This entry was posted on
Monday, November 28th, 2005 at
10:53 pm and is filed
under It’s War! It’s Legal! It’s Lovely!.
I think the most appropriate thing to begin with is the message from Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, OBE to those participating in the website hosted at www.aegisiraq.co.uk. The site is not officially run by Aegis Defence Services; rather, as the site states on its front page, “it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company.”
Tim Spicer’s message to these people reads as follows:
I have today seen the new website – “Aegis Iraq PSD Teams”, I have a number of points I wish to make:
– I am fully in favour of good natured banter and a light hearted view of life and its difficulties in Iraq .
– I encourage anything that takes the pressure off and improves motivation.
– I would not be in favour of a site if it was in any way libellous to anyone, down right nasty or detrimental to anyone’s morale.
– My major concern is one of OPSEC – either that of our clients or our own individuals – posting unblanked photos may not be so clever. Anything that is of use to AIF should not be allowed to flourish.
– I am also concerned about media interest in this site and I remind everyone of their contractual obligation not to speak to or assist the media without clearing it with the project management or Aegis London. This site could be construed in this way.
– I remind everyone that there is a proper chain of command for airing concerns, grievances etc.
– Please think twice about posting your happy snaps and whilst I am not concerned about this site as yet, if it develops into something other than a light hearted pressure valve I will take a much greater interest.
– Remember that your job and those of your colleagues indirectly relies on the maintenance of our contract. Refrain from posting anything which is detrimental to the company since this could result in the loss or curtailment of our contract with resultant loss for everybody.
Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, OBE
Now, you can clearly see what Tim Spicer’s priorities are (low profile = continuing profit), but one would be a fool to expect anything more from a mercenary. Sadly, in this day and age, we don’t have to go far to find such fools…
The Times – Aegis links help reinforce security (25 Nov 2005): The privately owned company is in the middle of the three-year project (in Iraq), the largest security contract ever awarded by the US Government, worth $380 million.
I found that news article via the official Aegis website. It was easy enough; I just clicked on the link that said ‘Click here for all news articles’. But here’s an odd thing… ‘all news articles’ is not what you get when you follow that link, because Aegis somehow managed to miss this whopper:
Telegraph – ‘Trophy’ video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers (27 Nov 2005): A “trophy” video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis. The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on “route Irish”, a road that links the airport to Baghdad. The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.
Hm. I must say that if you’re going to drive down a road and shoot cars at random, this is the best possible place to do it, as it greatly increases your chances of hitting an insurgent or terrorist.
WATCH THE VIDEO:
If you somehow fail there, check out Crooks and Liars, who also host a copy.
Now we scoot back to www.aegisiraq.co.uk to see some other missing parts…
Oh, my goodness! The messageboard (entryway here; board itself is hosted separately at www.aegis-iraq.co.uk) appears to be suffering from terminal ‘routine maintenance’.
Oh well. Perhaps I can pop over and see some pictures of these chaps in action in Fallujah…. OMG! This page is empty!
I’m bored now.
And I’ve already watched the video.
Perhaps if I poke around the sites that link to this, I can find something interesti…. Bingo!
Check out this anonymous comment. It’s to die for. Apparently the cars that are travelling in the same direction on this stretch of road (clearly displaying unusual behaviour) are being shot at because they are following the Aegis car (and, as the Telegraph article points out, all Aegis cars carry the message; ‘Danger. Keep back. Authorised to use lethal force.’).
Well, rush hour tomorrow should be interesting…. I just pasted this on the back of my car:
Anyway, before we move on, you might want to note that the anonymous commenter makes an exception of the ‘the red car 2nd to last’. A wise move… as this is a car where a seemingly uninjured occupant can clearly be seen exiting the vehicle without returning fire or even reaching for a weapon. (Clearly, in all other cases, fire wasn’t returned because the Mounties got their man.)
This has been a lesson in the danger of taking things at face value.
On that note…
If you go back to the Telegraph article, you may notice that a spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “Aegis have assured us that there is nothing on the video to suggest that it has anything to do with their company. This is now a matter for the American authorities because Aegis is under contract to the United States.”
So that should be the end from our end, yes?
