Category Archives: human rights

Call for Aegis’ expulsion from Iraq

Article by David Granville from the Irish Democrat:

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…)

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Filed under aegis defence services, belfast, British army, British government, human rights, Iraq, ireland, middle east, Pat Finucane Centre, Peter McBride, private military contractors

IAUC covers new ground in cross-community dialogue at 2007 convention

groupboston.jpgIrish American Unity Conference (IAUC) President John Fogarty hailed the success of this year’s national convention in Boston, calling it a ground-breaking effort on behalf of Irish America in the encouragement and facilitation of cross-community dialogue in the north of Ireland. This year’s convention brought together members of both the unionist and nationalist communities, including academics, community workers, politicians and political ex-prisoners. Speakers included Dr. Pete Shirlow, Raymond Stewart, Terry Kirby, Bobby Lavery, Matt Morrison, Paul Harkin, Gerry McHugh, Roy Garland, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Raymond McCord, Nuala O’Loan and Father Aiden Troy. Participants took part in public and private discourse throughout the weekend, speaking forthrightly and respectfully without diluting their beliefs or holding back their opinions in order to be polite.

Speaking at the close of the convention, President Fogarty said, “In order to move forward and come together, we need to recognize each other’s positions and allow time for understanding, even if we do not agree. Through dialogue we might develop the level of understanding necessary to produce genuine visions of a common future in the north of Ireland that is both inclusive and just. As witnessed in Boston this weekend, the Irish peace process does not simply belong to the political parties, it belongs to the people.”

Though political parties are at the center of representative democracy, it is the belief of the IAUC that political agendas very often slow down or even halt the process of engagement. The honest discourse which was witnessed and participated in at this year’s convention reinforced the notion that ordinary people, motivated by the desire to secure a safe and egalitarian future for all our people, can create a parallel avenue for advancement; can create a situation atmospherically which supports and facilitates the ability of the political parties to interface to the benefit of all.

President Fogarty went on to say, “The IAUC appreciates the difficult and often painful work necessary to bring about true and lasting political change, and we will continue to use our resources to encourage such discussion in the future. Irish America has played such an integral role in the Irish peace process, and we should continue to be used as a tool to lay the groundwork for political and socioeconomic change in Ireland in any way that we can.”

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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish peace process

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention

 

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention
By Irish Echo Staff

(Pictured from the left are: republican ex-prisoner Terry Kirby, IAUC President John Fogarty, IAUC Treasurer Gretchen Bales, and IAUC Chairman of the Board Dr. Robert C. Linnon)

 

Unionist voices at the Irish American Unity Conference annual convention in Boston last weekend brought a new dimension to the annual gathering of the pro-United Ireland activists.

The most heated exchanges of the day followed repeated assertions by Raymond McCord that the IRA ex-prisoners present were “terrorists”.

McCord, whose son Raymond was murdered by a loyalist gang leader who was a police agent, rebutted claims by former republican prisoner Gabriel Megahey that the IRA had acted in defense of embattled nationalist communities in 1969.

“I have acted in defense of my family,” said McCord. “I have beaten up loyalist paramilitaries who threatened my family but when did the IRA’s defense become putting bombs in pubs in the middle of Belfast?”

On several occasions, McCord challenged his audience to tell him how his three grandchildren would be better off in a united Ireland.

“Convince me they’ll be better off and I’ll vote for a united Ireland,” he said.

However, McCord remained unimpressed by the answers he received.

“No one here has answered my question satisfactorily,” he told Saturday’s closing session of the convention.

Ulster Unionist Roy Garland said dialogue was the cornerstone of continuing reconciliation in Northern Ireland. He had harsh condemnation for Dr. Ian Paisley’s DUP, recalling that Ian Paisley Jr., now a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, had demanded Garland be drummed out of the UUP for being pictured with Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds.

Fr. Aidan Troy, the North Belfast priest who famously defended schoolchildren who were the focus of angry loyalist pickets outside Holy Cross school told the convention that education was crucial to the future of Northern Ireland.

“The key to carrying the process forward is education,” he said.

Responding to questions about the need to encourage integrated education, Troy defended the right of parents to chose a Catholic education for their children.

“But I would like to see the Catholic hierarchy come forward and to say, what contribution can we make to integrated education. However, we can’t expect the children at integrated schools to carry the burden of integrating their communities if at home their parents and grandparents are carrying a contrary message,” he said.

