Daily archives: September 18, 2007

A Sovereign Iraq?

Whether the “Government” of Iraq has any authority in its own country will be tested by the ability to make their banning of Blackwater stick. Most governments might be expected to object to having scores of thousands of foreign mercenaries roaming around their land, threatening the populace and occasionally massacring them.

Over 80% of the money spent by the US on “reconstruction” in Iraq has gone under the heading of “security”, mostly to companies like Blackwater and Aegis, their UK counterpart. The US is now trying to put on pressure by suspending all aid projects until Blackwater is reinstated. As their efforts this last four years have undeniably left Iraqis much worse off than before, they should be told where to get off.

If anyone doesn’t understand how these mercenary companies operate, they should view the infamous “Aegis Trophy Video”, originally put up on Aegis website by their employees as a macabre souvenir. In fact everyone should watch this – and remember this is not a movie, those are real human beings murdered for fun.


The comment by the ex mercenary under the video is also worth taking in.

I feel terribly sorry for the soldiers who have ended up in this futile war. But for mercenaries I have no time at all. They kill people for money. If they are killed themselves, my sympathy is still there, but strained. One story which went peculiarly quiet was the five mercenaries, four British, from “Garda World” who were kidnapped at end May along with the consultant they were protecting. The kidnap involved over a hundred properly accredited Iraqi security personnel with the right uniforms, documents and weapons. What happened to the mercenaries, and to their client? Why did the whole story get a miniscule percentage of the publicity given routinely to Brit hostages?

The Garda World mercenaries had a peculiar relationship with the MI6 informant and neo-con alcoholic, the Rev Canon Andrew White, quite the strangest creature to come out of the generally admirable Church of England for many years. He left Baghdad shortly after this kidnap. Any connection?

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Agencies accuse UK government of reclassifying cluster bomb in order to beat the weapon’s ban

From Amnesty International

The UK, the world’s third largest user of lethal cluster bombs over the last ten years, has renamed one of its two remaining cluster munitions in an effort to beat an expected worldwide ban next year said humanitarian organisations Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action today.

The move would mean that the Hydra CRV-7 rocket system, which can deliver 171 ‘M73’ bomblets from a helicopter-mounted rocket pod, would remain part of British arsenals.

As recently as 23 November 2006, the government listed the CRV-7 as a cluster munition. But on 16 July this year, just months after it said it would back a worldwide cluster bomb ban, the Government said the CRV-7 was no longer a cluster bomb.

Simon Conway, Director of Landmine Action said:

‘Ten years after it championed a treaty banning landmines the UK has a chance to do the same with cluster bombs – but instead it is spinning a cluster bomb con.

‘This is a deeply cynical move. The UK Government needs to announce an immediate end to the use of these indiscriminate killers.’

US forces used the rocket-delivered M73 ‘bomblets’ in Iraq in 2003. Human Rights Watch reported contamination of unexploded M73 bomblets left behind after the strikes…

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The Choice

A half hour interview here as part of Michael Buerk’s very interesting Radio 4 series.


Meantime Murder in Samarkand appears almost totally off the shelves. I needed some copies at the weekend, and went to Waterstones in Malet St, Trafalgar Sq, Piccadilly Circus and Notting Hill Gate, to Daunts, Hatchards, Foyles, to Blackwells and Borders in Charing Cross Road and to Books Etc in Shepherds Bush. Between all of these I culled just four copies, with most shops having none. None have any copies today.

Amazon.co.uk also have the paperback no longer in stock but on 6 day delivery.

Yet there were plenty of copies everywhere of Tamerlaine’s Children by Robert Rand and Ghost Plane by Stephen Grey. These are very good books by friends of mine on broadly the same subject as mine, but have sold less than a quarter the number and are tens of thousands lower in the Amazon sales rankings.

I have continually been frustrated by this. Murder has sold remarkably well given its invisibility. But it really is hard to understand what is happening – and why.

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