AL VENTER: Can it be right to unleash the dogs of war in Libya?

Reports this week that British military commanders have been secretly advocating the use of mercenaries in the battle to remove Colonel Gaddafi from power in Libya came as little surprise to me.

In my mind, there is no question that this will happen. Indeed, as a veteran war correspondent, who has covered many campaigns involving the ‘dogs of war’, defending myself by carrying an AK-47 alongside my notebook and camera, I have heard just such intimations from my many mercenary contacts.

One of these, former South African Air Force Colonel Neall Ellis — who worked as a mercenary in Afghanistan for three years — told me that a number of his pals have been contacted both by the government and by rebel forces in Libya. British, South African, Russian and Zimbabwean nationals have all been approached, and many are eager to take up the offer and make some money.

The unprincipled greed of such men has led them to being vilified. But no one should be surprised that senior British officials might sanction such murky methods of warfare as deploying these guns for hire — they have quite a history of it.

One of the most delightful lunches I ever had was at the Guards Club in London where I was entertained by Colonel James Johnson. A former SAS commander who he led a force of British mercenaries in Yemen in the early 1960s.

This covert attempt to help Yemeni tribesmen defeat Egyptian forces has long been denied by the British government. But as Jim regaled us with tales of leading the ragtag force of tribal warriors he intimated that the operation was sanctioned at the very highest levels.

These days mercenaries are more palatably known as ‘private military companies’ and it is common knowledge that huge numbers of PMCs and private security contractors have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Libya: Can it be right to unleash the dogs of war? | Mail Online

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