THE MOTHER of the Peter McBride, the Belfast teenager murdered by two Scots Guardsmen on 4 September 1992, has appealed to the Iraqi government to cancel the contracts of private security firm Aegis Defence Services and to expel it from the country.
Jean McBride’s appeal follows a decision in September by the Iraqi interior ministry to expel another leading private security contractor, Blackwater, after it was confirmed that the company’s personnel had opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour in western Baghdad, killing eight civilians and wounding a further 13.
Her family has waged a vigourous campaign on both sides of the Atlantic and won the support of a number of British and Irish MPs. Despite this, British government ministers and defence officials have consistently refused to back campaigners’ calls for Peter McBride’s killers to be thrown out of the army. At a time when it is still possible for serving soldiers to be cashiered for a string of relative minor offences, it’s
not difficult to see why the McBride family regard the decision to allow the two guardsmen, whose convictions for murder have not been quashed, to resume their army careers, as adding insult to injury.
In recent years, the McBride campaign has widened its scope by also focussing on the career of Aegis chief executive Tim Spicer, who was the British army officer in charge of the two guardsmen convicted of her son’s murder.
Spicer has always refused to accept that his soldiers did anything wrong in shooting an unarmed teenager in the back in broad daylight and is on public record as saying that they should not even have been charged, let alone brought to trial.
Since leaving the British army in 1995, Spicer has moved into the murky and highly lucrative world of private ‘security’ – that’s mercenary to you and me – provision, where the activities of his various companies have resulted in a string of investigations and official reprimands. Unfortunately, tacit British government approval has ensured that such misdemeanours have not restricted his business opportunities, especially in Iraq.
The McBride family and human rights campaigners have not been so forgiving. In the years since his son’s murder, Jean McBride has repeatedly told anyone who would listen that Tim Spicer is unfit to to be in charge of men in a conflict situation. She is now urging the Iraqi government to “show the door to Aegis” as they have done to Blackwater.
Speaking after the Iraqi government announced that it was expelling Blackwater and revoking the company’s license to work in the country, Jean McBride explained that she had written to the Ambassador to Britain and Ireland, Dr Salah Al-Shaikhl, pointing out that Aegis employees had been filmed firing at Iraqi civilians in 2005 and that neither the company nor the Pentagon had bothered to carry out a proper investigation.
Following representations from the McBride family, prominent US lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate hopeful, Barack Obama, have joined the call for an inquiry into the awarding, and re-awarding, of ‘security’ contracts in Iraq to Aegis.
The family has welcomed the recent announcement, made in the wake of the Blackwater revelations, that the oversight and government reform committee of the US Congress is to hold formal hearings on the use of private security companies in Iraq. It could be a small step on the road to justice.
Further details about the activities of Aegis, Tim Spicer and the McBride family campaign can be found on the website of the Pat Finucane Centre at www.patfinucanecentre.org
The above article originally appeared in the Morning Star on 01/10/07 (that’s 1st October…)
Category Archives: aegis defence services
From the Pat Finucane Centre:
Following the decision of the Iraqi government to expel private security company Blackwater*from the country Belfast mother Jean Mc Bride has appealed to the Iraqis to ‘also show the door’ to British company Aegis Defence Services. The CEO of Aegis is former Scots Guards officer and mercenary Tim Spicer. Soldiers under Spicer’s command murdered 18 year old Peter Mc Bride in Belfast in 1992 yet Spicer refused to accept that his soldiers did wrong in shooting an unarmed teenager in the back in broad daylight.
Spicer’s private security/mercenary company Aegis has been embroiled in controversary since winning a major security contract in Iraq. In 2005 an ex employee posted a video on the internet which showed an Aegis security team opening fire at random on civilian vehicles in Baghdad.
