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Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Despite Antiwar Rhetoric, Clinton-Obama Plans Would Keep US Mercenaries, Troops in Iraq for Years to Come

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Jeremy Scahill reports Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will not “rule out” using private military companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. Obama also has no plans to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009. Despite their antiwar rhetoric, both Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton have adopted the congressional Democratic position that would leave open the option of keeping tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for many years.

Soldier honours his fathers memory

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2008 at 9:07 pm
Friday, February 29, 2008

A Fijian man who has been awarded the Military Cross during a tour of duty with the British Army in Iraq has dedicated his award to his late dad and namesake.

Private Jokini Sivoinauca, 26, of Wailevu in Kadavu is based in Edinburgh. He is one of the few Fijian soldiers to have received the medal.

Private Sivoinauca received the Military Cross from Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on December 14 last year.

Speaking from his home in Nadera yesterday, the Kadavu man had no difficulties relating the experience that almost cost him his life but earned him a medal for bravery.

“I’m glad to be alive and I thank God for his loving hands. I dedicate this award to my late dad and I know he would be proud of me if he was still alive,” said Private Sivoinauca.

According to a report in a Scottish newspaper last year, Private Sivoinauca and three others were trying to occupy an isolated check-point at a police station in Basra, Iraq, when he spotted insurgents with rocket propelled grenades.

As they fired at him he held them back to enable the rest of his battalion to reach safety.

“I wouldn’t say it’s because of me, it’s because of everyone,” he said.

“Everyone did their part in the job, that’s why we suffered less casualties than the insurgents and I think it’s very important to all the operations in Iraq.

“I’m a British soldier so we expect nothing less than perfect.”

He told the newspaper that the whole village was out there that day and they were heavily outnumbered.

Private Sivoinauca said he did not consider his own safety during the attack because there lives were in danger. He was shot in the chest but was saved by his belt.

His father died in 1999 but Private Sivoinauca was glad his mother, Unaisi Tuvou from Talaulia in Nabukelevu, Kadavu was at Buckingham Palace to see him receive his the medal from the Queen.

“Seeing my mum there to witness the occasion was a real great joy for me.”

Private Sivonauca was educated at Delainamasi Government School in Nasinu and later, at Queen Victoria School from 1993 to1998.

He represented the Fiji Under-19 rugby league team which played in the Cook Islands.

Private Sivoinauca joined the British Army in 2000 and has served on overseas missions in Cyprus, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, the Falklands, Northern Ireland and twice in Iraq.

The only other known recipients of the medal were six senior Fijian officers including the late Lieutenant Livai Nasilivata for various acts of bravery during the Malayan campaign from 1952 to 1956.

The Military Cross is the third highest medal of gallantry in the British Army awarded to servicemen in the line of duty.

The highest is the Victoria Cross which is usually awarded to people who have been killed (posthumously) but had shown bravery in the line of duty. Fiji’s only recipient was the late Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu.

Private Sivoinauca returns to his Scotland Base next Monday.

Making a living with a gun

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

THE mercenary harvest starts with a bang and a splash of 500 soldiers quick-stepping through puddles of monsoon mud.

Atop the Republic of Fiji parade grandstand in the capital Suva, hired-gun brokers deploy umbrellas to combat the torrential rain and clouds of sulfur that spew from artillery to salute the country’s Independence Day.

As the marching band plays on, buyers and sellers in the annual $100billion global trade for mercenaries appraise the bargain-basement merchandise on display at the October 6 celebration.

Since the 1970s, this impoverished and remote remnant of the British empire has positioned itself as a discount-soldier surplus store. Its best customer has been the UN peacekeeping operations.

Today, on the post-September 11 battlefield, Fiji is marketing for hire its 3500 active soldiers, 15,000 reservists and more than 20,000 unemployed former troops.

“Private armies became a viable commercial enterprise the moment America invaded Iraq,” says Sakiusa Raivoce, a retired Fijian colonel and director of Security Support Limited, the biggest of the country’s six mercenary employment agencies.

“The time is right and our price is right.” Raivoce’s cash-and-carry slogan is no corruption of paradise. Fiji is a martial culture with no problem in fashioning a gross domestic product that includes mangoes and mercenaries.

The country’s most ancient national symbol, for instance, is a 4-foot war club in the shape of a Y. As thick as a half-dozen baseball bats strapped together, the splay is thrust into an enemy’s neck and the head is snapped off in one jerk.

Dogs of war

Fiji’s rulers pedigreed and unleashed their dogs of war shortly after independence in 1970 to reduce unemployment.

The then-civilian government of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara increased the military from 200 to more than 2000 to protect a tourist destination the size of New Jersey with a population of 918,000 and no enemy other than sunburn.

