Iraq Atrocities? US Backed Mercenaries!

Young men and women attracted by the big bucks are flocking to Iraq as security guards and private contractors. They are being paid to do the dirty work of the US and UK invaders. We say that they are mercenaries selling out their class brothers and sisters and are traitors to the working class.

Mercenary Activities Act

On October the 22nd 2004, New Zealand under the Mercenary Activities (Prohibition) Act 2004, will become a signatory to the 1989 UN Convention banning recruitment, training, financing and use of mercenaries in armed conflict. Significantly, the original bill introduced into Parliament by Labour Foreign Minister Phil Goff in October 2003, came several months after the departure of Foreign Affairs adviser and humanitarian aid worker David Shearer. In 2001, after attending an international forum in the US called “The Politicisation of Humanitarian Action and Staff Security”, an essay written by Shearer and entitled “Privatising Security”, advocated the use of private armies.

New Zealand’s decision to support the Convention is a significant departure from the guns for hire attitude of NZ’s traditional allies principally the US, Britain and France. For decades, these imperialist powers have tried to distance themselves from the SOF (soldiers of fortune) label, especially in regards to the British Ghurkha Regiment and the French Foreign Legion. But this has been mostly for PR and cosmetic reasons. Their non ratification of the UN Convention is an admission of the integral role played by mercenaries or PMC’s (Private Military Companies) as they prefer to be called, in their modern global strategy. In the case of the US, the non recognition of the International Criminal Court is a continuation of this scenario.

The UN Convention itself with its very limited scope, dubious definitions and inability to be enforced, maintains a hypocrisy that turns a blind eye to the vast profits accumulated by the multi-billion dollar arms industry and states who act on its behalf. Never mind the plight of the poor victims. As an agent of Imperialism, the UN cannot be expected to act otherwise. Its effect is largely illusionary. Companies producing the F18’s, Apache helicopter gunships and M1 tanks don’t even warrant scrutiny. Its pretence to represent some kind of moral high ground by trying to differentiate one form of blood money from another exposes yet again the irrelevance of the UN as an instrument for progressive change. To add to the inability of the UN to define “mercenary”, PMC’s and PSC’s (Private Security Companies) have had their legal teams working overtime redefining company job descriptions as a safeguard. For NZ, the new law becomes like its “clean-green” image of itself; symbolism without substance.

SAS supplies Mercs

Regular military ties between NZ and its Anglo Commonwealth partners Australia and Britain, ensure a steady stream of inter-operability, particularly among Special Forces such as the SAS. So close in fact is this relationship that it makes a mockery of the periodic claims made by politicians that New Zealander’s are not operating in theatres of war that they are not supposed to be in. Within military circles, it has been long held common knowledge that where ever British or Australian SAS are operating, New Zealander’s are included among their number either full-time or on inter-service exchange. This also follows to a lesser extent with the US. Indeed NZSAS troopers are so highly thought of and sort after, that they command top dollar by overseas PMC’s and PSC’s when their “official” military service has ended and “Merc Work” begins. For many, going overseas is the way of getting around small problems like the new law introduced by the NZ Government.

In March 2000, former SAS soldiers belonging to PSC Onix International, which had an association with then Waipareira Trust Chairman John Tamihere, conducted a mission in Indonesia to rescue Chinese Indonesian tycoon Johnson Cornelius Lo. According to ex-SAS sources, the mission passed through war zone East Timor. Foreign Minister Phil Goff’s response at the time was low keyed and unconcerned. Embedded local media never really pushed the story and like the demise of Onix International at the end of the same year, saved the Government from some tricky questions about mercenaries operating directly out of NZ.


At a UN special forum on the rights of people to self-determination held in New York on Oct 31 2001, a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on mercenaries Enrique Bernalles Ballesteros stated that mercenaries were often present during terrorist attacks and were often used in battles against those seeking self-determination.

This fits into many of the accounts corroborated by eye witnesses who escaped the massacres perpetrated in Algeria after the 1992 coup which saw the moderate Islamic FIS victory stolen by a western backed criminal government. The more militant Islamic GIA, whose entire leadership was wiped out after the coup, was implicated in many killings in absentia by the government to give the impression that the GIA were still operational and responsible for many future terrorist attacks.

The release of the book La Sale Guerre (The Dirty War) in 2001 lifted the lid on the true nature of the war of “Eradication” being waged by the pro-western Algerian junta or “Pouvoir (Mafia Generals)” as they are locally known. Written by a former military officer Habib Souaida who now lives in exile in France, it gives a vivid and detailed eye witness account of the slaughter perpetrated by the military and its hired secret cadres for the purpose of blaming Islamist organisations.

Examination of the bodies of terrorists involved in the massacres who were themselves killed by local resistance, showed no sign of circumcision; proof of being Moslem. The most incredible aspect of these crimes is the fact that they were committed in staunchly Islamic areas close to military bases and not the places frequented by Westerners such as the clubs and commercial heart of Algiers.

It is absolutely inconceivable that Moslems would turn on their own in the fashion described by reactionary embedded media. According to Islamic tradition, Gods wrath and retribution would be most terrible. But then again, it is not for the consumption of Moslems the fiction being perpetrated. That target belongs to the popular opinion existing in the Imperialist heartland of the US and its allies.

France and its secret services (remember the Rainbow Warrior) have been pivotal in directing much of the dirty war.

