Category Archives: Iraq

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

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

“Have gun, will fight for paycheck”

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.

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

orange disorder

orangiesiraq1.jpgorangiesiraq21.jpgLast Thursday was the twelfth of July (or The Twelfth if you are so inclined), the day that the Protestant Orange Order commemorates the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, in which (the Protestant) William of Orange defeated (the Catholic) King James II. It continues to be celebrated as the defeat of Catholic interests by Protestant ones. The pictures here are of British troops/members of the Orange Order in Basra holding one such commemoration (photos from From the Balcony).

Recently, the Orange Order has been trying to reinvent itself as a cultural association (see their recent participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as an example of this), and no doubt the £100,000 grant from the British government last year to be more inclusive is being spent to this end:

The authorities, who have just put up £100,000 so the Order can appoint a development officer. His job will be “to promote ‘Orangefest’ as a fully inclusive, family friendly event, improve community relations, promote Belfast in a positive light, and encourage visitors to watch the parade”.

The government explained: “It is disappointing that during the marching season the city centre and some of the main arterial routes either close down or are abandoned by those who do not feel comfortable with the parades. The time is right to see whether the Orange Order can achieve a broader understanding and acceptance of Orange culture and tradition across the community.”

Keep in mind that as late as 2005, the Orange Order was marching through Ardoyne in north Belfast with some marchers dressed as Catholic schoolgirls in an effort to mock the events that occurred a few years prior, in which loyalists blocked school children from attending the Holy Cross Primary School, verbally assaulting them along the way (and in some cases throwing rocks, bags of urine and blast bombs).

Things may be changing quickly in the north of Ireland since the restoration of the institutions, but these recent attempts at whitewashing the Order’s past are just not going to fly. Here are some more recent accounts of this year’s Twelfth celebrations…

bbc1.jpgThis picture here is an example of the size of a typical loyalist bonfire. Think about what this would look like when lit, with crowds of people drunk and partying at its base. Now, read this:

A Catholic family have been left devastated by a cruel taunt by loyalists who daubed the name of their dead son on carpet and placed it on the top of a bonfire just hours before it was to be set alight.

Peter Neill said he felt physically sick when he saw the name of his 16-year-old son Aaron written in five feet high letters on carpet attached to the Harper’s Hill bonfire in Coleraine.

The father, who is in mourning after losing his son just two weeks ago, had to remove the carpet himself after he said police refused to do so.
Aaron died in his sleep from a suspected heart attack.

Mr Neill said he is now living under a death threat after police later informed him that loyalists saw him remove the item from the bonfire.

He said that up to five police Land Rovers had to be sent to his house in The Heights estate in Coleraine after dozens of loyalists were reported to be preparing to attack his home.

The father-of-three said his wife Philomena has been so disturbed by the incident he fears she will end up in hospital.

Their other children, aged 21, 12 and nine, have had to be placed in hiding.

Mr. Neill was put under death threat by loyalists for removing his recently deceased son’s name from a bonfire. This, apparently was not the work of young kids fooling around, but grown men involved with the UDA and UVF. This is not an isolated incident either–Michael McIlveen’s name was also placed atop a bonfire last year (Michael was 15 when he was beaten to death in May 2006 by a gang in Ballymena for being Catholic); names and posters of Sinn Féin and SDLP politicians are commonly placed on these bonfires as well.

For a last glimpse into the world of the Twelfth celebrations, I’ll leave you with this recent article in the Sunday Business Post by Colm Heatley:

Orange disorder

Davy was looking forward to the Twelfth celebrations on the Shankill last week, especially the eleventh night bonfire. Davy is not an Orangeman, but ‘‘I suppose I’d be a loyalist supporter,” he said.

It wasn’t politics that had him excited last week, however – it was the opportunity to make some easy money.

‘‘This is one of the biggest nights of the year for me. In fact, after New Year’s Eve, it’s probably the biggest. I’ll be busy all night; it’ll pay for me and the missus to go to Ayia Napa in August,” he said.