Fiji, which has undergone four coups in the past 19 years, has the biggest military force among Pacific island nations and sends officers to study in war colleges abroad, including China, Malaysia and South Korea.

“We made a conscious decision to create a bigger army than we need to generate foreign currency,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, 46, senior officer and private-army sales liaison in the junta led by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, a former UN peacekeeper.

Good business

“Our economy has no choice but to build armies and it’s a good business.

“There are few other foreign investments. If we didn’t do it, our people would be in the street creating havoc.”

Fiji’s unemployment rate is about 8 per cent. Its GDP is $6billion. Sugar is an important part of the economy, accounting for 20 per cent of its exports, constituting 5 per cent to 6 per cent of GDP and employing 12 per cent of the workforce. A 2007 report by a UN working group on the use of mercenaries recognised “the important contribution of remittances from Fijian migrant workers in the field of security to the economy of the country”.

The wages from returning soldiers, money from the UN for leasing peacekeepers an estimated $300million over almost 30 years and fees from private security firms that hire active soldiers have helped the anaemic economy, according to junta leaders.

25,000 troops

Pulling a pen from the pocket of a lime-green shirt embroidered with banyan leaves, Col. Tikoitoga makes some quick calculations.

Since 1978, Fiji has outsourced more than 25,000 troops to the UN, British Army and mercenary contractors.

In 2003, the mercenaries brought home some $9million in wages.

Col. Tikoitoga says he strives to bring to Fiji security firms like those whose agents joined UN, US and British officials in the parade-viewing stands.

“We specifically train our forces for them,” he says.

Doug Brooks, president of the Washington-based International Peace Operations Association, a lobbying group for security companies that employ mercenaries, says “Fiji is a vital part of the industry” which he prefers to brand as “the peace and stability operations industry”.

Col. Tikoitoga says more than 1000 Fijians are stationed throughout the Middle East for private armies under the corporate command of Global Strategies Group, Triple Canopy Inc, ArmorGroup International Plc, DynCorp International Inc, Control Solutions and Sandline International.

More than 3000 Fijians serve in the British Army.

Cut-price salaries

Some of those mercenaries were active members of the Fiji army. The government allows soldiers, particularly officers, to end their military service to join private security firms, which in turn pay it a fee.

Raivoce, a 58-year-old decorated veteran of UN peacekeeping campaigns, is no snake-oil hustler.

He can ship a special forces-trained Fijian soldier to a private army such as Blackwater USA in Moyock, North Carolina, or the London-based Global Strategies Group for a salary of about $1700 a month. That’s 97 per cent less than the $50,000 a month those same firms will pay for a retired and similarly seasoned US or British combat trooper.

As US lawmakers continue to investigate the September 16 shooting in Iraq involving State Department security contractor Blackwater that left 17 people dead, Raivoce says he does not turn out “cowboys”.

When to shoot

“My boys know when to shoot and who to shoot,” he says of the men available to security consulting firms such as Killology Research Group in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Instinctive Shooting International in Israel.

“The United States deeply values and appreciates the support Fiji and so many of its citizens are providing to international efforts to bring peace, freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq,” is America’s official stance on the junta’s export venture, according to a 2005 statement from the US Embassy in Suva.

Eight Fijians have so far been killed in Iraq.

The UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the multinational force with an annual budget of $5.5billion and some 100,000 personnel serving in 18 security actions globally, has 243 Fijian troops deployed in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. It sees Fijian soldiers as a cut-rate blessing.

“Peacekeepers cost $1030 each per month,” says UN spokesman Nick Birnback.

“It’s cheaper than fielding a NATO soldier.”

UN payments

An additional 10,000 active Fijian soldiers are available exclusively for hire by the UN and if it were to empower all of them, Fiji’s cash-strapped dictatorship would get more than $140million a year, almost four times the country’s military budget.

Although the global body has no definitive figure on how much it has paid Fiji since its first peacekeeping mission in 1978, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters suggests it is about $300million and growing. Peters is a harsh critic of the UN employing the junta’s soldiers as peacekeepers.

He also speaks out against the Bainimarama regime and its mercenary-money-making strategy. “The UN has compromised people of Fiji,” says Peters. “Macho economics is not what you base long-term growth on.”

Sitiveni Ratuva, a sociologist at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, is waiting for Fiji’s lock-and-load economy to backfire. “It’s unsustainable,” Ratuva says.

“Their training is geared for engagement on the battlefield. Normal economies don’t facilitate jobs that require mercenaries, otherwise you’d have to manufacture war after war to keep the economy alive.”

No recruit shortage

At least 46 Fijian soldiers have been killed during UN operations over the past 29 years.

