I See a Pattern Emerging
Mercenaries and the Law in South Africa

Tim Spicer in Iraq

As the Iraq hand-over vibrates from tragedy to comedy I have to admit, the last thing in the world I expected was for the largest security contract for Iraq's reconstruction to be awarded to Aegis, a company run by Tim Spicer, a self-described "unorthodox soldier," an outside-the-box military thinker with a reputation and a published autobiography who sees himself as "an interesting animal" that the public wants to know about. I missed this story when it first broke in June (though DefenseTech and  USAmnesia were on task). Spicer was formerly the CEO of Sandline, though according to the corporate web site he stepped down in 2000 to pursue his own projects. Under his guidance, Sandline was involved in two scandals, one involving Papua New Guinea and one involving Sierra Leone. I will not wax hyperbolic here. Much fascinating reading awaits the reader who wishes to discover the details of the Sandline intrigues.

I have been mulling over Spicer's new contract for a little while, struck quite speechless by this novelistic development. Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute attributes the awarding of this contract to incompetence at the Pentagon, and surely some of that came into play. Indeed no wiser head bothered to type Tim Spicer into Google. But as we have seen from the Abu G scandal and the resulting release of memos, the current regime in the Pentagon is rather fond of unorthodox thinking, so I just can't see the Aegis contract as the pure result of incompetence and lack of background checks. In my humble opinion, Spicer got the job because of his no-more-Mister-Nice-Guy reputation, not in spite of it.

But let us not talk as if the contract had gone to Sandline itself. I started blogging private military firm in March with the advent of the N4610 affair. As of late March, Sandline was still in operation. But checking back with them, I see now Sandline closed its doors, at the height of the PMF goldrush, just a little over a month after N4610 and the load of mercenaries were detained:

On 16 April 2004 Sandline International announced the closure of the company's operations.

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 reason for this decision. Without such support the ability of Sandline to make a positive difference in countries where there is widespread brutality and genocidal behaviour is materially diminished.

Meanwhile, as Spicer sails toward new-found fortune, his "good mate" (An Unorthodox Soldier, p. 143) Simon Mann, awaits trial in Zimbabwe. Such is the Hand of Fate.


When Afghan police burst into the large suburban house in Kabul, they were not expecting to see three men strapped to the ceiling and hanging by their feet.

This was supposedly an import business, after all.

But as they released the men, and five other captives who were also in the house, officers realised they had stumbled upon a private jail where Afghan prisoners were being locked up and tortured.

(Via the Yorkshire Ranter. See also Josh Marshall.) Are private jails a growth industry? It would be a great gig for suburban housewives. We've got basements! We know all about discipline! We're home anyway! I should really get in touch with the CIA.

ALSO, Bruce Sterling, writing for Wired, is fun on the subject of our mercenary future. (Via Body & Soul.)