Haven’t the Iraqi people suffered enough? This is the kind of question Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, should be asking himself while reviewing a highly disputed $293 million contract from the Pentagon for coordinating security in Iraq. The British firm that recently won the lucrative cost-plus deal, Aegis Defense Services, is headed by an ex-commando, who had seen service in the British occupied six counties of northeastern Ireland. His name is Tim Spicer.
Spicer is the CEO of Aegis. According to the Boston Globe, (06/22/04), he has in the past “been linked to an arms sale to Sierra Leone that violated a 1998 United Nations embargo, and he served as commanding officer over two British soldiers convicted of murdering an unarmed Catholic teenager in North Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1992.” (See, also, for more details on Spicer, "Controversial Commando Wins Iraq Contract," by Pratap Chatterjee, Special to CorpWatch, 06/09/04, www.corpwatch.org).
The contested contract has caused an outrage in the UK, Ireland, and in America, too. Father Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus (INC), a Washington DC-based lobbying group, wrote President George W. Bush, Jr., to complain, saying, “Just when you need to reach out to Irish Catholics, your Department of Defense does something to insult and offend them.” McManus also told the Washington Post, “This is a deeply offensive and insensitive move and represents a real kick in the teeth for Irish Americans. President Bush should tear up this contract immediately out of decency and respect.” McManus had previously raised this issue with Mitchell B. Reiss, the Administration’s envoy to Northern Ireland (“U.S. Contract to British Firm Sparks Irish American Protest,” Mary Fitzgerald, 08/09/04).
Some background facts are in order. On September 4, 1992, an 18- year-old Peter McBride, father of two young daughters, was shot dead by two British guardsmen belonging to the elite Scots Guards. Their Lt. Col. at the time was…you guessed it…Tim Spicer! McBride was a resident of the New Lodge area of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was shot twice at close range in the back. He was carrying a plastic bag with a T-shirt in it. He was checked first by the two guardsmen, questioned and given a full body search. The guardsmen claimed at their trial that McBride was “running away.” Even though they knew he was unarmed, they shot him dead. His body was found less than 70 meters away, lying between two cars. The guardsmen were convicted of murder, but served "only three years" of a life sentence (Eamon McCann, Belfast Telegraph, 04/22/04). They were released from prison and, shockingly, reinstated to the Scots Guard in 1998. One of them has even been promoted since the criminal offense. Rep. James T. Walsh (R-NY) called the decision by the British’s officials to reinstate the men to the armed services, “an insult to the family and friends of Peter McBride and to all the people of Northern Ireland” (http://www.serve.com/pfc/).
McBride’s mother, Jean McBride said, “We are asking our supporters in the U.S. to raise this (the awarding of the contract to Aegis) directly with John Kerry and call for a congressional hearing into Tim Spicer’s track record… As commanding officer of the Scots Guards he (Spicer) told a pack of lies about Peter’s murder and dragged his name through the dirt. God knows what his own private army will do in Iraq." (Ann Cadwallader, Irish Echo, “Dead Man’s Mother Protests U.S. Defense Contract” 06/16-22/04).
Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Center, a human rights group, located in Derry, said, “Spicer is a highly controversial figure. Despite numerous court rulings that held the soldiers under his command murdered an unarmed 18-year-old boy and concocted lies to cover up their action, Spicer has continue to claim that his soldiers should not have been prosecuted. By his own admission he wanted to send them, Guardsmen Wright and Fisher, back on patrol immediately after the murder. In his biography, ‘Give War a Chance: the LIfe and Times of Tim Spicer,’ he wrote, ‘It’s the same principle as getting straight back on a horse when you have been thrown off’" (http://www.serve.com/pfc/). O’Connor repeated the gist of the above remarks when interviewed by John McDonagh and Sandy Boyer, on the popular “Radio Free Eireann” program, on WBAI in NYC on 08/07/04.
O’Connor also told the Washington Post’s Fitzgerald, “As commander in Belfast, Tim Spicer believed his soldiers were above the law and he disputed their convictions for murder. We need to know his background was taken into consideration when this contract was awarded.” Rep. Peter Session (R-TX) has also raised concerns about Spicer’s firm getting the contract. He argued, “It is inconceivable that the firm charged with the responsibility for coordinating all security of firms and individuals performing reconstruction is one which has never even been in the country” (TWP, 08/09/04).
"This contract is a case study in what not to do," said Peter Singer, a national security analyst for the Brookings Institution, who has researched the Aegis deal. "The Army never even bothered to Google this guy (Tim Spicer) to find out that he was involved in political scandal, that he was the source of parliamentary investigations and the owner of failed businesses. And this systemic failure was one of the core issues surrounding the privately contracted interrogators linked to the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib,” added Singer (Boston Globe, Charles M. Sennott, 06/22/04). Singer is also the author of the compelling and extremely relevant "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry."
The $293 million security contract was granted by the Pentagon to Aegis in May, 2004. It is the largest yet awarded for security in Iraq. At press time, the Department of Defense has refused to revoke the deal and Rumsfeld, its top boss, remains uncharacteristically silent. It has been reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is taking under consideration a protest lodged by DynCorp, a Texas based security firm, that had also bid on the contract. The GAO’s decision is due out by Sept. 30th, according to the TWP. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), too, has also not responded to requests by activists to intervene in the dispute, nor has British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has ignored countless pleas from the McBride family to see that justice is finally done in the murder case of teenager Peter McBride.
Oh, by the way, the two British soldiers convicted of wasting Peter McBride, James Fisher and Mark Wright, are believed to be presently serving with the British Army in Occupied Iraq (http://www.serve.com/pfc/). Pity the Iraqis – Tim "Rambo" Spicer is coming, too!