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: Pat Finucane Centre
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.
I just recently arrived in Chicago after spending a relatively unpleasant few hours sitting adjacent to the (obviously not often cleaned) bathroom on the Megabus from Ann Arbor. Never thought I’d be so happy to breathe city air!
After a long search for a place that offers both free wireless and an outlet to plug in my computer (the security guard had to “regulate” after I plugged in at the Cultural Center), I quite happily ended up at a place called Argo Tea. Not only do they have a number of outlets for me, but they apparently have a commitment to conservation and sustainability and support a number of local community organizations (granted I know nothing of this place, so if they are evil or are owned by the devil please excuse me). The best part, however, has to be the brewing room–which is visible to the customers through a giant picture window a la Arbor Brewing Company –so that everyone can watch the brewers blend and brew their own teas. Matt and Rene would be proud.
In any case, I am in Chicago this weekend to visit some friends and to see Alan Brecknell of the Pat Finucane Centre’s Newry office tomorrow night at the Irish Heritage Center. Alan’s father was killed in a UVF/RUC/UDR attack on Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge in 1975. Alan has researched state collusion in mid-Ulster and the border counties for seven years now with a particular focus on the Glenanne Gang. Late last year an International Panel led by Professor Douglass Cassel of Notre Dame University published a comprehensive report on these cases. Alan was the local expert working with the panel over two years.
He has met with former loyalists including RUC officers who were members of the gang and has given evidence to parliamentary committees on both sides of the border. He is currently studying for a Masters in Human Rights Law in addition to running the Newry office of the Pat Finucane Centre.
Alan will be speaking about the nature and extent of State collusion, the Panel report and the differing approaches to truth recovery. For example, what is the role of the Police Ombudsman and the Historical Enquiry Team? What are the needs of victims’ families in a post conflict situation and what role could a truth commission play?
Those of you in or near Chicago should come out for the event tomorrow night, Saturday July 28, 8pm at the Irish Heritage Center at 4626 North Knox.
Statement from the families of those murdered at Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge, outside Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk and in the Reavey and O’Dowd homes
Note: Alan Brecknell will be in the states for a speaking tour to discuss collusion (etc) in late July/early August and will be making stops in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York and Boston.
From the Pat Finucane Centre:
For further information contact Alan Brecknell at the Newry PFC office: 02830 251491 mobile 00353 861739722-Alan’s father Trevor was killed in the gun and bomb attack on Donnelly’s Bar.
Our loved ones died in a series of co-ordinated attacks between 19 December 1975 and January 4 1976. We are shocked and angered at comments contained in the British Ministry of Defence document titled Operation Banner-An Analysis of Military Operations in Northern Ireland.
This document was written under the direction of the Chief of the General Staff of the British Army and purports to provide an analysis of British army operations here.
At paragraph 234 the following claim is made;
Sectarian killing had become common, but a particularly vicious feud erupted in County Armagh between South Armagh PIRA and North Armagh UVF. The two organisations probably numbered less than 30 terrorists each. Between 19 December 1975 and 12 January 1976 over 40 people were killed and 100 wounded. The main effect of this feud was to raise tension and the perception of the political need to be doing something. The last vestiges of the Sunningdale Agreement died quietly and the bulk of the population tacitly accepted Direct Rule from Whitehall, which lasted until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
We demand the immediate retraction of these comments which represent nothing less than a rewriting of history by an organisation whose members in fact instigated and participated in the incidents referred to. To refer to the murders which occurred during those weeks as resulting from a “particularly vicious feud … in County Armagh between South Armagh PIRA and North Armagh UVF” is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
It is vital to set the historical record straight. We have decided to reveal details about this period that we had hitherto withheld and which we believe explain the shock and anger that we feel as relatives.
On December 19 1975 a car bomb exploded outside Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, Co Louth. Two people died and dozens were injured. On the same evening gunmen opened fire both outside and then inside Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge Co Armagh. A bomb was thrown into the bar. Three people died and again dozens were injured.
On January 4 1976 gunmen entered the home of the Reavey family in Whitecross, S. Armagh. Two brothers were shot dead while a third was seriously injured. He died later that month. The gunmen searched every room in the house looking for further victims. Less than thirty minutes later a second group of gunmen burst into the O’Dowd household, some 20 miles away, and entered the sitting room where a large group of family members were gathered listening to one brother who was playing the piano. The gunmen opened fire and three members of the O’Dowd family were killed and a number were injured. These four attacks over a 16 day period left 11 people dead and were all attributed to loyalist paramilitaries.
On January 5 a bus was stopped by gunmen near Whitecross Co Armagh and the sole Catholic passenger was told to leave the scene. The gunmen then opened fire on the remaining eleven passengers, all of whom were protestant workmen from Bessbrook. Ten died and one survived. This attack, the Kingsmill massacre, was attributed to republicans.
In all 21 innocent people were murdered between December 19 1975 and January 5 1976 in this series of linked incidents. The attacks in Silverbridge, in Dundalk and on the Reavey and O’Dowd households have been the subject of judicial inquiries by Justice Barron resulting in Dail scrutiny; a current focused investigation (in the case of the northern incidents) by the Historical Enquiries Team; and ongoing litigation in the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. These attacks were carried out and co-ordinated by a gang based at Glenanne in S. Armagh. We have met with members of the Glenanne gang including former RUC officers and with RUC officers who investigated the group. The above allows us to comment on this period with a degree of accuracy and certainty that was denied us in the immediate aftermath of these murders.