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Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish Echo, Irish peace process, Raymond McCord

Changing Times, Changing Realities by Inez McCormack

The following article by Inez McCormack was printed in last week’s Irish Echo and kicks off a new campaign to organize Irish America’s participation in a new drive to encourage and support equitable investment in the “new Northern Ireland”:

This should be a time for change and hope for all who live in the North. I am writing this article for two reasons- one is to honour the significant contribution made by Irish Americans and others such as President Clinton and New York City Comptroller Thompson in making hope for just and inclusive change into tangible realities of peace and opportunity. The other is to argue that this time and these opportunities will not come again and we must now once and for all grasp them to build an inclusive and modern future. For over 30 years now I have argued for real, measurable change that people can feel, taste and touch in their daily lives. This core foundation for such a future, based upon equality, resonates with three decades of lost opportunities in implementing necessary and agreed change.

Strategies and interventions that bring the legacy of a difficult and divided past into such a future need to be built on both what has successfully worked in making change and on what is the agreed mandate of the people as the context for that change. That mandate has been given expression in the Good Friday Agreement, now more than ten years old. It is not too much, to expect that the inclusive equality provisions of that agreement are implemented with urgency and finality. They are also the key building blocks for stable economic and social development

Irish Americans are being asked by me AMONG others to support and call for investment in the north to build prosperity and support peace in this time of historic hope. There are now clearly emerging opportunities for profitable investments in billion dollar commitments to build new infrastructure within the next decade. There is a determination and commitment by all political parties in the new devolved administration to bring external investment and new companies to the North and encourage the growth of local small and medium size companies to take advantage of new opportunities as well as increase trade and investment between North and South on the island.

Twenty years ago Irish America responded to calls to make fairness in employment a reality here. Together we argued it was neither feasible nor acceptable to have a society and economy based upon exclusion and discrimination. Those who then ran Northern Ireland rejected our arguments, claiming that there was not a problem. But the stark realities revealed by official census figures showed brutal patterns of exclusion, discrimination and poverty experienced overwhelmingly, though far from exclusively, by Catholics. At that time I described the plight of unemployed Protestants as disastrous, and that of Catholics as catastrophic. Instead of tackling this economic disadvantage based upon objective need, the authorities used all their resources to attack the messengers. We were accused of scaring off investment, worsening sectarian division and destabilising the possibilities for peace. These were the alibis that time was not ripe for change.

Voices for peaceful and just change from within Northern Ireland, unaided by powerful external support, were ruthlessly swept aside. Irish Americans steadfastly refused to accept any of these arguments, particularly the doctrine of unripe time. Through the MacBride Principles campaign they declared they were no longer prepared to have American dollars support discriminatory practices. Together we went one step further. The MacBride Principles required that Americans investment in Northern Ireland should actively promote affirmative action and produce measurable change, I recall with great gratitude the chorus of support for such change ultimately reaching the highest office in the United States. Such voices from an early stage included the City and State Comptrollers office in New York, Irish American organisations, and a growing number of state and city legislatures who passed and implemented the MacBride principles. That campaign and pressure led to new and tough affirmative action domestic legislation and disciplines on expenditure of public monies. The MacBride legislation is still there as a guarantor of real change: American companies were and are required still to show how state and city pension funds are promoting the reality of fair employment in Northern Ireland.

Irish American pressure to mainstream and promote equality of opportunity, and to insist upon implementation of tough policies played a major role in the interventions of the Clinton administration. George Mitchell, amongst others, saw the importance of inclusive economic and social opportunity in creating confidence that peace could work , especially for the communities and areas of greatest deprivation that had suffered most in the conflict. Such measures then became part of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed, the promise in the Agreement to bring forward “a range of measures aimed at combating unemployment and progressively eliminating the differential in employment rates between the two communities by targeting objective need” was one of the few explicit commitments in the document.

Continuing resistance to accept responsibility for structural change by placing the causes of disadvantage on the shoulders of those who experience it — the blame the victim approach — was rejected by the political parties and the people in Northern Ireland. Subsequently, the recent St. Andrew’s agreement reinforced this commitment by agreeing objective need as the prerequisite for allocation of resources and investment.

I write this not to bring up old history or old problems but to emphasize the huge contribution of those who argued that fairness in action was not only right in itself but crucial to building prosperity, and would contribute to the potential for building an inclusive peace from which all would benefit and all could own . They also argued that a sustainable business model must effectively integrate economic, social and environmental practices.

