These, in the day that Heaven was falling,
the hour when Earth's foundations fled
followed their mercenary calling
and took their wages, and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended,
they stood, and Earth's foundations stay.
What God abandoned, these defended,
and saved the sum of things for pay.
"Epitath on a Mercenary Army" - A.E. Housman
You can see them in the background, on CNN...opening the doors of the armored dignitary-bearing SUVs before the wheels stop, and stepping out, watchful.
When the dignitary emerges, they walk the diamond, one man in front, one on each side, one at the back door.
They don't have uniforms, but they do...blue or gray Kevlar, beards and longish hair, wraparound sunglasses. And either M-4s or AKs, and pistols in drop-leg holsters.
This is the popular image of the security contractor, the soldier-for-hire who gained fame in America's recent Near East wars. They're widely seen as amoral professional killers, ready to fight for the highest bidder (which happens to be the USA, at the moment).
They're triggerhappy, like the Blackwater operatives who went cyclic in a Baghdad plaza, killing and wounding a large number of 'collaterals'. Did they have a reason? Sure, but who really cares what it was? They're mercenaries, after all.
It's convenient image. Makes them easy to dislike, and when you hear about some of them being killed, you can stifle a yawn and move on.
I'm not going to mount an impassioned defense. There are those who understand, but if you don't, I can't make you.
But I will say this. There are many diplomats and aid workers who came home...because a contractor didn't.