Mindless Thug

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Map of Sunni Triangle (paperback)          v

1. A Misunderstanding                                    1
2. The Roof                                                     8
3. Baghdad                                                      9
4. Taza, Kirkuk                                               35
5. Ashura                                                        62
6. Standardised Arabic                                   71
7. Iraqi Army and Police                                 96
8. The Carjacker                                           102
9. Sheikh the Stick                                        104
10. The Council                                             106
11. The Guard Commander                          112
12. Ahmed’s Letter                                        122
13. Profile of Kirkuk                                       124
14. Recruiting                                                129
15. Transparency                                          131
16. Isolating Our Allies                                  135
17. Tribal Structure                                        140
18. The Baghdad Bugle                                 157
19. Back to Baghdad                                     170
20. Oil and Gas                                              172
21. Borrowed Time                                         175
22. Nokan                                                       178
23. The Forever Hook                                    180
24. The Convoys                                            183
25. Haiti                                                          193
26. Soft Power                                                199
27. Cite Soleil                                                  217
28. Libya                                                          226
29. Back in Oz                                                 263
30. I.S.                                                             266
31. The Long Game                                         273
32. The UN & the AWB                                    279
The End                                                           285

 

Chapter 1

A Misunderstanding

With our personnel numbers, hardware, technology, and
above all, financial resources pre-GFC, we could take out
any Middle Eastern nation of our choosing. And we did. A
number of times. Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. Libya
was supported at arm’s length but dealt with nonetheless.
Syria is ongoing but the clock is ticking. We no longer
required super human feats of physical strength. That
same strength, daring and initiative by infantry forces such
as those perfected by Rommel in 1917 and later applied
against the allies in Libya from 1941 to 1943 with combined
armour and infantry.
We can ‘break in’. We can force the breach, enlarge it,
penetrate the enemy’s ‘lines’, cause chaos and the collapse
of their forces. Or, we can just drop an almost 10,000
kilogram Massive Ordinance Air Blast. Essentially a big
bomb, physically destroy everything within a five kilometre
radius and suck all the oxygen out of the air just in case
anybody or anything miraculously survived the initial
blast. Holding the ground however, once we have taken it
is an entirely different matter. This is where we got it so
wrong in Iraq. If, by extension, the same argument could
be applied to Afghanistan it is for others to beat that drum.

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That said, some accounts from Afghanistan could also be
applied word for word to Iraq. It is as if only the name of
the country has been changed in some reports.
These dyslexic scribblings are not intended to be an
academic, perfectly concise analysis of where and how our
money and people disappeared in Iraq, how well-meaning
donations have been siphoned off in Haiti or a road map to
the future in Libya, and by consequence the wider Middle
East. There are two main reasons for the diatribe that is
about to follow. First and foremost has been the genuine
curiosity of genuine people. Upon returning home to
Australia and visiting France and the UK in the 2003 to
2008 period, most people’s comments and questions were
along a very similar line. Essentially,
“What is going on over there (in Iraq)?”
Which was usually followed by,
“We have no idea. We don’t learn anything from the
media because they just keep repeating the same thing
every night.”
That was certainly true, particularly of the BBC who
basically used a twenty word vocabulary to cover the entire
period of the Iraq conflict from 2003 to 2008. Every night
it was exactly the same, kill, bomb, IED, explosion, dead,
wounded, Shia, Sunni, terrorist. Then they would restart
the loop and just rearrange the same words every now and
again.
This pure laziness is why I have come to the same
conclusion as others who have been to similar theatres and
now despise journalists as a group. They had access to the

2

best hotels, restaurants and vehicles in the Baghdad Green
Zone. At the same time they were telling everybody that
they were hunkered down reporting from the ‘front line’
as they actively encouraged some of the worst terrorist
atrocities in the world, most of them ultimately directed
against the Iraqi civilian population.
While these individuals would completely ignore the
efforts of Coalition military and civilian personnel involved
in the reconstruction effort, they would salivate over the
rising death toll of Coalition soldiers, most of whom were
trying to protect the rebuilding of completely dilapidated,
not war destroyed, infrastructure. The entire news cycle
would stop for days on end in the rare event of a journalist
being wounded or killed. International organisations such
as the BBC and others would spend the next week paying
homage to the life of this individual while soldier deaths
were a mere numbers game to be spun to their next meal
ticket and expense account. Before any journo reading this
starts spluttering in his latte, most journalists killed, or
gang raped then killed by your terrorist buddies, were local
Iraqi reporters being sent to operate outside the luxury of
the Green Zone by their Western journalist bosses.
Western journalists had corporate expense accounts
whereas Iraqi reporters had families that needed supporting
so they were the ones that died. A more recent example of
this behaviour, in March 2012, has just been seen in France.
For three weeks nobody had any idea of what was going
on in Syria because a female journalist became trapped in
the city of Homs during the fighting between the rebels

3

and government forces. The entire news cycle came to an
abrupt halt. The next image to flick on the television was
the President, Nicolas Sarkozy. He only had one subject to
talk about, the journalist. The narcissism of these people
knows no bounds.

