX, but mostly the big monkey mercenaries seem to like them. Incidentally, the front of these T-shirts say this in English, but just in case they wanted to actually cross the line from stupid to offensive, they have it translated into Arabic on the back side, just to let their subjects know who's boss. Anyway, I've been told by my translator that it doesn't really make sense in Arabic anyway, so mostly it's just stupid. But it's the thought that counts.
When they're not on assignment, they're lounging about their secured and pampered compounds (which always have Gym facilities, various other recreation options, and excellent dining facilities) and complain about how their showers leak water onto their floor, the food sucks, not enough decent gym equipment, blah blah blah. Their salaries are almost never less than $20,000 per month.
Meanwhile, the American soldier gets paid substantially less (maybe a grand or 2 a month? I'm not actually up on the current salary for soldier danger pay, which they get for being assigned here) and spend a significantly more amount of time in the red zone, risking their lives. Their living situation, when they are on long term assignment here, is to bunk up with the rest of their unit and no personal space.(like in the movies!) PSDs usually get 2 weeks paid vacation every 3 months. Soldiers don't really get vacations per se, but their leave time is significantly less.
Now, a lot of PSDs are ex-military, (also ex-cops, ex-firemen, ex-security guards etc...) and feel they've paid their dues, but that's sort of beside the point for me. Why is so much of the reconstruction money being spent on security? They're paying mercenaries 10 times the money a soldier makes to do a tenth of a soldier's job! Not only is the money being spent on their salaries, but those huge plush secure compounds they insist on living in don't come cheap either, let me tell you. Just building one can cost tens of millions of dollars, and ongoing life support costs can also be in the tens of millions per year. It's so wastefull, it's almost too big to comprehend. Why not just offer a 4 or 5 times increase in soldiers pay to get people to enlist and come over here that way? If that's not feasible, there must be other options less insane than what's actually going on.
It puts me in a difficult position morally, because I've made alot of money myself by building and maintaining one of the biggest of those camps. So don't get me wrong, I am definately somewhat of a hypocrite. It doesn't make me any less outraged at the whole thing, though, even having admitted that. Plus I just really dislike these people, and have only received these impressions by having actually been in the middle of it; before I came to work for my current employers, I really wasn't completely aware of how messed up it was. It's one thing to read about it in a blurb in the New York Times, it's another thing to see it firsthand.
In my own personal news, we found a treadmill buried under lots of construction materials while cleaning out our warehouse the other day. We've plugged it in in one of the rooms in our office building and I've begun burning some calories... a much needed activity for me. If I'm this sore from walking for an hour a day on the treadmill, it would really have put a crimp in my travelling for whenever I'm freed from this prison.