Well… no. Prepare to read a few familiar names (highlights are mine)…
Guardian – Let mercenaries be licensed, says Foreign Office (Feb 13 2002): Mercenaries – private military companies as they are now called – are here to stay and their business will grow. This is the conclusion of a long-awaited consultation paper published by the Foreign Office yesterday advocating a system of licensing or regulating the kind of activities which caused the government embarrassment during the arms-to-Africa affair in 1998. The green paper was due out earlier, but it was put off by Downing Street, which did not want to drag up the affair before the general election. Robin Cook, then foreign secretary, was embarrassed by disclosures that FO diplomats were involved with Sandline, a company run by Tim Spicer, in Sierra Leone. Both Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Peter Hain, minister for Europe, are known to be in favour of some form of regulation rather than banning such companies. “In developed countries, the private sector is becoming increasingly involved in military and security activity,” Mr Straw said in a foreword to the green paper. “It is British government policy… to outsource certain tasks that in earlier days would have been undertaken by the armed forces.” He added: “Today’s world is a far cry from the 1960s when private military activity usually meant mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind involved in post-colonial or neo-colonial conflicts”.
A far cry indeed. Gone are the days when… oh, wait… those days (and the ‘unsavoury kind’) aren’t gone… they’re right here. And it’s all part of our government’s ongoing love-affair with privatisation.
Hold on to your hats… it’s about to get even better. Watch for the highlights…
[Note – full notes of evidence given appear in Hansard here.]
BBC – Officials ‘set-up’ over arms-to-Africa (10 Nov 1998): Craig Murray, the second-in-command in the FO’s equatorial Africa department, said he felt Mr Penfold had gone too far in recommending that President Kabbah, Sierra Leone’s democratically elected leader, should enter into a contract with Sandline to removed the junta that deposed him. Speaking about Mr Penfold’s relationship ship with Sandline, Mr Murray said: “My view was that the department should not be continuing this rather hole in the corner method of continual telephone communication with Mr Spicer but not speaking to him [face to face]. I wanted to meet him, look him in the eye and see if he was the sort of person we should have contact with or not. And if I decided he was not the sort of person we should have contact with discontinue the contact.” Mr Murray added that after meeting Mr Spicer, who appeared before MPs last week, he found him “extremely difficult to pin down and shifty”. He said he had been unable to establish who owned Sandline and who would benefit from its effort to re-establish president Kabbah in power. He advised the departments under his control “not to keep contact with him”. Mr Murray said he raised his concerns about the actions of Mr Penfold and had been told by FO Africa director Richard Dales that Mr Penfold had a “tendency to freelance”. When he was challenged about his advice to President Kabbah, Mr Penfold had claimed he was acting in a “personal capacity”, Mr Murray added. During his evidence, Mr Murray claimed he had been “set up” by Sandline boss Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, who had been able to use his contacts with the Foreign Office to escape prosecution by Customs and Excise. He also admitted that he had not passed on a crucial memorandum by Mr Penfold, admitting he had advised President Kabbah to sign an arms deal with Sandline, because he did not want to “shop” a colleague. “I should have had the courage of my convictions and put it on the fax to Customs,” he said.
And we all know what happened to Craig Murray when he showed this courage a few years later in Uzbekistan, now don’t we?
Yes, that’s right… Jack Straw tried to stitch him up in order to shut him up.
This is the morality/practicality of our government in action, folks… and innocent people appear to be dying as a result. Again.
The only notable difference in this particular affair is that those who blew the whistle (i.e. by bragging about their ‘kills’) look to be immune from prosecution.
UPDATE – Possible consequences in America? Old news. We know the neo-cons choose their friends wisely (see: Chalabi, Allawi, Hussein).
UPDATE – May I have Tim Spicer’s OBE when he’s finished with it? I’ve always wanted one, and I’m sure the bloostains will come right off with a little Cillit Bang.
UPDATE – Ooh, lookie! Here’s a familiar name. Again. And a sign of things to come. Note how closely the words of their commanding officer echo the views of Rebekah wade regarding ‘OUR boys’ being put on trial.
BBC – Convicted Guardsmen keep their jobs (Nov 4 1998): Two British soldiers convicted of murdering a Catholic man in Northern Ireland in 1995 are to be retained in the Army… Colonel Tim Spicer, the men’s commanding officer at the time, said: “I am delighted with the Army Board’s decision to allow James Fisher and Mark Wright to continue their Army careers. It was absolutely disgraceful that they were convicted in the first place.”
UPDATE – Bloody hell! There’s endless fun to be had merely by searching for “Tim Spicer” and “Jack Straw”. Spicer appears to be Straw’s Mandelson.
UPDATE (Fri 7 Apr 2006) – Channel 4 – Aegis close down website: The British security company Aegis today won its High Court battle to close down a website run by one of its former employees. Film of contractors – believed to be Aegis employees – apparently shooting at Iraqi civilians from the backs of their cars appeared on the site last year… The website originally said: “www.aegisiraq.co.uk feels that it is in the public interest to hold your own Enquiry and to that end please find below the unedited versions of the four clips used to make the infamous Trophy Video.”
(Article includes links to the unedited clips. Go see.)