An appendix has been added at the end about the
fundamentals of French, as French and French Creole are
the two semi-official languages of that basket case island,
Haiti, a stone’s throw South of Miami. In the Iraq chapters
there is a brief explanation of the basics of spoken Arabic.
The approach to explaining how these two languages work
is dismissive of the academic approach to that pretends it
is an intellectual exercise. It isn’t. Blokes as thick as three
short planks learn French in a matter of months. We were
proof of that. Once the fundamentals have been properly
explained, the rest just falls in to place. Oh, but you know
it gets really hard as you get older. The average game of
scrabble is far more complicated than learning the basics of
French and to a certain extent, the same could be said about
the initial steps of learning Arabic. It is just easier to tackle
Arabic once the basics of French have been explained. In
any case, low profile security work required an extra bow
in the quiver to prevent our heads being separated from
our shoulders in front of a video camera. Hence, the focus.
Second to languages is the importance of some
basic but genuine medical skills. This often falls into two
categories. There are extremely dodgy, dumbed down
Advanced First Aid Courses that some people are cheeky

4

enough to bid on USAID (United States Agency for
International Development) and other contracts with as
having met the requirements for an on-site medic. At the
other end of the spectrum are the paramedic freaks who
can sow a head back on to a dead body and make the dead
body come alive again, or almost. There is usually very
little in between. One fact was obvious, the Brits were far
better trained at emergency medical aid to their bleeding
comrades than we ever were.
Most soldiers having gone through the French
military don’t even know what a drip or an intravenous line
looks like. Private security in the medic area usually entails
about ninety percent primary care in most cases as part
of a community relations effort with the local population.
The remaining ten percent is emergency care depending
on the theatre being operated in. When that emergency
care is required it’s not a case of a squashed thumb or a
dementia related fall. It invariably involves sudden, major
blood loss, possibly brain injury, major organ damage, and
immediately-life-threatening hypovolaemic shock. Just
to add to the excitement these injuries will normally be
combined with severe crush and/or burns injuries when
armoured SUVs are involved.
In terms of medical personnel, Americans are past
masters at dealing with high and low velocity penetrating
wounds as a result of their insane gun laws. They didn’t
need another war after Vietnam or Kuwait to train up a
whole army of Emergency Department gunshot wound
specialists. The right to bear arms in the USA, a muzzle

5

loading, single shot musket at the time the amendment
was written, seems to extend to every Maccas-munching,
lardarse citizen who demands the right to own a high
powered automatic assault weapon with no training
whatsoever. Just the sort of society you want your kids
growing up in.
The UK has less but no doubt steadily growing
experience in penetrating wounds, particularly knife
wounds. According to Australia’s Severe Trauma physician
instructors, Australia’s ED staff are more experienced
with blunt force trauma and less so with high velocity
penetrating wounds. Dealing with blunt force is actually
a useful skill and experience to have in these theatres.
This type of trauma as a result of a vehicle accident is the
number one threat to civilian and military personnel in
Iraq, Haiti and Libya, not terrorism. In a similar manner,
internal corruption, not terrorism, is the reason we have
made such little headway in these theatres and ultimately
the reason for the public’s impatience with our presence in
these countries.

Iraq was classified as a ‘permissive environment’. The war
had been won, resoundingly. Or rather, the conflict had
been won resoundingly. There were periods of extreme
violence in different areas of the country but there never
was a war in the sense that it is generally understood. The
events that followed for the next five years in Iraq was what
one ex-secret service agent turned private security director
referred to as ‘a misunderstanding’.

6

     In mid 2003 it was, as Bush put it from the deck of
the aircraft carrier, ‘Mission Accomplished’. Rumsfeld had
been vindicated. Coalition forces, principally the USA,
had gone in and crushed Iraqi opposition within two
months with only 140,000 ground troops as opposed to the
250,000 requested by Pentagon generals. Now it was time
for Phase II, importing waves of construction and civil
engineers to supervise and guide the grateful workers who
would happily pump the oil to pay for the war to remove
the dictator. Along the way dilapidated infrastructure,
schools, hospitals and social institutions would also be re/
built. White picket fences, straight roads, clean water and
Maccas were on the way. What could possibly go wrong?

