Free Republic Forum

Posted on 19 March 2002 13:26:28 by Joan ??

In responce to an article that appeared in the Herald Sun on the 3rd June 2002 by Mark Dunn & Charles Miranda, unfortunatley the original article link is not working

David Hicks: Aussie cutthroats for hire

UP TO 1000 Australians have acted as hired guns in civil wars and religious hot spots across the globe.

Military researcher Ian Wing said he knows current and former Australian army personnel who had advised or fought for armed forces in other countries or their paramilitary outfits.

He estimated there were 20 Australians now serving in the French Foreign Legion and several hundred who had been involved with mercenary outfits over the past decade.

Armed mercenary work is prohibited by the United Nations but the UN itself employs contracted military advisers and managers from the US Government-approved Military Professionals Resources Incorporated, a global trouble-shooting firm active in Bosnia, the Middle East and Asia.

"I have a number of friends that have done mercenary work," he said.

"There have been a number of people in the (Australian) armed forces who have served as mercenaries," he said.

Former army major, Care Australia manager in Kosovo and now an ACT MP, Steve Pratt, said it was unknown how many mercenaries enlisted in the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999 but it had become certain that David Hicks was among them.

Mr Pratt was held by the Serbian Government for almost six months on charges of spying and said he had often heard rumours of a small number of caucasian Australians among the KLA.

He said there was clear evidence of a direct link between many Middle Eastern KLA fighters and al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

Hicks joined the KLA to fight the forces of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 1999 as the Balkans war escalated and NATO forces began their bombing campaign in Kosovo in a bid to end Milosevic's ethnic cleansing.

Mr Pratt said most foreign nationals fighting for the KLA were Middle Eastern, many from Yemen, and had trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

"Among the Middle Eastern fighters in the KLA many had been trained in Afghanistan. There were very strong links between the KLA and the Afghan terrorist training camps," he said.

"The KLA essentially did carry out some terrorist activities, they did start as a terrorist organisation . . . and a lot of it was because of the mujahideen influences.

"In late '97 and early '98 the KLA was a small band of bloody murderers and cutthroats."

Mr Pratt said Western sympathies backed the KLA in 1999 in light of Milosevic's acts of genocide but incidents of KLA barbarism continued.

"It's my view . . . that Hicks was no boy scout. I think there is a strong probability that Mr Hicks might have had more sympathy with al-Qaeda than his lawyers are aware of," he said.

"I do get worried there are young Australians who will go looking for adventure, some will have a psychological bent."

Australian mercenaries have been active elsewhere. Former Australian Defence Force personnel are alleged to have received significant sums for their expertise in training soldiers.

The former Soviet republics and central Asian countries were regions that had attracted Australian mercenaries in the past. "And I believe there are jobs in Africa," Mr Wing said.

Rhodesia in the late 1970s was a major theatre for Australian guns for hire. "They went across there for adventure. I know some of them and they were just 18-year-old kids," he said.

Mr Wing said the definition of a mercenary varied widely, from adviser and co-ordinator to private security specialists.

"This is where the line gets blurred between mercenary, crook and body guard," he said. "Maybe hired gun is fair enough."

Apart from the US firm MPRI, employment usually came by word of mouth or, for the less experienced, by of flying to a conflict area and volunteering.

John Farrell, a former military press officer and now editor of Australian NZ Defence magazine, said he knew three Australians who were former members of the Foreign Legion and had spoken to about 30 others.

"There are four types of mercenaries. There's the true blue professional soldier, the Foreign Legionnaire, the soldier of adventure and there is the ethnic sent home to fight," he said.

"I think Hicks is a combat adventurer who at some stage closely identified with the cause he embraced and small steps led him to a cave in Afghanistan."

He said of an estimated 1000 Australians who had served the forces of other countries or military splinter groups during civil wars, only a small percentage were what he called "A grade" soldiers.

There were currently about 25 highly trained and highly sought former Australian Defence personnel who were well paid as mercenaries for their expertise in weapons, data and defence logistics, Mr Farrell claimed.

He claimed more than 200 Australians, most of whom were Vietnam veterans, joined the Smith Regime in their campaign in Rhodesia and more than 100 more joined Burmese insurgency fighters during the 1980s.

Most Australian nationals who took to the Balkans, Middle Eastern and Asian conflicts in the 1990s were of relevant ethnic background: Serbs, Croatians, Eritreans, Kosovars, Tamils and Cambodians.

A former president of the Victorian Serbian National Federation, George Marinkovich, believed hundreds of Australians had returned to their Balkans homeland to fight as the war swept through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and finally Kosovo in the 1990s.

It was almost beyond doubt a number of Australians lost their lives in the war, he said, perhaps buried in mass unmarked graves such as those outside the city of Pristina.

"There would be a few hundred from Australia (that went to fight) and there were definitely a few that died," Mr Marinkovich said.

"You can't send 100 or 200 soldiers and everyone comes back."

Mr Marinkovich claimed community and religious organisations in Melbourne, Sydney and probably Adelaide unofficially helped co-ordinate young men willing to take up arms in the Balkans.

"They did have committees who were running the show here," he said.

"Lots of them went (for reasons) from the bottom of their heart but there is a lot that went as dogs of war."

ADFA associate professor in politics Bill Maley said there would be several Australians like Hicks fighting in conflicts around the world, with Australia in no position to control what its citizens do except under the Foreign Incursions Act.

Professor Maley said most would probably be dual citizens and either forced into military service or felt a kinship to their nation of birth or blood.

But there would be others. "Oddballs mainly," he said. "I suspect a lot of people involved would be oddballs, disturbed people with peculiar types of hang-ups."

On Hicks' legal future he said: "My suspicion is the (Australian) Government would run a mile before bringing Hicks back to Australia.

"For a start, there is no statutory provision for Hicks to be successfully prosecuted and if he were acquitted and released back into the community, you can imagine what the Americans would say."

Australian National University terrorism lecturer Michael McKinley said it was unclear whether Hicks had been heavily influenced by militant views in Australia.

The leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims, Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilaly has been frequently criticised for remarks made in relation to support for suicide bombing as a legitimate tool of Jihad.

A spokesman for Sheik Al Hilaly said in December of suicide operations in Palestine: "They call it martyrdom operations, they don't call it suicide bombers."


To Joan

I am my comments at the originator of the newspaper article on former Australia soldiers acting as mercenaries or terrorists. As a former serving member, I can state that all persons on induction are warned out that if they ever go in for this sort of thing, they are immediately subject to gaol time when they return to this country, should it ever be proved that they were involved.

There was ever only one sort of person who ever spoke of their intention to be involved in this sort of activity - complete wankers who were bloody hopeless soldiers in the first place. Anyone who was at all professional and able to fulfil such a role would not tell anyone that this is what they intended. The concept of security is something instilled in defence force personnel.

Hicks was a bloody awful soldier who served a very short time, with no saleable skills to mention. The only reason that terrorist groups would even consider him would be for propoganda value (a westerner and a US ally at that working for them).

I am sure that he would have been treated as a fool and with derision by any terrorist group and was more a pet than a comrade.

Basically, this guy was and is a joke. Papers should focus on his complete lack of credibility as any sort of miliary opperative and note that the time in Gutanemo Bay that he did spend was the yanks sticking it to him for being such a bloody idiot.Unsigned