“That’s a lot for a small country,” Tikoitoga says, yet the recruits keep coming. Alefoso Yalayalatabua, a member of the Flying Fijians national rugby side and a former armoured car gunner with UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, says he’s eager to recycle his talent in Iraq.

“There are tens of thousands of men who want that,” Yalayalatabua says. Raivoce nods approvingly. “We enjoy the work.”

– Bloomberg

Nuclear veterans in health study

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2008 at 4:16 am

From correspondents in London

February 10, 2008 10:41pm

VETERANS of Britain’s nuclear tests carried out off Australia’s coast in the Pacific Ocean have won their bid for an independent study into the toll on their health.

Many of the 22,000 former soldiers who witnessed the secret tests in the 1950s and 1960s suffered a range of illnesses after being exposed to radiation.

Some developed cancer while others reported that their children had been born with deformities.

Only about 3000 are still alive.

Britain’s Under Secretary of Defence Derek Twigg said the government had agreed in principle to fund a £412,000 ($A897,000) independent study into the health effects suffered by the veterans, the Sunday Mirror reported.

However, the new study will only go ahead if two other previous studies, including one carried out in New Zealand, are confirmed to be credible.

News of the study comes after the government agreed earlier this month to payouts of about £8000 ($A17,400) to 360 veterans who took part in chemical weapons tests.

The newspaper said many soldiers had been forced to swim, fish and play football on Trimouille Island, which became radioactive just hours after Britain’s first nuclear bomb was detonated.

Tony Daber said his father, Sergeant Norman Daber, managed to live until he was 70 but died from cancer.

“My dad told me they built a small town to see what the effects would be,” he told the newspaper.

“On the day of the blast they were told to turn away while the bomb was exploded. A day later they were back. Everything had been obliterated but they were encouraged to swim in the sea and catch the fish and eat them.”…

Britain’s nuclear test veterans win major victory in battle for justice

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2008 at 4:15 am

EXCLUSIVE MoD to fund study into horror illnesses passed to veterans’ children SUNDAY Mirror JUSTICE FOR NUKE VETS CAMPAIGN

By Vincent Moss And Susie Boniface10/02/2008

Britain’s nuclear test veterans have won a major victory in the battle for justice more than 50 years after they were exposed to crippling radiation.

Funding for an independent study into their health and that of their children and grandchildren has now been agreed in principle by Defence Minister Derek Twigg.

It is one of the key demands of troops who suffered terrible illnesses after being exposed to radiation during the tests in 50s and 60s in the Pacific – which in many cases led to inherited conditions including cancer and deformities in their children. And it follows a six-year Sunday Mirror campaign on behalf of the vets and a promise from PM Gordon Brown in November to take a fresh look at the issue.

The change of heart follows two studies – one in the UK showing British troops’ offspring suffering inherited illnesses, the other from New Zealand revealing gene damage in that country’s vets.

Mr Twigg has agreed to spend £412,000 on further investigation provided the two studies are confirmed to be credible by scientists scrutinising them. Campaigning MPs Dr Ian Gibson and John Baron hailed the MoD’s statement as a “positive step forward”.

But they still want Defence Secretary Des Browne and the PM to agree an immediate £4,000 “goodwill” payment to the veterans while more substantial compensation packages are considered.

Tory MP Mr Baron said campaigners would continue to push the MoD on a range of issues, including reform of the tribunal process and compensation.

Out of 22,000 troops who took part, only 3,000 remain alive. Their demands were boosted this month when the Government agreed payouts of about £8,000 to 360 vets who took part in chemical weapons tests.…

Call to regulate security companies using Fijians in Iraq

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The British government is being urged to introduce strict regulation for private security companies in Iraq and Kuwait, which employ scores of former Fiji soldiers.
The charity War on Want says it will seek a judicial review of the situation, unless the British government updates and enforces its law on mercenaries.

An influential group of MPs says private security companies should be licensed, subject to controls on the use of firearms, and banned from combat operations.

Fiji four mercenaries return home

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Friday, February 15, 2008

Four Fijian mercenaries accused of training a private army for money scam operator Noah Musingku in Bougainville return home today onboard an Air Niugini flight.

Aliki Moroca, Jolame Gukirewa, Kalivati Muriataba and Manasa Dumuloto will be reunited with their families after 28 months.

Bougainville Police Minister Ezekiel Masat told Radio Australia the court has set a precedent and that the remaining Fiji soldier in Tonu, Maloni Namoli will not be charged.

“Now that we see the departure of the four Fijian nationals, it makes it easier for the lone Fijian who remains in Tonu to come out.

“I believe the national court judgment is very clear; it has set a precedent for this sort of judges.

“It’s possible for my ministry to prefer the same sort of judges in light of the current decision or the precedent that has been set,” he said.

The four are expected to touch down at the Nadi International Airport at 5pm today.

Radio Australia