Its memory of the colonially directed inter-communal violence that took place during the “Algerian War of Independence 1954-62” was used as the template for the cycle of violence that it helped unleashed after 1992. The post-coup mass privatisation of lands once owned by communities slaughtered by the regime, have fulfilled the requirements of the US dominated multi-nationals. It is known that large oil reserves exist in many of these areas, hence the presence of nearby military bases.

In NZ, political prisoner and former Algerian FIS politician, Ahmed Zaoui, is a victim of the crimes of his country’s government who have also labelled the FIS a terrorist organisation. The criminal attitude of the NZ government doesn’t want to upset its US masters, so is willing to play along with the charade.

Soldier of Fortune Heaven

Soldier of Fortune heaven is the best way to describe Iraq. Mercenaries, far out number the 20,000 British soldiers serving there, making them the second biggest force behind the US. Of the estimated US $ 80 billion being spent on rebuilding Iraq, more than US $ 50 billion will go to private security companies. With the totally privatised Iraqi infrastructure in American hands, that sum will increase substantially more. The bulk of the most highly paid mercenaries in Iraq are former SAS (British, Aussie, and NZ) and US Special Forces who can command upwards from more than US $ 1,000 per day. It’s the biggest racket in town; with no shortage of volunteers. Mercenaries are already implicated in killings and abuses from privately run prisons and torture cells in Afghanistan to the now exposed prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

NZ based security firm, Red Key Security, recently ceased advertising positions in Iraq because it was claimed that it was too dangerous. The more likely reason was the anticipated new anti-mercenary law.

British based Global Risk Strategies, in typically colonial racist fashion, underpays its Fijian and Nepali mercenaries. They get US $ 1,000 per month, even though their military skill level is the equivalent of their British counterparts having served in that country’s army. Last December, its Fijian mercenaries were involved in a massacre of civilians in the city of Samara, killing at least 10 and wounding many more.

The spate of kidnappings and murders of foreign workers with their gruesome decapitations shown on the internet, have led many to believe that they are not the work of Islamic extremists, but the work of US and CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) hired mercenaries. This ties in with the anti-Islamic blame strategy as practiced in Algeria. The covert nature and skills of many of its practitioners conclude that this is definitely the case. Its shock value is designed to alienate and create an abhorrence of anything Arab or Islamic and therefore sympathy and support for the US and its allies.

The US and Britain are finding themselves increasingly isolated as a result of their crime of the century. As an added cost cutting exercise, the use of private security to take over the tasks normally reserved for conventional military forces, is an attempt to placate and soften the impact for a home audience becoming increasingly weary of the quagmire that has become Iraq. Mercenary casualties and body counts are never officially recorded, but neither are the Iraqi victims.

The recent kidnapping by US supporters of charity worker Margaret Hassan who has Irish, British and Iraqi citizenship, shows the level to which the stooges of the US are willing to sink in order to continue the fiction of Islamic involvement. As a highly public figure in Iraq, she has condemned the UN/US imposed sanctions and the US/British occupation. The move north by British forces to help beef up the US, should not be seen as a coincidence, but a cynical attempt calculated to shore up support back home by placing a symbol of humanitarianism at centre stage.

An un-named source within one of the British based security companies agrees that there are elements within the private armies who are in Iraq specifically for the purpose of discrediting the insurgents (Iraqi Resistance) by committing brutal murders against innocent civilians. Many come from political organisations associated with the US, principally right-wing death squads. He says, “It’s about selling the bullshit to a home audience; that’s all that matters. My politics isn’t your politics, but then time will tell.”

Socialist Internationalism

In recent days at the UN, Phil Goff was quoted as saying that the new legislation would “not prohibit those motivated to join up to fight for a cause, which they believed in.” This part of the Ministers statement, rings rather hollow when seen in the light of the Conventions protocols. Already unilaterally and outside of the UN, the US is targeting political organisations involved in activity not to its liking. All of these organisations satisfy the conditions as prescribed in the Convention, particularly left-wing ones where funding, training, financing and ultimately use are part of the precondition for their existence. It only comes unstuck when trying to apply the term mercenary. It must be expected and history teaches us that reactionaries like Goff and his cohorts would put all kinds of obstacles in the way of any attempt to internationalise workers struggle.

The fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s clearly showed us what was possible when workers from all corners of the world came together to defend the Spanish Republic. Stalinist treachery aside, leftists of all shades, made up the bulk of the International Brigade, including New Zealander’s who would be the back-bone of the NZ Labour Party of old. The question to be posed is; would New Labour defend such a scenario today? Its record of kowtowing to Blairite reaction suggests the obvious answer is no. The collapse of the degenerated Soviet Union, has given license to the US to dictate all terms of reference as to who is friend or foe.

So, what of the UN Convention and the new NZ anti-mercenary Law? Both of these play into the hands of the US agenda and serve only as smoke screens to create the impression that the UN is playing a moderating role against the excesses of those who step out of line with the forces of pro-capitalism.

For workers, the hard yards continue and its business as usual. We must overcome the shenanigans and intrigues that are thrown our way by political legislators whose only interest is to prevent our emancipation and liberation. Whatever labels they choose to put on us, our fight to extend workers struggle beyond our national borders, must remain paramount. In the present climate of US hegemony, the meaning and importance of Socialist Internationalism in terms of leadership, is even greater and more necessary than ever. 

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004

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