Australians Brendan Hurst and Justin Saint were recently killed in a roadside attack near Baghdad. They had been working for the Queensland-registered security firm BLP International as contractors training Iraqi police.
Former BLP International managing director Brad Parfitt said the attack was the seventh on BLP vehicles in Iraq. "We have lost two Australian patriots who were willing to put their lives on the line to protect Iraqis and help in the transition to a democracy."
According to the July 18 Christian Science Monitor, "Estimates of the number of private security personnel and other civilian contractors in Iraq today range from 126,000 to 180,000 — nearly as many, if not more, than the number of Americans in uniform there."
The CSM reported: "Most are not Americans. They come from Fiji, Brazil, Scotland, Croatia, Hungary, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and other countries. In World War II and the Korean War, private contractors amounted to 3-5% of the total force deployed. Through the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War it grew to roughly 10%, but currently in Iraq the number of private security contractors equals or exceeds official military personnel."
BLP International operates under a $US78 million US Defence Department contract to train 18,000 Iraqi special operations police officers. There is mounting evidence linking the rise in death squad activity with the deployment of police special operations units in Iraq. Their role in the counterinsurgency war has been described as the "Salvador option", a reference to the US-trained death squads that operated in El Salvador against the Farabundo National Liberation Front in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, Australian police arrested Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 33, and Sivarajah Yathavan, 36, in May because they had raising money for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in northern Sri Lanka.
Police alleged that the money went to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group that has been fighting for Tamil independence and controls and governs much of the north of the country. Another Tamil Australian, Arumugam Rajeevan, 41, was arrested in Sydney earlier this month.
All three were charged with being members of the LTTE, described in the charges as a "terrorist organisation" and a "proscribed entity" — even though the Australian government has yet to officially list the LTTE as a terrorist organisation under new "anti-terror" laws. These men face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. They were recently granted bail, but the Australian government is appealing this decision.
In the first four months of this year alone, there were 270 disappearances and political murders in Sri Lanka. Last year, there were just under 1000, according to Colombo-based human rights activists. Even the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, was recently forced to concede that the Sri Lankan government was acting with growing "impunity surrounding human rights violations" in its decades-long war against the Tamil independence struggle.
So this is where we have come to in Australia: it is "patriotic" to be a mercenary in an imperial occupation force but it is a "crime" to allegedly support a national liberation struggle.
Green Left Weekly refuses to be intimidated out of supporting liberation struggles and wars of resistance against the rich and powerful. We refuse to be intimidated into silence and acquiescence in the face of growing attacks on civil liberties. That's why our supporters were out in the streets last week opposing the outrageous treatment of Dr Mohamed Haneef (see articles on pages 3 and 4).
In the face of the growing attacks on the right to show such elementary solidarity, we need your support.
Make a donation to the GLW Fighting Fund at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007, phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia), or donate online at http://www.greenleft.org.au/donate.php.
Last week was a relatively poor week for the GLWFighting Fund. Just $1244 came in, bringing the total raised this year to $116,966 — 47% of our $250,000 target for 2007. Please check the calendar on page 23 for GLW fund-raising events in your city that need your support.