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: British government
From David McKittrick’s article in today’s Independent, “Staying on one side or the other makes life less complicated”:
Their widely differing takes on the Troubles were starkly illustrated by a poll that showed 86 per cent of Protestants approved of the police using plastic bullets while 87 per cent of Catholics disapproved.
The gulf in these mindsets is so wide that, apart from television and radio debates, it is extremely rare for committed unionists and committed nationalists to debate such things.
McKittrick doesn’t provide any explanation or attempt at a reason to explain this “gulf in mindsets”–and I’m already bored thinking about the reasoning behind this–but the facts are out there, and it bothers me to see an issue like this laid out there in the “we just see things differently” sort of way.
In 2000, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, now Director of the Tranisitional Justice Program at the University of Ulster, published a study called the Politics of Force: Conflict Management and State Violence in Northern Ireland that I am reading as background for my thesis. Her study shows notable patterns in the use of state force and the typology of victims–namely that an overwhelming number of victims (85%) of state violence were from the minority (Catholic) community, as opposed to 11% from the Protestant community (with 4% “other”). Kind of puts the poll in a different perspective now, doesn’t it?
“If we acknowledge that lethal force has, in fact, been a prevalent and widespread component of the minority community’s experience within the state,” writes Ní Aoláin, “then this acknowledgement, in turn, must validate and reinforce the minority’s perception of the states and its agents.”
The British government was challenged by thousands of marchers yesterday to reveal the full role it played in the murder of nationalists and republicans over the last 40 years.
Upwards of 7,000 marchers from all over Ireland, including the relatives of victims, descended on Belfast City Hall to demand that the British government disclose the part it played in helping loyalist murder gangs.
Those gathered heard from representatives of a number of campaigns aimed at finding the truth about the killings of loved ones, and listened to Gerry Adams say Sinn Féin would be continuing to raise the issue with the British government.
“If there is to be an inclusive healing process and a genuine process of reconciliation then the British government must face up to its responsibilities,” said the West Belfast MP.
“It is in the interest of all our people that there is a genuine and successful healing process [and] all political leaders have a responsibility to promote this.
“That means thinking beyond any sectarian, sectional, party political or self interest,” continued Mr Adams.
Thousands of marchers from the four corners of the city descended on the City Hall yesterday to demand the British government own up to its role in the murder of its own citizens.
In bright sunshine up to 7,000 people of all ages, carrying placards and wearing black ribbons, heard the families of the victims of state violence speak of their suffering at the hands of the British government and its policy of using loyalist proxies to attack the nationalist and republican community.
As the march passed, the names of West Belfast men Pearse Jordan, Pat Finucane and Tony Fusco loomed large among the hundreds who were remembered by their loved ones.
The daughter of Donegal Sinn Féin councillor, Eddie Fullerton, was first to speak and told a tale familiar to many of those who looked on when she described how loyalists used a sledgehammer to break down the door of her father’s home before shooting him as he lay in bed with his wife.
Her recollection of having to deal with a disinterested legal system, both North and South, was another part of the harrowing recollection that struck a nerve with the crowd.
“Several media investigations have revealed links between British army intelligence and their informers within loyalism that facilitated the murder of my father,” said Amanda Fullerton.
“Four years ago we received information proving collusion between the loyalists and the RUC.
“We have also learned that the Garda Síochána were given this information but had not acted on it.
“We were always told the border was a major problem in the investigation. We know now the border was not a major problem.”
Amanda was followed by Relatives for Justice Director, Mark Thompson, who himself lost a brother to a loyalist killer gang.
He said that republican and nationalist attempts to assert their rights as citizens with public rallies had always drawn a sharp response from the British and their proxies within loyalism.
“The UDA and UFF murdered over 100 people in this city – most of whom were killed by informers working for the British government – that was policy.
“These agents helped bring in consignments of weapons that were used to kill over 300 people across the North – that was policy.”
Delivering the keynote speech, Gerry Adams said the truth issue would be central to future negotiations with the British.
