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Tim Spicer's World | The Nation

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Tim Spicer's World

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"We would like to know whether the government considered human rights abuses--or an individual who vigorously defends them--as part of this record," the letter from the senators says.

About the Author

Andrew Ackerman
Andrew Ackerman, a fall 2004 Nation intern in the Washington bureau, is a writer based in DC. He graduated from Emory...

In response, Sieber, the Army official, admitted that the military was "not aware of the allegations...at the time of contract award," but a limited review found that the Spicer's advocacy on behalf of his former soldiers had no bearing on his "record of integrity and business ethics."

Perhaps not. But Spicer's overall record of integrity and business ethics was sufficiently questionable that he was used in 2001 as a case study in a conflict resolution seminar at the University of Birmingham in England. Students learned that Spicer's involvement in Sierra Leone was an example of what not to do in armed conflicts, in which mercenaries only increase violence by spreading small arms, said Jennifer Libster, a graduate student at Birmingham in 2001 who attended the seminar. "The opinion of my professor and consequently mine was that he was incredibly bright and corrupt," Libster said. "These people are basically murderers for hire."

Peter Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a critic of private mercenaries, said the Army had reason for pause before giving Spicer nearly $300 million. In a June op-ed published in the New York Times, Singer explained that the stakes are higher than simply granting a contract to a conflict-prone ex-soldier. These types of contracts, he wrote, allow the military to skirt accountability by outsourcing security tasks. And in this case, he noted, a company with little relevant experience was given an important job.

One of Spicer's most vocal critics is the Rev. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus, a Washington-based lobbying group. His group has a special section on its website devoted to the contract and Spicer's misdeeds, at www.irishnationalcaucus.org. "Mark my words, this contract is going to come back and bite them," McManus said. "He's a dangerous fellow. And as his record in Ireland shows.... I mean, these guys don't change their spots."

It was not likely that the Army would reconsider the contract. There is no precedent for the Army to overturn a contract based on a Congressional complaint alone. But that doesn't change the fact that Spicer and Aegis shouldn't have been considered in the first place.

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