This seems so obvious and modest a proposal now. Yet the inability to accept responsibility in implementing that change, in spite of its huge democratic mandate backed up by statutory imperative, remains deep and systemic. The patterns of exclusion that spurred us to action have widened in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement. This is the unstable and unhelpful legacy bequeathed to the fledgling political institutions in Northern Ireland.

The reason I address Irish America now – and of course the coalition that so powerfully joined with us to argue that peace was not possible without justice and equality – is to ask all of those who helped to create the potential for peaceful change to now ensure that in the hope in which so much has been invested is implemented. This requires that economic investment, both internal and external, is used and measured deliberately and consciously to make those hopes for fundamental and irreversible change into reality.

The current reality is, that ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement and a few months into the historic political accommodation that we have all worked and hoped for the patterns of disadvantage are widening. The last decade has been a time of increased investment and growing prosperity. Yet as in the eighties government’s own figures show an ever increasing gap between the haves and the have nots within both communities and growing differential in disadvantage experienced between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement.

This growing inequality is a direct consequence of deliberately ignoring the commitments in law and policy on fairness and opportunity. Instead of the last decade being used to integrate economic and social development and using these tools of change agreed by the mandate of the people to lay solid foundations to underpin an inclusive peace and a stable economic base, the patterns of past investment and resource allocation are virtually undisturbed.

The ever widening gap means those suffering the greatest deprivation, again predominantly Catholic, but also with a significant number of Protestants, are spectators of prosperity not participants.

New policies and laws were agreed based on the need for structural change and on the urgent requirement for structural measures . They simply have not been implemented in a way that measured action against impact. Our campaign for targets and timetables, so carefully constructed to produce real change within a reasonable time span, has been met with inaction.

The recent report by the Committee on Administration of Justice – Rhetoric and Reality – spelt out this failure in cold terms and hard figures.

The evidence in the report came from figures and facts analysed in four government reports. So these continuing patterns of unacceptable realities are well known. There is simply no evidence that resource allocation and policy are being directed to change them, as required by the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrew’s Agreement and the law of the land in Northern Ireland. In fact the current allocation of resource and investment is virtually in inverse proportion to these figures. Resources are going to where they went before in the old status quo and the mandate of the people for a new and inclusive status quo has been ignored.

The data produced by the government’s own body the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2005 gives the following results. Based on their analysis of a range of factors, including income, employment, and access to services, NI was divided up into almost 900 equally sized areas in order to map out “regional inequalities”.

• Out of 900 areas in total, 19 of the top 20 most deprived areas are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 100 most deprived areas in NI out of a total of 900, over three quarters are within North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 50 wealthiest areas in NI, none are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• In fact, of the top 100 wealthiest areas in NI out of a total of 900, only one, is in North and West Belfast or Derry, namely, the Covehill part of North Belfast, which is an historically affluent part of the city, surrounded by some of the poorest areas that suffered both economically and physically during the conflict.

As I know only too well from work I have been involved with there recently, the population there has not sniffed the changes that they were promised and that they could expect in relation to investment and opportunity.

What this data shows is serious geographic and regional differences in terms of inequality in Northern Ireland. Moreover, these regional inequalities also provide a proxy measure for community inequalities. Cleary there are correlations between where these poorer areas are, and the profile of the people who live in them.

A report by the Special EU Programmes body also showed that there is a direct link between how poor an area is, and the proportion of Catholics living in the area.

Catholics make up 19.5% of the population in the 500 most affluent areas in NI.

Catholics make up 72% of the inhabitants in the 500 most deprived areas in NI.

With irrefutable detail these cold hard facts and statistics reveal the depth of daily realties of humiliation and exclusion experienced by those outside the golden bubble of the new good times.

Bringing a difficult past into a new and inclusive future is not easy. But if we do not learn from the lessons of the past then the new future we are all working for is destabilised from the beginning . There is a depressing sense of déjà vu about what is happening. In the eighties government figures showed that over 45% of Catholics, and around 25% of Protestant males were without work. The campaigning that we carried out over those two decades was meant to ensure that those in power faced up to their responsibility to shift the figures. They had the resources – moral, legal, and economic, to do so. Yet many of those excluded in that past are excluded still. The gap between their realities and growing prosperity of some areas and communities are the stark and undeniable reminder in the last decade that new times of peace and hope brought them crumbs not comfort.

