Friday, November 23, 2007

Iraq's Mercenaries...Trained in Ireland?

Jean McBride, featured in the photo above, is the mother of unarmed 18 year old Peter McBride who was shot dead by the British Army in September 1992. Reports of trigger happy mercenaries firing on Iraqi civilians is of particular interest to Jean McBride, since one of the largest firms operating in Iraq which has come under particular scrutiny is Aegis Defence Services Ltd. The connection with the McBride families tragedy is that the boss of Aegis is a certain Tim Spicer. This gentleman was in command of the two soldiers, Mark Wright and James Fischer, who fatally shot Peter McBride at a checkpoint in Newlodge after he had been searched. Paul O'Connor of the Derry based Pat Finucane centre has been following the case for more than a decade. "Tim Spicer was the first senior officer to have access to the soldiers at a time when the RUC was denied access, he testified at their trial and said that his men had done no wrong and should not have been charged" O'Connor explains.
Despite Spicer's active support the two soldiers were convicted of murder in 1995. Spicer rejected the verdict (upheld on appeal) and continued to agitate for the release of Wright and Fischer, "after they were convicted he helped organise a campaign involving present and and former army officers, it was run from the HQ of the Scots Guards in London" O'Connor adds. Spicer according to O'Connor "made a number of claims that were totally and utterly untrue, he claimed that Peter McBride probably did have some kind of device. He claimed that local people probably ghosted away the device after he was shot." The campaign to release the soldiers was successful in 1998 when the release of the two soldiers was ordered by the British government. They were allowed to resume service in the army.
Since then Tim Spicer has moved into the world of private security, starting off as the CEO of Sandline. In that capacity he was embroiled in a number of high-profile controversies, including a brief spell in a jail in Papua New Guinea after Spicer was arrested by the Papuan army. Sandline was eventually wound up, and Tim Spicer became involved in setting up Aegis. The new venture did well and attracted a $293 million deal under Paul Bremers Coalition Authority (CPA) charged with providing security for the CPA. Since the contract was awarded Aegis has been the subject of severe criticism. In 2005 an audit carried out by a US government agency found that many Aegis employees lacked the training required to handle the weapons they had been issued with, including AK 47's and M4 assault rifles.This was quickly followed by allegations that its contractors fired on Iraqi Civilians. A video was posted on the internet by a former Aegis employee, which apparently showed automatic fire being directed from the back of an SUVagainst civilian cars. Aegis describes the clip as "a malicious attempt to discredit Aegis" in which "the incidents displayed had been taken entirely out of context". A US army investigation cleared the company, but the Pat Finucane Centre was contacted by the man who posted the video, Rod Stoner, who told them that the inquiry had not interviewed key witnesses -including Stoner himself.
"We asked for a meeting with US officials. In reality this sort of thing happens every day and the government does'nt really give a toss-they said that they would go off and investigate and come back to us," says Paul O'Connor. The Pat Finucane centre is reported to believe that the shooter , a South African, was ghosted out of the country until the investigation was over. "We asked if they had interviewed any Iraqi civilians-they had'nt", adds Paul O'Connor.
O'Connor notes that all private security firms operating in Iraq were granted immunity from prosecution by the CPA.It is of course merely a coincidence that Tim Spicer's name crops up in both of these stories, and I am sure that were any of the Aegis contractors ever accused of accidentally harming anyone, he would be able to draw upon his experience in Ireland to ensure that no one involved would become another victim of a miscarriage of justice. Sadly, there is no such recourse for the family of Peter McBride.
With Acknowledgements to Hot Press 25/10/2007


Anonymous said...

I know how important it is to you to ensure that anything you write on a contentious subject is treated fairly and judiciously with each party to the dispute having a chance to give their side, so here are the words of Col. Spicer:

"Tim Spicer commanded the 1st Battalion Scots Guards between 1992 and 1994. The Battalion was deployed on operations in West Belfast (N. Ireland) in 1992. During that tour Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright were involved in the shooting of Peter McBride resulting in his death. The soldiers were subsequently tried, convicted of murder, and released on license under the Good Friday Agreement. They were then reinstated into the Army by the Army Board.

As their Commanding Officer and based on the facts as reported on the day, Tim Spicer supported his soldiers throughout this ordeal and gave evidence at their trial. It is, and always has been, the duty of a Commanding Officer to support his soldiers. It is a strongly held belief (by both Tim Spicer and much of the Army establishment) that the circumstances surrounding this incident were such that the soldiers were wrongly convicted of murder, and that the incident was and continues to be used for political purposes.

Tim Spicer was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his services during this operational tour. The award reflects the professional conduct of the whole Battalion during its tour of operations."

I admire your efforts to both expose and remind us of the murder of *one* man in Ulster, and I eagerly await your forensic examination of the definite histories of *mass* murder by certain 'politicians' currently at the very highest level of political leadership of that benighted province. A huge task, I grant you, but I remain confident that even as I write, you are hard at work.

Anonymous said...

Indeed the fact remains that Fisher and Wright were convicted of murder and subsequently released under the GFA. As also were a considerably larger number of republican murderers. But talking of murder in the New Lodge, why not make a mention of the murder of Andy Kearney in 1998? He was a republican murdered by republicans, his crime to win a fight with a thug from Ardoyne. Funny thing few witnesses came forward and there is little mention of this murder and numerous others like it on republican leftist blogs like this one what a surprise?

Gabriel said...

We can all get into the 'what about' style of debate, I could quote and endless litany of 'what about' type comments, but they get us no where. In fact the GFA recognised that no one community in that part of Ireland had a monopoly on experiencing grief and injustice, and I feel that Republicans have articulated their awareness of the pain inflicted on both communities in the conflict in a large number of statements, most significantly the IRA itself has referred to this on several occasions. The point of this article is to focus on the question of vulnerability of unarmed civilians in Iraq and how they also seem to be under threat from the actions of rather gung-ho and unaccountable armed mercenaries. Who in turn seem to have a strong connection with a person who evoked huge controversy relating to a civilian death in Ireland not so long ago.

Anonymous said...

Indeed we could hold a 'what about' sort of debate. Best not though as those opposed to Irish Republican gangsterism would have a vastly longer series of 'what abouts'. Oh so the IRA have acknowledged their wrongs have they, well not before time but I wonder if it was before or after the Northern bank robbery or the murder of that guy in South Armagh recently? To latch onto the death of McBride as a sort of political football is extremely cynical however. It ignores the GFA which saw the likes of Sean Kelly released and has nothing whatsoever to do with PSCs in Iraq. Regardless of Spicer's role there, firms like Blackwater are trigger happy due to how they perceive the threat. It has nothing to do with Northern Ireland, Tim Spicer or indeed McBride.

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