Davy sells drugs, mainly ecstasy and speed, and he had a ready market among the hundreds of young – and not so young – who gathered at the huge bonfire on the Shankill Road. He didn’t have to worry about the police. They keep their distance. And the paramilitaries wouldn’t interfere either; they ‘‘tax’’ him on what he sells.

For many Protestants in the North, especially in working class areas, that is how the Twelfth celebrations begin. The biggest cheer of the night is normally reserved for the UVF and UDA, groups involved in wholesale drug dealing and crime.

When the huge fires are lit often burning tyres and other toxic materials – tricolours are burned. Slogans such as KAT (Kill All Taigs) are often daubed on the tricolours. In 2005, one bonfire trumpeted the suicides of several young men in the nationalist Ardoyne estate.

This year, GAA shirts were put on top of the bonfires too. Chris McGimpsey, a Shankill Road Ulster Unionist councillor who is regarded as a moderate, said last week that the GAA should look at why Protestants see it as sectarian.

With the power-sharing deal in place in the North, many people are now asking what the future of the Twelfth should be, and are looking to the 50,000-strong Orange Order to take the lead. The question is whether an inherently sectarian and triumphalist celebration which for decades has been the most vivid display of unionist dominance over Catholics – can be re-moulded in a post-Troubles, power-sharing North?

In simple financial terms, the Twelfth has been a disaster for the North since the mid1990s. Disputes around the marching season almost singlehandedly crippled the region’s tourist industry, which was expected to take off after the ceasefires.

Instead, the fortnight around July 12 became the time of the year when local hoteliers took their holidays. Much of the heat has now gone out of the marching season, and the mass protests appear to be a thing of the past, but shops, bars and restaurants still close on the Twelfth.

The Orange Order is trying to promote the Twelfth as Orange Fest, a tourist attraction for the North.

But it is questionable whether this can ever succeed, especially when no alternative ways of celebrating the occasion have emerged, aside from a firework display.

More fundamentally, the Twelfth marches have a deep sectarian symbolism and, unless Orangeism’s relationship with the state changes, the parades will always have the potential for violence and menace.

David Scott, the education officer of the Orange Order, is responsible for finding ways to promote the ‘new face’ of the organisation.

‘‘There is a lot of good work going on with the Orange Order and the community which people don’t see,” he said. ‘‘We are going out to schools and interacting with young people. We have the Williamite display on, which is attracting a lot of interest from tourists.”

However, Scott’s definition of ‘the community’ does not include Catholics, and he said the ban on Catholics joining the Orange Order would not be removed. The group has about 50,000 members, the vast majority of whom are male.

While the Orange Order enjoyed a surge in applications for membership during the stand-offs over marches at Drumcree, anecdotal evidence suggests that its membership has slipped in recent times. The group last week found itself criticised over the practice of building up huge, environmentallyunfriendly bonfires in urban areas.

Thousands of car tyres were burned last week, along with other hazardous materials, leading to calls – even from some unionists – to stop the practice.

In a pointer to how things may go in the future, the village of Stoneyford, a few miles outside Belfast, had a beacon instead of a bonfire.

The key mover in that plan was, somewhat surprisingly, Mark Harbinson, an ‘ultraloyalist’ who in recent years, led loyalist bands around a newly-built, mixed-religion housing development in the village.

‘‘I’ve been pushing this for two years,” he said. ‘‘There has been opposition to it, but people have started to see the benefits of having a type of bonfire which is clean and doesn’t leave the town with a big mess to clean up after. It also makes it more accessible for families.”

That theme of families was picked up on by Dawson Bailie, the leader of the Orange Order in Belfast.

‘‘We want to get back to what the Twelfth was before the Troubles, when families would come along and Catholics would as well,” he said.

Ironically, if unionists do want to change the Twelfth, they may find themselves following the example of republicans who, almost 20 years ago, ended the practice of burning bonfires to commemorate the introduction of internment on August 9.

Throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s, republican bonfires became flashpoints for rioting, and Catholic communities were left with dirt and rubble from the fires.

In 1988, the west Belfast festival, Feile an Phobail, was introduced as a replacement.

Since then, it, and other such festivals in republican areas, have established themselves as part of the summer calendar in the North.

The festivals feature music, debates between unionists and nationalists, workshops on politics and literature, and debates about global events and Irish history.