Speaking today Mrs Mc Bride said,
“The Iraqis have revoked Blackwater’s license to work in Iraq after it emerged that employees opened fire and killed civilians. I would urge the Iraqi Government to also show the door to Aegis and revoke its license. Its employees have been filmed shooting at civilians and neither the company nor the Pentagon bothered to carry out a proper investigation. The CEO of Aegis, Tim Spicer, is on public record as saying that the soldiers who were convicted in a court of law of shooting my son should not even have been charged. I have said repeatedly that Tim Spicer is not fit to be in charge of armed men in a conflict situation. I have now written to Dr. Salah Al-Shaikhly, the Iraqi Ambassador to Britain and Ireland to make this point and I would appeal to those who have supported my family to date including Gerry Adams MP, Mark Durkan MP and the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern TD to raise this with the Iraqi Ambassador.
Mrs Mc Bride has also welcomed the announcement that the US Congress is to hold hearings into the use of private security/mercenary companies in Iraq. Earlier this week Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said, “The controversy over Blackwater is an unfortunate demonstration of the perils of excessive reliance on private security contractors”. He said his committee would hold hearings on the issue. A number of prominent lawmakers in the US including Barack Obama have called for an inquiry into Aegis following representations on behalf of Mrs Mc Bride.
For info contact the Pat Finucane Centre at 02871 268846
see http://www.patfinucanecentre.org for extensive background on Aegis and the Peter Mc Bride case
· Blackwater was ordered to leave Iraq following an incident earlier this week when, according to Iraq’s interior ministry, “eight civilians were killed and 13 wounded when Blackwater contractors opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour in western Baghdad after mortar rounds landed near their convoy.” The US has promised an investigation however most commentators would be sceptical of any ‘investigation’. Similar allegations into the conduct of Aegis employees were brought to the attention of the US Consul in Belfast, Howard Dean Pitman and the US Special Envoy to Ireland, Mitchel Reiss in meetings with Jean Mc Bride. Neither diplomat honoured commitments made to Jean Mc Bride at the time.
Lobby for US Senate/Congressional Hearings into the Aegis contract. In 2004, Spicer’s new mercenary firm Aegis won a major security in Iraq. What role did two former British officers working for the Coalition Provisonal Authority, Brigadier General Anthony Hunter-Choat and Brigadier General James Ellery, play in the award of the contract to Aegis?
Ellery went on to head the Baghdad office of Aegis, which was later heavily criticised by US Government auditors who found the company could not prove that its armed employees received proper weapons training or that it had vetted Iraqi employees.
Contact Congressman Henry Waxman who intends to hold hearings on the use of private security/mercenary companies.http://www.house.gov/waxman/
To find a Senator visit: http://www.senate.gov Telephone numbers for Senators can be found at: http://www.senate.gov/general/resources/pdf/senators_ph…t.pdf List of mailing addresses for all Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senat…m.cfm To find your Members of Congress visit: http://www.house.gov Telephone Numbers of all offices: http://clerk.house.gov/members/ttd_109.pdf Mailing labels/list of addresses to send letters to each Member of Congress in MicroSoft Word format: http://clerk.house.gov/members/wordmemberlabels.doc Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions: http://usembassy.state.gov/
The Mercenary Revolution by Jeremy Scahill exposes the corruption behind the use of private military contractors in Iraq (the US has deployed almost 200,000 to date!). Normally I like to repost articles in their entirety, but this is a bit long. In any case, it’s a fascinating read, and you can be sure that I had my eyes open for any mention of the infamous Tim Spicer and Aegis Defence Services (see my earlier post about Spicer and the fight for justice for Peter McBride). Sure enough, there he was in the (lucky number) thirteenth paragraph:
The single largest U.S. contract for private security in Iraq was a $293 million payment to the British firm Aegis Defence Services, headed by retired British Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who has been dogged by accusations that he is a mercenary because of his private involvement in African conflicts.
Granted, this article is about the slew of private contractors our tax dollars are paying for, so this was the only mention (and I did not expect any reference to Peter McBride). It’s nice to know that people are still paying attention to this enormous scandal.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the outsourcing of traditional military responsibilities (again, your tax dollars at work), please read this article. The use of these private military companies (like DynCorp, Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy, Erinys, ArmorGroup and Aegis) has actually doubled the size of the US occupation of Iraq–there are more contractors than troops at this point.
