"Mercenaries are soldiers who fight for anyone who’ll pay them. While the mercs that get the attention are the free-lance Europeans and Americans who occasionally turn up in odd corners of Africa, sometimes trying to take over an impoverished country, most mercenaries go relatively unnoticed. There are perhaps 140,000 mercs in the world today, and they serve in just a handful of armies. The French have about 8,500 in their Foreign Legion, and the Spanish another 7,500 in theirs, though many of the men in both corps are native sons pretending to be foreigners. In addition, Britain has about 10,000 Gurkhas, recruited by arrangement with the government of Nepal, and there are perhaps 100,000 more Nepalese in the Indian Army and police, serving mostly as individuals. Finally, Oman and the United Arab Emirates regularly hire troops from Pakistan, while the Presidential Guard of Equatorial Guinea is recruited in Morocco, and South Africa, Israel , and Libya appear to have some nonnative troops on the payroll as well, though their numbers are undetermined. Then there are Hessians, named after the troops that Britain hired from Hesse and several other principalities during the American Revolution.

Hessians are not mercenaries in the classic sense-that is, men who serve for whomever will pay them. Rather, they are serving an ally of their country, an ally who is paying the bills. This was, and remains, a clever way to maintain a viable army on a tight budget: Hire the troops out to someone who’ll support them, and you, in the style to which you are accustomed. The number of Hessians in the world seems to be rather higher than that of proper mercs, but again figures are difficult to establish. The best example of Hessians today are the Cuban forces who have been in Angola, Ethiopia, and other parts of Africa……,

Dirty Little Secrets


"Until recently, Pakistan was heavily into the Hessian business, with more than 20,000 troops hired out to Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim powers in the Middle East, but it is currently cutting back. Though precise information is unavailable, during the Iran-Iraq War several Arab powers contributed a total of about 10,000 to 15,000 "volunteers" to the Iraqi Army. Even Britain is in the Hessian business, with one battalion of Gurkhas actually on the payroll of the Sultan of Brunei. Perhaps the most surprising Hessians of all, however, are the 55,000-odd Americans in Japan who are partially supported out of Japanese funds, to the tune of about $45,000 a head per year.

Dirty Little Secrets


© 2001



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