It's still snowing and the kids are asleep. Poking around, I found a charming bit on N4610, the Rent-a-Coup plane, that I had previously missed. In its first incarnation as a commercial aircraft, the plane had a name: Clipper Pathfinder:
83-4610 . . . Ex-commercial 727-100 operated by ANG 4610 (c/n 18811) was formerly B-727-035 N4610 of National Airlines. National merged with Pan American and aircraft named 'Clipper Pathfinder'. Purchased by USAF Aug 21, 1984. Sold Jan 11, 2002 to Dodson International Parts, inc and then to Dodson Aviation Jan 14, 2002. Registered to Dodson Aviation as N4610. Seized by Zimbawean authorities for carrying suspected mercenaries and military equipment. Dodson supposedly had sold the plane to a South African company, Logo Ltd.
Those of us who work primarily in fiction care about such things.
THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, I wanted to return for a moment to the subject of that awful Lucasarts game, Mercenaries, I blogged this morning: Mercenaries will give gamers the opportunity to live out their action movie fantasies with its explosive combat and non-linear gameplay set in massive interactive environments. If you can see it -- you can steal it, use it or blow it up. says the press release. Calixte, on African Oil Politics has noted the misplaced sympathy the Western media are giving the captive mercenaries. And I, meanwhile, have been patiently waiting for some competent coverage of the whole mess from the US media.
I'm beginning to worry that they're too caught up in whether Spain is giving in to terrorism (oh, please!), or whether the misquoted John Kerry can be badgered into claiming foreign governments among his supporters. But I worry, on further meditation, that the problem is not these distractions at all, but rather that Americans assume that oil politics take place only in the Middle East and that, worse still, Americans as a group really do think the way the Lucasarts copy suggests; that the very idea of mercenaries poses us serious point-of-view problems, that in our hearts we believe that the world needs mercenaries so we can have the opportunity to vicariously live out our action movie fantasies.
I have been thinking about this point-of-view problem -- that the Western public is more prone to identify with the mercenaries than those they are hired to shoot at -- and it seems to me that we need to understand that in many ways, mercenaries are not that different from al-Qaida's terrorists except that they lack a strong religious and moral framework. (We may disagree vehemently with the nature of that framework, but it undeniably is present in those choosing to die for their cause.)
I have seen it argued in a variety of places, from al-Jazeera to conservative think-tank documents, that al-Quaida tends to concentrate in places where there is oil. Could it be that they are the mirror-image of these mercenaries, funded and deployed by the Saudi faction that would prefer to see the world's oil supply under the control of Islam (as opposed to under the control of Texans)?
This failed coup is a scandal, a big scandal with a broad reach. The press needs to stop romanticizing (when not ignoring) the captive mercenaries, and get on with the business of actually covering the story.
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