We totally reject the British Army description of these events as a “feud” between S. Armagh PIRA and N.Armagh UVF for the following reasons;
This gang was made up of members of the British Army, the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries run by Military Intelligence and/or RUC Special Branch. The ballistic histories of the weapons used in these incidents allows us to state with absolute certainty that these incidents were linked to other alleged ‘loyalist’ attacks carried out both before and after this period including the Miami Showband massacre and the RUC SPG gun and bomb attack on the Rock Bar, Keady. The main instigators of these attacks were serving RUC officers and UDR members. A number of the attacks were carried out while the individuals were ‘on duty’ and/or were using official RUC and UDR uniforms and RUC vehicles. Access to police and army radios facilitated escape while some of the murders carried out by this gang were on occasion ‘investigated’ by RUC officers linked to the very same gang. State agents such as Robin Jackson, aka The Jackal, carried out a number of the attacks including the murders at the O’Dowd home. A number of people in positions of authority within the criminal justice, intelligence and policing institutions were aware that Jackson and other state agents were involved in murders in collusion with members of the RUC and British Army.
We no longer regard these incidents as ‘loyalist’ attacks but rather as part of a security force inspired ‘dirty war’ aimed at terrorising the Catholic/Nationalist community into isolating the IRA. At least 120 deaths can be attributed to the Glenanne Gang including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings yet their activities were allowed to continue for several years. Given the extent to which the security forces were aware of these activities, the degree to which members of the security forces were themselves central to these activities and the appalling response of the criminal justice system we are left in no doubt that these activities were officially tolerated. Equally we believe that there were individual RUC officers, not connected to Special Branch, who tried to uphold the law but were blocked from carrying out investigations.
There was no feud between the S Armagh PIRA and N Armagh UVF. These were not tit-for-tat sectarian killings. Indeed we are convinced that those who planned and instigated the attacks on December 19 and on January 4 intended to provoke a bloody and ever escalating response – the Kingsmill Massacre by republicans. In the climate of crisis which followed the Dec 19 – Jan 5 killings a series of security measures were announced which would have been politically unacceptable just weeks beforehand. The British army Spearhead battalion was transferred to the border area and it was announced that the SAS would be deployed to S. Armagh, the first official confirmation that the SAS was to be deployed on Irish soil. The then PM Harold Wilson declared all of Armagh a Special Emergency Area and the file of the same name remains closed at the National Archive in London. In the Republic the Cosgrave Government reacted to the crisis by promising extensive security cooperation with their Northern counterparts.
Our suspicions that there was a hidden hand behind these terrible events, that they were orchestrated and that the loss of innocent life in both communities was intended, have been reinforced by allegations made since by members of the Glenanne gang. In 2001 we met with a former member. Asked why no retaliation was undertaken following the Kingsmills massacre he replied that retaliation was planned but the plan was abandoned. According to this person the proposal was to attack the primary school in Belleek, Co Armagh and kill thirty odd children and their teacher. The plan was allegedly aborted because the UVF leadership believed that this response would lead to a civil war and was morally unacceptable. In addition the UVF leadership in Belfast suspected that the Glenanne gang member who suggested the attack, a UDR member who is dead, was working closely with military intelligence and that military intelligence was behind the plan and was seeking to provoke a civil war. We did not divulge these allegations at the time. On 25.5.2004 BBC Spotlight broadcast a programme on the Glenanne gang. Former RUC SPG officer and Glenanne gang member William Mc Caughey was interviewed. Mc Caughey was questioned about the proposed retaliation for Kingsmill. He admitted on air that the plan was to attack the primary school in Belleek or the convent in Newry. According to Mc Caughey the plan was aborted because of the fear of the potential IRA response. This was corroboration from a second member of the gang.
We are prepared to accept that this plan may have been regarded as morally unacceptable by the UVF. However the claim that the plan was instigated by military intelligence and was therefore part of a wider agenda has never been investigated. At a meeting with the PSNI Chief Constable and an Assistant Chief Constable in 18.8.2004 the Chief Constable was asked if Mc Caughey, a former RUC officer, had been questioned about these admissions. The ACC admitted that Mc Caughey had not been questioned.
It is an irrefutable fact that members of the security forces, including the British army, were involved in the attacks in which our loved ones died. It is alleged that military intelligence played a role in these attacks and sought to provoke an escalation that would have had unthinkable consequences. We acknowledge that the UVF did not follow through on this plan. The failure of the PSNI to interview Mc Caughey, who is now deceased, has added to our suspicions. This is the reason we are so angry and shocked at the claims made in this document of an alleged ‘feud’. We are demanding the retraction of these claims and a proper investigation of the Glenanne gang.
The families of Jack Rooney, Hugh Watters, Michael Donnelly, Patsy Donnelly, Trevor Brecknell, John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey, Barry, Joe and Declan O’Dowd.