Based upon our shared experience of the possibilities of change, there are a number of practical and effective steps that the devolved administration can take now in modernising the economy and stabilising the peace. Public resource allocation can be planned as envisaged in a way that requires govt departments to measure and structure their actions against their impact on reducing inequality and building prosperity .Tools of public procurement that integrate practical equality and social requirements can be effectively used to involve the long term unemployed and economically inactive and thus build a new skills base.

New York City Comptroller Thompson, on his recent visit to Belfast declared his support for a sustainable business model that integrated, economic, social and environmental practices. It is what his office has supported all over the world through their investments and has been fiscally and ethically successful. This is the context of his strong support to bring direct investment to the North and to influence companies to look at the potential for investment on the island of Ireland. Irish America is calling for support for investment opportunities and there will be an international investment conference in the coming year in the North to turn some of the good will in America and elsewhere in the world into practical and tangible investments by companies

In asserting once again that prosperity and fairness must be intertwined in the impact and allocation of such investment. Once again the ball is in Irish America’s court to again assert and require that hope and opportunity must be within the grasp of all. That this is the time for long overdue change in the daily realities of exclusion and that this is good for business and good for peace.

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Filed under belfast, Derry, human rights, Inez McCormack, ireland, Irish peace process, MacBride Principles

Reason no. 2568 why I hate my school

Free tomorrow night? Need some inspiration in your quest for peace, justice and sustainability? Why not head over to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to join in the accolades for guest speaker Libby Cheney, Vice President of Corporate Support at Shell Exploration?! A peek at Ms. Cheney’s bio:

Before joining Shell in 2006, Libby was the Manager of Non-Operated Global Development Projects for ExxonMobil Development Company in Houston, TX where she managed technical resources and decisions for global projects totaling more than $25 billion in gross investment. She began her career as a Reservoir Engineer in Kingsville, Texas. Her background includes various assignments managing multi-functional teams for producing assets from offshore Gulf of Mexico to West Texas and California. Libby subsequently led an organization of 150 engineers and technicians in developing and optimizing onshore . In addition, she spent time as the Senior Strategic Planning contact for project interests in Russia, the Caspian Region, and the Middle East.

Think Cheney will come prepared to discuss Shell’s numerous human rights abuses around the world?  Not at this school.  It was only a couple of years ago that the Dean refused to allow a speaker from CorpWatch to make a presentation in the building about Coke’s participation in human rights atrocities and environmental devastation in India because a representative from Coca Cola had not been invited to tell their side of the story.  Claimed she wanted to support the “fair and balanced” approach, to have all sides of the story represented (while clearly making exceptions for corporate polluters and potential financial donors to the school).

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Filed under environment, environmental justice, human rights, michigan, truth

IAUC statement regarding the deportation proceedings against Malachy, Sean and Nicola McAllister

October 1, 2007—The IAUC has dedicated itself to the idea that peace can only occur in an atmosphere that promotes frank and open dialogue amongst all parties to the conflict in the North of Ireland.  This includes the United States of America, which acting as an “honest broker,” facilitated a political atmosphere that allowed for the birth of the current peace process.  The end product of a lasting peace based on enduring democratic principles is now at hand.  Recognizing this, the IAUC has welded itself to the role of identifying and speaking out against anyone and anything which has the potential to thwart the development of the peace and democracy in which so many people and groups have invested so much commitment and energy.

In this spirit, the IAUC must state forthrightly that the United States Government, by actively pursuing the deportation of former Irish Republican activists, is markedly out of step with all other parties involved in this political endeavor.  The US policy is anachronistic and undermines the concept of a “peace dividend.”  By extension this policy will undermine the peace itself.

We urge our government, through our elected representatives and appointed officials, to stand for peace in Ireland.  With all the conviction we can muster, we request that the McAllister family be granted permanent resident status.  To deny this family legal status would be an affront to our country’s longstanding principles of justice and asylum.

Stop the deportation of the McAllister family.

John Fogarty
President
Irish American Unity Conference

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Filed under deportation, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, loyalist paramilitaries, new jersey, political prisoners

Belfast mother appeals to Iraqi Government

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 Details

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/

Contact Derry office info@patfinucanecentre.org or Newry office newry@patfinucanecentre.org  Please delete all other PFC emails. Website http://www.patfinucanecentre.org

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Filed under aegis defence services, belfast, human rights, Iraq, ireland, middle east, Pat Finucane Centre, Peter McBride, private military contractors, tim spicer, war