7

Chapter 2

The Roof

Mid September 2003

“What are you doing?”
It was Reeves. Hadn’t heard from him for at least three
months. I explained to him on the phone what I was doing
as I walked around an old French farmhouse looking at the
collapsed roof. There was a minor problem in 2003 of a $50,000
equivalent tax bill owing to the UK government. There was no
money to pay it because I’d bought the farmhouse with the last
of the company cash intending to cross the tax bill bridge when
I got to it. Both company contracts, interpreting in the UK and
the labour gang in France had ground to a halt at the same time.
“I’m looking at a roof that I can’t afford to fix.”
“Our company is looking for guys for Iraq.”
I was still staring at the roof.
“Yeah … I’ll do that.”
Ten days later there was a bunch of us in Kuwait ready
to be flown to Baghdad and Basra. Most of us ended up in
Baghdad. Both rounds of interviews, background checks
and medicals had been completed. Things moved quickly
back then and the Iraq misunderstanding came through
just in time. A lot of us had done our time in one military
or another and our private ventures since had led to mixed
results to say the least.

8

Chapter 3

Baghdad

Late September ’03

The four man close protection teams were the Brit army
version of a brick. Four men, two in each car, with one,
possibly two American construction or civil engineers,
to be ferried around Baghdad and beyond to activate and
supervise the multibillion dollar reconstruction effort of
Iraq. This side of the Iraq ‘war’ was completely ignored.
Negativity was the theme from the outset. The non-paying,
university educated, lunatic left wing fringe of the 60s
generation now had suits, ties and control of the major
news outlets. Devoid of knowledge, genuine real world
experience or any reporting ability whatsoever, they fed the
fake intellectuals and credulous portion of the population
back home exactly what they wanted to hear.
In the beginning we were on nine-week-in, threeweek-
out rotations including the travel time. The odd trip
back to Oz during that time was a respite from the white
noise produced by the talking heads on the news services
who knew absolutely nothing about Iraq, let alone the
wider Middle East. The less they knew the more outraged
they were about the whole thing. At least you could have
a sensible conversation with people once you were away

9

from the urban areas. There was curiosity – yes, suspicion –
plenty, but not one sunlight-between-the-ears know-it-all
in terms of what was happening in that part of the world.
We were based out of the Green Zone right beside
the Presidential palace and contracted to the largest,
privately owned construction firm in the world. They
were responsible for the lion’s share of reconstruction in
Iraq after the Second Gulf War in mid 2003. Halliburton,
a completely separate company, formerly under ex-Vice
President Dick Cheney, had the contracts for supporting
the Coalition in terms of logistics, food, transport and
oil industry rehabilitation. Initially, all of Halliburton’s
activities came under two main contracts, the first was
LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) which
was essentially logistical support to the military in Iraq.
By default this contract ending up supplying many of the
private contractors with DoD (Department of Defense)
approved contracts. This was an open slather arrangement
for years. Those of us with DoD cards were able to enter
American bases, eat at their canteens, use their medical
facilities to a certain extent and camp overnight if we could
find a spot. It was a very wide remit that Halliburton had
and not all of it was necessarily tainted by corruption. In
terms of practicality some of it was absolutely necessary.
Private security contractors were not only ferrying around
private civilian construction contractors but were also
filling gaps in military capacity for the transport and
protection of military assets around Iraq at the time. In
terms of the day to day needs of simply getting taskings

10

completed, both the military and the private contractors
required logistical support in these bases.
Halliburton’s name however has been blighted
by the Iraq adventure. KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root),
Halliburton’s subsidiary during this time, have since
separated themselves completely from Halliburton in the
corporate world as their name had also been blighted. Each
would no doubt blame the other for the guilt by association
but in the public’s mind KBR does not seem to figure as
prominently in the stories of the ‘missing billions’ in Iraq.
The official reason given for the split was that it was not
possible to see the true market value of KBR within the
Halliburton structure. Just to hazard a guess at the real
reason, the people at the top of KBR were probably fed
up with the yoke around their necks from this period and
decided to jettison the ballast.
While on the subject of guilt by association,
Halliburton, while not strictly a private security contractor,
almost singlehandedly managed to form most people’s
opinions about the nature of private contracting in war
zones. This impression was of course confirmed by one
particular crowd of private security contractors that did in
fact manage to attract a large number of bottom feeders in
the business.
Many people to this day, both military and civilian,
are vehemently opposed to the role of private security
contractors in military tasks, and above all, the blurring of
lines between what should be classified as a strictly military
tasking and the use of private contractors. Allegations of

