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Continuing the war on terror: An opportunity for mercenaries?

mercenaries, tim spicer, aegis, sandline international, terrorism, trident, private military companies

It is obvious that the war on terror is now undergoing transition with regards to strategy and approach. This transition period has certainly generated enough confusion for the forces of terror to exploit the same to their advantage, as can be seen from the spurt in terrorist activities and bombings, as seen in mumbai that saw the worst attack ever staged. Eventhough security breaches and intelligence lapses have been the explanations for the same, one needs to look deeper to understand the possible causes and the more valid reasons for two things. The intelligence failure and the repeated incidence of terror.

Definitely, the change in strategy, approach , modus operandi and everything else is dependent on the most fundamental thing. How one regards the problem. A resource centric, mercantile, possessiveness dominated outlook inspires and leads to adhoc approach that can create complex and recurring problems of same magnitude in the near future. Sadly, the war on terror has suffered a set back by change in the US approach towards the same.

The next democrat-led US govt has sounded a policy on terror that is not very confident or firm footed. Judging from the current scenario not even the greatest of american spin doctors like Tom clancy and frederick forsyth would rule out suspicion. So from the ambiguous statements made by the inmates many of them with checkered past and dubious motives does underline one thing: “Our objective is that we shall give utmost importance to protecting and saving our interests from terrorist attacks. For this we are prepared to persuade our friendly governments to initiate diplomatic moves more often than straight forward true approach with the use of force.”. Essentially, this is what is implied by the business-specific, bi-partisan approach of the democratic government.

Now comes the more important part. How does the US aim to achieve its objective against terrorist outfits through the present govt? the answer is by reviving the concept of private military companies and putting the same to optimum use. The ones of the kind nurtured and operated by Tim Spicer of aegis defense services and formerly a founding member of sandline international inc, a man simultaneously at the center of a number of scandals provoked by his global mercenary activities and of an effort to legitimize the status and sanitize the image of the west’s soldiers of fortune who have mounted coups, guarded British, U.S. and Arabian dignitaries and ambassadors, engaged in civil wars, crushed rebellions and run sabotage and terror operations from behind hostile lines. After decades of controversial intervention in the developing world, these private military enterprises are seeking legal recognition and standing. They wish for re-branding as peacekeepers and conflict resolvers. Needless, to say the regions in which they intervened were left in a state of utter confusion and perpetual power crisis as an aftermath . Definitely, alqaeda’s osama-bin-laden the terrorist godfather who carries on his head the biggest bounty ever announced would be far too good a catch to miss for self-styled mercenaries who fight for a fee. The democratic party that had throughout its election campaign launched severe criticism at Bush administration’s inability to nab the terrorist godfather seems quickly to have accepted through characteristic dichotomy, the move to legitimize mercenaries who from the point-of-view in the current situation made worse by terrorism, are western equivalents of taliban. Their modus operandi, in which they use their contacts and influence to recruit willing current, ex-military and secret service officers is identical with the approach of the very many terror agencies like taliban,al-qaeda and LeT.

Almost everything about these mercenarial outfits spell disaster. There is nothing about them that is inspirational. Their employment in a war against terrorism could be a recipe for disaster. On the closure of Tim spicer’s Sandline inc operations in 2004, the following statement was issued by the company:

“ The general lack of governmental support for Private Military Companies willing to help end armed conflicts in places like Africa, in the absence of effective international intervention, is the principal reason behind Sandline’s decision. Without such support the ability of Sandline (and other PMCs) to make a positive difference in countries where there is widespread brutality and even genocidal behaviour is irretrievably diminished .”.

Certainly one needs to consider a lot of factors. Among which is the mindset, perceptions and moralities of those who accept mini- military tasks for economic gains. The nature of their work and its scope suggests that their perceptions and approach towards their opponents would be centred on cunning subversion and opportunistic deal making. Spicer’s involvement in huge illegitimate pay off’s and the indirect benefits drawn by the mercenaries from hamas' dua like charity programmes run in the impoverished regions is suggestive of the same. His opinion against involving in those regions where the rebels are resourceful further confirms this.