A few years ago at the festival, Jeffrey Donaldson, the arch-unionist sceptic, talked directly to Seanna Walsh, the IRA man who announced the formal ending of the group’s campaign in 2005.

Guest speakers in the past have included the US documentary film-maker Michael Moore. Whether unionism and the Orange Order in particular – can envisage the Twelfth broadening out in such a fashion remains to be seen.

In the meantime, Davy reckons he has made about stg£700 for his night’s work, and the people of the Shankill are left with the charred remains of the bonfires.

Altogether, the night cost the taxpayers in the North stg£1 million in clean-up, medical, and police bills.

The socially-deprived communities of the area celebrate their ‘dominance’ over Catholics by spending the Twelfth marching onward with their leaders in the Orange Order.

Those leaders seem to be more comfortable dealing with the past than the realities of life in the North today.

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Filed under belfast, British army, Catholicism, Iraq, ireland, Irish peace process, Orange Order, UVF

i hate this man

assmonkey.jpgLet us now, for a moment, ruminate on the moral vacuity of a pop singer who so assiduously promotes liars and war-mongers as cool idealists (“Blair and Brown—the Lennon and McCartney of British politics!”) that they reward him with a bauble signifying association with the rape of continents.Let us reflect on the fact that not one of a large and representative sample of Dublin writers, film-makers, business executives and freelance celebrities who assembled in the U2-owned Clarence Hotel to mark the pop-singer’s acceptance of this token of imperial approval managed to summon the half-ounce of self-respect it would have taken to stand up and shout, “Shame!”

So writes Irish activist and journalist Eamonn McCann in Shame of the Empire: Simon, Bono and Tinkerbelle published today on Counterpunch. I hadn’t planned on commenting on Bono’s recent knighthood (note that he may not be called “Sir” since he is not a British subject*), but McCann just puts it so nicely that I couldn’t resist reposting the bit above.

McCann’s article actually addresses the recent return of the 15 British sailors held by Iran, and cleverly illustrates the parallels between that and the tale of Simon the heroic cat of HMS Amethyst (1949). The author quite rightly believes that the government and media spin regarding the treatment and subsequent release of the captives is meant to facilitate the general public’s acceptance of an assault on Iran.

* “You have permission to call me anything you want — except sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that’ll do,” Bono told reporters after he was knighted.

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Action Alert: Contact Congress about Aegis Defence Services

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

  1. 10 Questions about the Aegis contract.

     

    1. 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?
    2. 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.
    3. What information about the background of Aegis CEO Tim Spicer was evaluated when the $293 million contract was awarded?
    4. 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.
    5. 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 ?
    6. 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?
    7. Was the CPA aware that Sandline’s activities in Papua New Guinea led to Spicer’s arrest and a coup against the government ?
    8. Was the allegation investigated that Spicer requested and received blank end user certificates for small arms ?
    9. 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?
    10. 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?


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Detroit’s Bishop Gumbleton replaced

bishopg.jpgAn article in the New York Times last week reports that Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit will be replaced due to what he believes to be retaliation from the Catholic church over his recent support for survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Gumbleton also openly supports the acceptance of homosexuality, the ordination of women, and is a dedicated anti-war/peace activist–views which have certainly not made him popular in the eyes of the Church.

The picture I have posted here is of Gumbleton doing court support for Ireland’s Pitstop Ploughshares. I interviewed Gumbleton in Detroit last year for Critical Moment, and he reflected on his use of Catholicism as a tool of liberation, the war in Iraq, and the closing of 18 of Detroit’s Catholic schools. I found Gumbleton to be a warm, fascinating man–certainly unlike any priest I had ever come into contact with in my Catholic upbringing. After coming out of that meeting, I found myself thinking (albeit briefly) about what it would have been like to have been exposed to such examples of leadership in the Catholic church when I was young. Would I still have rebelled against my father and stopped going to Church at a young age? Well, probably (okay, yes!). Though organized religion is not for me, I can’t help wishing that there were more people out there like Gumbleton in the religious world, using their faith in and dedication to humanity to liberate rather than opress, and to inspire others to make the world a better place.

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