Lobster on the Rise of British Mercenary Companies

This winter’s edition of Lobster carries a very interesting article, ‘Team Mercenary GB’ by Nick Must on the rise of the various mercenary companies in Britain now being hired out by governments all over the world. Most of the British mercenary companies, or, in modern parlance, Private Military Contractors, seem to have been founded by ex- or serving members of the SAS. Sometimes their founders even alluded to their former regiments in the names they gave their own private armies, such as John Banks’ Security Advisory Services, e.g., SAS. These companies have been involved in a long line of very murky dealings, including several attempts to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. In the 1960s and 1970s they were involved in the fighting in Yemen, Angola, Congo, Oman and the notorious Biafran civil war in Nigeria. The African writers Abdel-Fatah Musah and J. ‘Kayode Fayemi note that this was a deliberate response by the colonialist regimes to counter these nations’ independent movements. They were also involved in abortive coup attempt to overthrow the government of the Seychelles. In the 1970s the City of London also got involved in the action, with several Lloyd’s syndicates offering various anti-kidnap packages.

Must’s article also describes how they have prospered by taking any worthwhile government security contracts. This has seen them provide military training for some very nasty organisations and individuals, such as Sultan Qaboos of Oman and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka for its bloody repression of the Tamils. Major Walker’s KMS company also got into trouble for supplying arms and assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, along with fighting with them in the capital, Managua. One of the company’s leaders, Major Brian Baty, had also caused something of an incident while in the SAS. He and a group of other SAS soldiers illegally crossed the border from Ulster into Eire, which they blamed on a map reading error. They were also embarrassed by a question Red Ken raised about an advertisement they had placed in a brochure produced by International Military Services Limited, which was involved in large-scale arms dealing, assisted with bribery.

MI5 were also closely involved with the deal between the British mercenaries and the Sri Lankan government, which not only involved the repression of dissident Tamils at home, but also in Britain. In this, the British government used them as its proxy in order to facilitate an arms deal without offending Indira Gandhi’s government in India, which supported the Tamils. The suppression of the Tamil uprising used the same tactics the British used against the IRA and other Nationalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland – imprisonment, random beatings and assassination. This was so brutal that one of those providing the training, Robin Horsfall, left after three months as he felt that they were training the wrong side. KMS also provided military advice to the Indian government on the suppression of the Sikh paramilitary occupation of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. This ended in the Indian army storming the Temple, an act of sacrilege that is still bitterly resented by Sikhs thirty years later. It should be mentioned, however, that the eventual plan adopted was not that of KMS.

It also covers the attempt by a group of mercenaries under ‘Brigadier-General’ Simon Mann to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea involving Mark Thatcher. This was thwarted, and Mann imprisoned. He was released after a year, and is now providing security advice to the country’s dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Since 2011 he has also been working with another mercenary company, Moda Solutions. A previous director of this company was Des Browne, a former defence secretary, and one of its present directors is Lord Brennan, who is a QC at Cherie Blair’s Matrix Chambers. So much for her interest in human rights.

This is the first of a couple of articles, the second of which will be how the War on Terror has led to immense profits for these companies. Even limited to this period, where the mercenary companies were just beginning to develop, shows how they were involved in a series of corrupt, grubby and brutal operations for both foreign dictators and as an ‘arms-length’ instrument of the British state.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-team-mercenary.pdf

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