In 1997, the foreign secretary of the newly elected British government, Robin Cook, proclaimed that Britain would henceforward pursue a novel "ethical moral foreign policy," in which humanitarian, environmental and moral considerations would be as important as traditional national interests. Spicer and his men quickly made Cook's "ethical foreign policy" a centre of mockery.

Spicer’s operations accomplished no good purpose. The countries where Spicer and his Sandline and Executive Outcomes colleagues intervened – particularly Angola and Sierra Leone – remain poor, unstable and underdeveloped, despite having rich resources which the private soldiers had sought to secure for the benefit of their mercantile patrons.

The mercantile-mercenary nexus becomes more obvious from a white paper published by sandline titled: "SHOULD THE ACTIVITIES OF PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANIES BE TRANSPARENT?". The author of this controversial writeup goes on to justify the PMCs claim for a stake in client country's natural resources in the following paragraph:

"The question of payment of PMCs in the form of national assets such as mining concessions has taken up a large amount of print space over the past three or four years and deserves a particular mention. The contention is that governments, in desperation, trade huge, irreplaceable chunks of indigenous wealth which far outweigh the value of the military services being provided. The question to ask is: Should a state pay for military services in the form of mineral assets? The answer is as simple as the question: Yes, but only to a commensurate value for the services being delivered. If, for example, a gold mine has an independently established net present value of USD 30m, the PMC is providing services to the value of USD 40m and the state has inadequate cash reserves, or does not wish to deplete them, then why not pay the PMC by assigning the mine and making a top-up cash payment? There is nothing unethical about the deal and it is a fundamental application of the centuries old principle of barter trading a service for payment in a non-monetary form."

In addition to their woes, the mercenaries were noted to be very casual and brash in their operations, in many cases exceptionally brutal and indiscriminate in firing, often picking up wrong and soft targets. To begin with, it was a mission that had seen spicer's celebrity status grow phenomenally to the extent he was accorded top priority in many of the west's leading television chat shows.

Further embarassment and disrepute to the governments by the activities of such non-state actors came during 2001 when the terrorist LTTE led a great attack against srilankan bandaranaike international airport forcing the international community to initiate a complete security audit to enhance trade co-operations with srilanka, the insurer Lloyd’s finance of London suggested to srilankan government that they hire the services of trident also owned by Tim Spicer to conduct a security audit of ports and airports. After the completion of audit spicer released a report in leading UK dailies saying that srilanka is as safe as any country and even more safer than a few other countries for business. What was not revealed by spicer was that there was a Norwegian inspired ceasefire with LTTE which the srilankans eventually broke in 2005 and which had actually induced the international community to remove the sanctions against srilanka. This fact was later confirmed by srilankan government officials. The masking of this crucial bit of information in the spicer inspired report is suggestive of the clandestine,untruthful, immoral and questionable methods employed by the mercenarial soldiers of fortune. For, it is clear to the layman, the dubious role that they played in brokering the ill-advised ceasefire with the dreaded terrorist organization, that would ultimately make their security audit project successful and recommendations "implementable".

The intelligence agencies have repeatedly quoted and opined that many terrorist organizations possess the capability to build crude nuclear bombs and some of them may have been in the threshold of doing so. A russian three star general when being interviewed has reported to the wall street journal that terrorists have made two known attempts to penetrate Russian nuclear arsenal storage.The al-qaeda has repeatedly asserted that it possesses nuclear and chemical weapons and some intelligence reports have pointed to the smuggling of the same from volatile regions like slovakia and yugoslavia.The great confusion that has resulted from the activities of the mercenaries in such strife torn regions as kosovo could well have aided the diehard criminals who are willing to take crazy risks to obtain fissile material and who are well supported by rogue nations.

The rogue asylums and governments housing the terrorists of al-qaeda and LeT would most welcome the approach that would bring into picture the soldiers of fortune like spicer. They are the ones whom they can use to contrive situations that would help them carry out their agenda and extend their influence and that is the ultimate goal of the terror organizations like al-qaeda that use suicide terrorism to great effect. To employ such actors in a moral war against terrorism is sinful and to partner,co-operate and toe the line of such mercenary legitimizers is unpardonable. A morally superior force must refrain and think of alternate approaches to continue this absolutely necessary war against evil.
Published: 2008-12-05
Author: K Sethu Madhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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