A little background from Scahill:
“I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives,” says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.
The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, “makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”
Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to
obtain – by both journalists and elected officials-but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.
While much has been made of the Bush administration’s “failure” to build international consensus for the invasion of Iraq, perhaps that was never the intention. When U.S. tanks rolled into Iraq in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of “private contractors” ever deployed in a war. The White House substituted international diplomacy with lucrative war contracts and a coalition of willing nations who provided token forces with a coalition of billing corporations that supplied the brigades of contractors.
It gets worse. Many private military companies recruit their employees from impoverished countries (many of which are opposed to the war), luring them to work for a paycheck that is oftentimes more than they would earn back home serving in their own militaries. Scahill continues:
“This externalization of services or outsourcing attempts to lower costs – third world mercenaries are paid less than their counterparts from the developed world – and maximize benefits. In other words, let others fight the war for the Americans. In either case, the Iraqi people do not matter at all.”
The Iraq war has ushered in a new system. Wealthy nations can recruit the world’s poor, from countries that have no direct stake in the conflict, and use them as cannon fodder to conquer weaker nations. This allows the conquering power to hold down domestic casualties – the single-greatest impediment to waging wars like the one in Iraq. Indeed, in Iraq, more than 1,000 contractors working for the U.S. occupation have been killed with another 13,000 wounded. Most are not American citizens, and these numbers are not counted in the official death toll at a time when Americans are increasingly disturbed by casualties.
In Iraq, many companies are run by Americans or Britons and have well-trained forces drawn from elite military units for use in sensitive actions or operations. But down the ranks, these forces are filled by Iraqis and third-country nationals. Indeed, some 118,000 of the estimated 180,000 contractors are Iraqis, and many mercenaries are reportedly ill-paid, poorly equipped and barely trained Iraqi nationals.
From the Pat Finucane Centre:
US Congressional hearings are being held this week into private contractors in Iraq. The hearings were announced after audits conducted by the special inspector general uncovered billions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction funds that have been misspent or are simply unaccounted for. Concerns about the use of private security companies in Iraq have flourished in recent years. One private security contractor in particular, warrants intense scrutiny. Please contact your local Representatives and ask the following questions about the award of a $293 million contract to Aegis Defense Services as well as questions about the use of private security contractors in general.
Contact the US Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and ask the Committee to consider the TEN Questions outlined below in relation to Aegis and ex British Army LT Col Tim Spicer
U.S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel (202) 225-5051
fax to 202-225-4784.
send the email through http://oversight.house.gov/contact.asp
10 Questions about the Aegis contract.
- How was a company with no prior experience in Iraq awarded a $293 million dollar contract? Why was the contract renewed after receiving poor performance ratings from the GAO?
- Has former British Army General James Ellery’s involvement in the award of the Aegis contract been investigated? At the time the contract was awarded he was a senior advisor to the Provisional Coalition Authority (CPA). Soon after the contract was awarded Mr. Ellery left this post and took up a position with Aegis managing the RSSS contract in Iraq. Mr. Ellery currently serves on the board of directors of Aegis.
- What information about the background of Aegis CEO Tim Spicer was evaluated when the $293 million contract was awarded?
- At the time the contract was awarded, was the CPA aware that Spicer had justified a human rights abuse, the murder of 18 year old Peter McBride by soldiers under his command in Belfast in 1992. In justifying the murder, Spicer portrayed a version of the events in his sworn affidavit and later in his autobiography that was dismissed by the trial court as fictional.
- Was the CPA aware that Spicer’s statement in his autobiography that his soldiers should not have been convicted showed a blatant disregard for British and International law? Do the CPA and the U.S. Military consider it important for the head of a private security company conducting military operations in Iraq to be able to demonstrate that he understands under what circumstances those under his command could use lethal force ?
- Was the CPA aware that Spicer, as the head of his previous company, Sandline International, had been investigated for Sandline’s activities in Sierra Leone and in Papua New Guinea?
