Monday 3 July 2006

The lies of Lord Drayson 2

The Blackwater advertising leafletRemember the Noble Lord Drayson telling us on 12 June that, "we had 14 RG-31s in Bosnia, which we took out of service some time ago due to difficulties with maintenance?"

As we now know, these were not RG-31s but Mambas (or, more precisely, Alvis 4 & 8s) and we also know that the "maintenance problems" arose simply because Alvis, their suppliers to the British Army, had ceased supporting these models and spare parts were no longer available from this source.

And now, someone else has found a very good use for them and maintenance does not seem to be an issue. The fleet – or a goodly proportion of it – is now owned by the US Blackwater Security Consulting, which proudly advertise their virtues in their own leaflet (above left), declaring that "the Mamba is the armored personnel carrier of choice for Blackwater ops in Iraq".

Inbound to Baghdad International to pick up the customersAnd Iraq is where the vehicles are based. Their particular role is to transport diplomats, VIPs and US State Department officials along the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq, if not the world – the 6-mile shooting gallery of snipers, car bombers and mayhem, otherwise known as the route from Baghdad International Airport to the Green Zone in the centre of the city.

Convoys are frequently ambushed and suicide car bombers are distressingly common and, on at least two occasions, one as recently as 2 May of this year, the Blackwater Mambas have been targeted by roadside bombers. And, in each of those two occasions, the crew and passengers emerged unscathed.

Outward bound, to the Green ZoneThe daily transport routine has been described graphically in The Washington Post, where the Mambas are described in terms "as used by the South African military in Angola". The vehicle, says the Washington Post:

…is Blackwater's primary means of zipping State Department employees and other nations' diplomats to Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. For additional protection, the convoys are shadowed by helicopters with armed guards perched at the open doors scanning for potential attackers.
The American Popular Mechanics journal gives a fuller, "Boys Own" account of the operations, describing in detail how Blackwater contractors must "run the gauntlet", only to recount how, at the end of the mission, the crew found "a new spider mark" from a high-powered round in the windshield of one of the Mambas.

A Mamba damaged by an IED - the crew and passengers escaped unscathedBut what none of the journals realised though is that these are ex-British Army vehicles, sold by an MoD which now equips its troops with the dangerously vulnerable "Snatch" Land Rovers. At least one of our soldiers has been killed while being transported to the airport in a "Snatch" which makes it a cruel irony that vehicles which were not good enough for "our boys" are routinely saving American lives in one of the most hostile environments in the world, carrying them to and from the airport.

Stand up and take a bow, Lord Drayson, the man whose lies are killing our soldiers.