Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mercenaries and Recruiting Videos

Just today I finally got to see the infamous trophy video showing private “security” contractors in several shooting sprees as the drive Iraq’s “Highway of Death” from the airport to Baghdad. First off, let’s dispense with the euphemisms. They’re not “security contractors,” otherwise they’d be back in Glasgow or North London or East Texas scoping scenes from a mall and telling the girlfriend all about the shoplifter they knocked about in the warehouse over pretzels and a snort of coke. People who hike it half way around the world to one of the most dangerous spots on the planet for work that pays up to $1500 a day are mercenaries. Let’s dispense, too, with the assumption that because they’re the Highway of Death, and because a car behind them is speeding up, they’re acting in self-defense by wasting it and its passengers. Even imbeciles who drive an Arab street for half an hour discover immediately that nervous speeding is Semitism’s most pronounced strand of DNA. These mercenaries never give the speeders a chance to approach, to make any sort of cursory identification, even from a given distance (lone driver? Family? Other mercenaries?) before strafing. They’re out there shooting up for the hell of shooting up, knowing that nothing on earth can stop them, no one will punish them. They’re so sure of it that the barbarians posted their video on their blog.

Their company, British-based Aegis Defence Services, claims it had no knowledge of the video, and that the blog was in no way connected to the company. But the men shooting it, and shooting Iraqis, were, and may still be. Aegis is conducting an alleged “investigation.” Here’s what’s known about Aegis. The firm is led by a Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, once a commanding officer in Britain’s Scots Guard in Belfast, whose soldiers in his command murdered an unarmed teen-ager by shooting him in the back. The two soldiers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, then granted early release. Spicer himself became a mercenary in 1995, joining a scandalous “private military” company called Sandline and doing mercenary work in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone where, according to the Center for Public Integrity, he triggered “police and customs investigations, raids on his home and offices, arrest, incarceration and deportation.” What did the British government do? It legalized so-called “private military contractors” in 2002. The firm was awarded a $293 million contract by the U.S. government to protect American diplomats in Iraq, and this remarkable irony, quoted from Aegis’s own Web site: “In a separate contract, Aegis provides security protection to the Oil for Food corruption inquiry.” The $293 million contract was awarded over the protests of Sens. John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Charles Schumer, who wrote Donald Rumsfeld: “In light of the recent revelations of abuses of detainees in Iraq, it is important that U.S. actions, whether by military personnel or contractors, have respect for the law. It is troubling that the Government would award a contract to an individual with a history of supporting excessive use of force against a civilian population.”

The video couldn’t be a surprise. It was written (pre-fabricated, pre-shot and previewed) in Aegis’s self-aggrandizing scriptures. Of course the company doesn’t “condone” it. But the company’s modus operandi makes the video a fait accompli even before it was shot. The video isn’t an aberration so much as the fact that just one of its kind (so far) has been publicly produced. The certainty of more of its kind floating about in the underground of snuff-for-thrills world of inveterate veterans of the mercenary trades is mathematical. What’s only slightly less certain is the sort of uses these videos are put to, though the uncertainty is barely so, because civility still requires a touch of the benefit of the doubt. But given Aegis’s scabrous profile and the more scabrous past of its mercenary-in-chief, this sort of videos are just as likely to be part of its recruiting drives as al-Qaida’s videos of beheadings and suicide bombings are part of its drives.

Astounding as it may be, this particular video has its defenders. Then again let’s not forget that the cops clobbering Rodney King to his drunken pulp had their defenders too. Some of them are probably mercenaries in Iraq, on Aegis’s payroll, as we speak.