“The objective of this march and rally is to draw attention to collusion and British state violence; a policy which resulted in many thousands of victims who were killed or injured or bereaved; and the administrative and institutional cover-up by the British government and its state agencies.
“The black ribbon is the symbol of this event.
“Wearing it today is an act of solidarity with the victims, their families and the campaign groups.
“It also sends a clear message to the British state that we are determined to pursue the truth,” he added.
“We are determined to campaign even though it may take a long time, until the British state acknowledges its administrative and institutional use of state violence and collusion.”
He also said that the issue of the British manipulation of members of the republican movement should be put under the same scrutiny.
“Yes the British recruited, blackmailed, tricked, intimidated and bribed individual republicans into working for them and I think it would be only right to have this dimension of British strategy investigated also.
“If the British state used former republicans to do its killing for it, then the victims of that policy have the right to truth also.
“The infiltration of organisations, the tactic of divide and conquer, of counter gangs, has long been a hallmark of British policy.
“But to compare, as anti-republicans do, this policy with the structured control and direction of unionist paramilitaries in the conduct of their war is disingenuous.”
Mr Adams added that the presence of so many at a rally in the city centre showed that the strategy of collusion, like British militarism in Ireland, was a failure.
“Both strategies have a number of things in common – they were about the defeat of republicanism.
“And they failed.
“That objective has not been achieved. And it never will be,” he added.
An editorial from Father Des Wilson in the Andersonstown News:
The British government’s change of military tactics in Ireland has been hailed – unfortunately – as a withdrawal.
It is not a withdrawal, the British garrisons are still there to try to hold the northeast of Ireland militarily and economically. And they have been given new extra oppressive powers to do it.
In 1969 extra troops flooded in not to protect Catholics or Protestants but to uphold the Stormont regime which was toppling – it could not co-exist with justice. As time went on the reason for their coming was explained in different ways. First it was to protect Catholics, then to protect Protestants against republicans, then to save Britain from terrorism, then as a bulwark against international terrorism. One explanation followed another, all to convince the world that flooding Ireland with British troops was a good thing. The final claim about international terrorism was directed to the American administration which was not interested in protecting Catholics or Protestants or British people but was interested in developing a doctrine of international terrorism.
London’s strategy was to turn a peaceful civil rights campaign into an armed conflict, because it believed it could win an armed conflict whereas it could not win against a united people’s demands for fair government. It had then to make a choice, either attack the unionist establishment and its supporters or attack the Catholics. It made a deliberate decision to attack the Catholics. Its agents said that if ever Catholics and Protestant were fighting them on two sides they would have to withdraw. John McKeague was one of their friends who passed on the message. To prevent this, they attacked one side and armed the other.
They believed that in an armed conflict the London army must win. This went against many examples in the history of the dissolution of the London empire, the Irish example included; but militarist governments do not accept lessons, even to their own advantage. They needed to control the economy in Ireland and military bases. If anyone thinks the London administration spent generous amounts of money on Ireland’s northeast, they should consider how much they would have to spend, and did spend, maintaining military bases in other parts of the world. London got a military bargain in Ireland. They still owe us a lot of money and life. And they took as much care of us as they would of any military base, no more and no less. Nearly everybody in the northeast suffered as a result of such primitive caretaking – and still suffers.
A new campaign of recruitment to the London army in Ireland has already begun. Can we hope that no Irish body will support it? That no school will admit recruiters to seduce yet another generation of children?
Remembering that London sends teenagers to fight its wars for it, not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world, one wonders at the irresponsibility of anyone who admits the gun-toters and armed aeroplane leapers into their classrooms – no contraceptives, please, only rifles, we’re Christians.
Elected representatives have things to do. One is to tell the truth about continuing military occupation and what it is costing us. Another is to make sure recruiting cannon-fodder is ended. Another is to take all oppressive powers off soldiers. And to get rid of those garrisons, in the interests of Irish unionists, nationalists and republicans, and of peaceful people all over the world who should be sick to life of the culture of death with which London has burdened us all.
Time to disarm and go. For good and all.