11

blatant fraud, ultimately targeting the American taxpayer,
became more frequent as time went on. One scam
recounted while we were over there was the way the food
was served in the canteens.
As the story went, either Halliburton or its subsidiary
was paid per plate for the food served to the military and
the contractors in the bases. Apparently, some bright spark
in management came up with the idea of telling the canteen
staff to put a second paper plate over the top of the plate
of food being served ‘to keep it hot for the customers’, no
doubt for our brave boys and girls who deserved the very
best. Result; the contractor was charging for two ‘plates’
instead of one for every soldier and contractor that passed
through the canteens. Whatever the veracity of that story,
KBR did sack one of its top executives because he refused
to approve of the way the US government was being billed
for food in the camps. His replacement obviously knew
which side his bread was buttered on and approved all the
invoices immediately. The lawsuits for these ‘trivial’, and
far more serious offences, are ongoing to this day.
One documentary aired in 2010 about the missing
treasure in Iraq, estimated at around $18 Billion of
American taxpayers money, made a similar allegation
about the cost-plus nature of some of the logistics supply
convoys that were being conducted. The contractor was
paid per convoy, not per item(s) transported. Empty trucks
were being sent all around Iraq with the US Government
being billed accordingly. Years later, things did tighten
up to a certain degree, no doubt due to the heat being

12

generated by auditors and other financial investigators. By
about 2006 we couldn’t just wander into the canteens and
our DoD cards were carrying less weight than the carte
blanche that we were originally allowed.
The other main Halliburton contract was the
RIO (Restore Iraqi Oil) contract that was intended to
rehabilitate the Iraqi oil industry, i.e. Iraqi oil revenue. The
RIO was no doubt intended to ultimately contribute toward
recovering the cost of sending in the boys and girls with
their noisy toys in the first place. It sounds like the makings
of everybody’s favourite conspiracy. Bush and his cronies
only invaded Iraq to get their hands on all that subsurface,
cheaply extractable oil. Maybe they did. And to settle a few
scores along the way; 9/11, the attempt on George Bush
senior, Saddam Hussein not playing ball after we put him
in power. If these were the intentions, events in the coming
years proved just how sad and deluded the conspirators
were. Important to note here is that the methods of billing
the US Government and taxpayers had nothing to do with
the Iraqis. That particular area of expertise in siphoning
public cash was entirely an American specialty.
Halliburton’s adventure in Iraq was very different to
that of our client. Our client, like Halliburton, dealt and
still deals in billions, not millions, and that is where the
similarity ends. While our client did get some negative
press which was unavoidable due to the sheer size of their
operation, at the end of the day it kept a much tighter rein
on what was going on and ultimately took a lot less heat
because of it. While some of the Halliburton numbers were

13

‘impressive’ in terms of US taxpayer dollars that disappeared
into the ether, this was internal to that company and the
American government. Our client on the other hand,
never let the tail wag the dog, either internally with its own
people or when dealing with the Iraqi contractors. We were
all called into the camp common room in late 2003 and
put on notice from the outset. It was a cultural awareness
briefing minus the drivel. Everything was spelt out very
clearly in black and white regarding the temptations and
ample opportunity for corruption. The consequences for
succumbing to these temptations were also spelt out in no
uncertain terms.
“If we think the law is slow to act or lacks the resources
to bring about a conviction, the company will spend its
own money to supply the resources to have you prosecuted
if you do anything that compromises our reputation.”
This was not the first time they had dealt with a
country being strangled by corruption. Some of the
client’s contractors took these sorts of ultimatums as
a potential threat, thinking only of the consequences if
they were to be wrongly accused of something they did
not actually do. A fair concern but there is also a bright
side with a number of advantages. At the top of the list
was the fact that they were not working for a bunch of
amateurs who consider themselves inherently superior
and ‘naturally’ able to deal with any situation that may
arise with the natives. As became apparent in the years
to come, there was never any shortage of Westerners who
were quick to jump feet first into corruption out of greed,

