Are they EVER called mercenaries?
both images are from the AFP. The first is from Mosul, November 2005. I am uncertain of the one of the helicopter. I wonder if most Americans would readily see how disturbing the second image would be to most people in the Arab world, the juxtaposition of the flying mercenary and the minaret-- although I imagine the photographer did.
circa May 2nd:
BAGHDAD - U.S. private security contractors shot dead an Iraqi ambulance crewman as the ambulance approached a site in northern Baghdad where the contractors' armoured vehicle had been hit by a roadside bomb, a U.S. military spokesman said.last month (via Mike at Lunaville), there's this regarding a Q and A junior had with students at Johns Hopkins regarding the legal status of "independent military contractors" The transcript suggests GW was dismissive both in his words and his tone, although the 2nd thing is difficult to tell.
Also, a while back there was this item, via Cursor(3.24.2006):
A Raleigh News & Observer analysis of newly released "incident reports" leads to the conclusion that "security contractors supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq regularly shoot into civilian cars with little accountability."