- Was the CPA aware that Sandline’s activities in Papua New Guinea led to Spicer’s arrest and a coup against the government ?
- Was the allegation investigated that Spicer requested and received blank end user certificates for small arms ?
- Did the Pentagon investigation into the March 2006 Aegis shoot-to-kill “trophy video” include evidence from all of those present in the SUV from where the shootings occurred?
- Did those who conducted the Pentagon investigation take evidence from any of those fired upon or indeed from any Iraqi civilians?
Last week US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur –> made some interesting comments on the Pentagon’s contract with Tim Spicer at a House Committee hearing on Friday:
I will say this, both in closed door meetings and in public, I have yet to find a person other than the auditor, who is able to shed any light on how it was that Aegis, a foreign corporation, was given a contract where now we have the second-largest force in Iraq, larger than the Brits, headed by someone named Tim Spicer.
Who signed that contract, and what are those 20,000 people doing, many of whom are foreign mercenaries? What are they doing? Why can’t I get any answers out of our Government? What is happening inside the Department of Defence? What are those people doing over there?
The last answer I got was, “well Congresswoman, you’ll have to go over to Central Command over in Baghdad.” OK, I’ll go, but why can’t I get answers on that as a member of this committee?
No, this post is not about the recent movie bearing the same title, which has recently opened to rave reviews (though I have seen it and I think both Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are brilliant in the film). Rather, the title is meant to allude to a much more important and timely scandal, the ongoing war on Iraq. Counterpunch recently published a great article by Ismael Hossein-zadeh called The Profits of Escalation: Why the US is Not Leaving Iraq. The article asks the question why, despite widespread acknowledgement that the Iraq war is a failure, does the US balk at the idea of pulling out the troops? You guessed it–because there is too much money to be made. Hossein-zadeh writes:
The fact is that not everyone is losing in Iraq. Indeed, while the Bush administration’s wars of choice have brought unnecessary death, destruction, and disaster to millions, including many from the Unites States, they have also brought fortunes and prosperity to war profiteers. At the heart of the reluctance to withdraw from Iraq lies the profiteers’ unwillingness to give up further fortunes and spoils of war.
Pentagon contractors constitute the overwhelming majority of these profiteers. They include not only the giant manufacturing contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing, but also a complex maze of over 100,000 service contractors and sub-contractors such as private army or security corporations and “reconstruction” firms. These contractors of both deconstruction and “reconstruction,” whose profits come mainly from the US treasury, have handsomely profited from the Bush administration’s wars of choice.
The article goes on to describe the windfall experienced by armaments conglomerates such as Lockheed Martin (mentioned above) and Raytheon (who makes 90 percent of its profits from defense contracts, and whose website boasts that it is “committed to creating dramatic and lasting change through strategic charitable giving,” primarily though its promotion of math and science education and the help of celebrity spokespeople like Mia Hamm, Apollo Ohno, and Tony Hawk. Sick.) Hossein-zadeh also highlights the proliferation of private contractors, thanks to the Pentagon’s tendency to outsource what were once considered military responsibilities, using, of course, US taxpayers’ money.
What is more, these services are not limited to the relatively simple or routine tasks and responsibilities such food and sanitation services or building maintenance. More importantly, they include “contracts for services that are highly sophisticated, strategic in nature, and closely approaching core functions that for good reason the government used to do on its own. The Pentagon has even hired contractors to advise it on hiring contractors.”
Private security contracting, a lucrative and rapidly growing industry, is a good example of the Pentagon’s policy of outsourcing. These contractors operate on the periphery of U.S. foreign policy by training foreign “security forces,” or by “fighting terrorism.” Often these private military corporations are formed by retired Special Forces personnel seeking to market their military expertise to the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, or foreign governments.
Though the article does not discuss Aegis Defence Services in particular, those of us familiar with the infamous PMC and the murder of Peter McBride (see also my earlier post, Justice for Peter McBride) know all too well just what sort of things these private contractors and the people who run them will do for money.