14

cowardice and a seriously misguided belief in their own
abilities to control a situation.
Before any involvement however in the commercial
side of life in Iraq we all did our time on the four man
CP (Close Protection) teams as CPOs (Close Protection
Officers). The line-up of men and machinery every morning
in the Baghdad compound was impressive and we were only
running around in thin skin SUVs back then. The fact that
the vehicles had no armour at that stage was not the only
downside however in terms of how we were going about
escorting the clients at that time. The biggest problem was
the fact that it was so high profile. We were so obvious that
we drew attention to the very clients that we were supposed
to protect, both on the roads and on the worksites.
There was nothing particularly subtle about two big
white SUVs per team. At one point we had over thirty teams
in Baghdad alone just from our company, running around
the city and beyond with four armed Westerners, mostly
Brits, and an American client. At first, we had the run of
the place. With the right combination of aggression and
politesse, we could get anywhere and very quickly. The term
rust bucket only begins to describe the few, miniscule Iraqi
cars on the road at the time. If we recognised the civilian
drivers at a crossroads or intersection with a simple wave
of acknowledgement of their presence i.e. basic respect,
they were more than happy to let us through. We were able
to keep moving. Mobility was the only thing we had and it
worked when we first started operating in around Baghdad
from late 2003 and into early 2004.

15

The average ballpark figure back then for private security
as a portion of the cost of most reconstruction jobs was
around twenty percent. This obviously fluctuated between
different contracts and did not account for the US military
presence that underpinned security at a national level,
except Kurdistan, to the reconstruction effort. It was a
lesson for many of us, the resources that the US was capable
of throwing at a situation. None of us had ever seen the
quantity of privately owned armour, vehicles, personnel,
concrete, transportable buildings and weaponry integrated
with the military’s assets in support of such an operation.
Everything had to be rebuilt from scratch. The whole
country was about to fall over. Saddam Hussein used to
threaten electrical engineers and power station managers
with death if they did not keep the power stations
operational. The death threats however never stopped the
plants literally rusting away from underneath the engineers’
feet. As the pre-war situation continued to deteriorate,
ever increasing amounts of power were diverted from the
regional areas to Baghdad. The country was already in
its death throes on multiple fronts before the inevitable
invasion. Forget WMD, if it hadn’t been 2003, the invasion
would have been within the following three, maximum
five, years anyway. The powers that were; Bush, Cheney,
Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the gang
probably had two factors at the top of their minds when
pushing for the 2003 time frame for the invasion.
Firstly, if they had waited any longer and Iraq began to
implode, partly due to the years of international sanctions,

16

they would have had to deal with Iran as well. Shia Iran
encompassed the core of the ancient and enduring Persian
Empire. It would have pounced on a failing Iraqi state with
its artificial borders, a large, persecuted Shia population in
the South surrounding the massive oilfields of Basra and
the restive Kurdish population in the North. Secondly,
Saddam’s age. This was potentially a major factor in the
timing of preparations for Gulf War II. The Americans
knew if they went in, they would have to put Saddam
Hussein through the Iraqi courts to be able to string him
up with some semblance of legitimacy. The Kurds, Shia
Arabs and some sections of the Sunni Arab community
would have been more than happy to go along with this.
It would be drawn out, complicated and messy but worth
it in the end.
Iraqi law forbids hanging citizens over the age of
seventy. In 2002, over a year before the invasion, Saddam
Hussein was already sixty-five. The machine needed to be
put into motion. After the invasion, his capture and the
drawn-out trial he was finally hung at the age of sixty-nine,
just in time. Iraq had been subjugated to a presidency
under the McCoys and the US had entrusted its presidency
to the Hatfields. Saddam Hussein had played Hitler’s
game in an attempt to keep Iran off-balance through the
perceived threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction. His
boasts and the deliberate use of chemical weapons on the
Kurdish population culminated in the attack on Halabja
and surrounding towns in March 1998. This operation
confirmed not only his possession of chemical weapons but

17

also something far more important in the Machiavellian
world of Middle Eastern politics. He would not hesitate to
pull the trigger, and more importantly, the real clincher,
he was quite prepared to do it against his own population.
Message to Iran: If this is what I am prepared to do to
my own just think what I am prepared to do to you. That
would probably give most negotiators a reason to pause for
thought. A point often made by our Iraqi colleagues was
the fact that Halabja was not an isolated instance.
“You guys all know about Halabja because it made
the news. It was not the only town where civilians were
murdered with gas. There are many towns in the North
that were wiped out the same way even before Halabja
happened.”
The international community ignored all other
instances of such gas attacks on civilians and ...