The Dhofar War

LI’s memory was pinged, recently, when we read a jolly, he’s-a-mercenary-so-he’s-okay interview by Thomas Catan with the head of an agency of hired killers, Alistair Morrison, in the Financial Times. Here’s how the article starts:

“As a waiter leads me to the table where Alastair Morrison is sitting, I brace myself for a bone-crushing military hand grip and a sergeant-major greeting.

I needn't have worried. For a former SAS hardman - famous for storming a Lufthansa airliner in 1970s Mogadishu and liquidating the hijackers onboard - he has a pleasant, soft-spoken way about him. Immaculately dressed in a dark blazer and tie, he sits in a neat, self-contained manner, his back against the wall. I find myself leaning nearly halfway across the table to hear what he is saying.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Morrison pioneered the modern- day private military industry (a term he dislikes), which has since burgeoned into a multi-billion pound global business. "I never envisaged the market growing to this size," he says, shaking his head.”

There are buzzards, which are ugly, carrion eating birds with scrawny necks; and there are buzzard flatterers, which are completely off the scale, zoologically speaking.

Morrison, it turns out, “has been a continuous presence in the industry and a force behind many of the companies now operating in Iraq: Erinys, Hart Group, ArmorGroup and Kroll.” It would take us a little off course to link to articles about each and every one of these companies. Suffice it to say that, of ArmorGroup, the American division now wholly independent and providing our troops in Iraq with their famous armor, with which the troops are unpatriotically dissatisfied, and in England, they are even more tentacularly busy -- this is from the Scotsman:

”A PRIVATE security company headed by former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is making millions from a contract to protect Foreign Office staff working in Iraq, it emerged last night.

ArmorGroup, the biggest ‘mercenary’ security firm working in Iraq, is one of two companies that have raked in a total of £15m between them for providing round-the-clock cover in the treacherous environment of post-war Iraq during the past year.

Rifkind, the Tory candidate in Kensington and Chelsea, sparked protests from political opponents last month when he took over the chairmanship of ArmorGroup, which has 700 employees in Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has admitted they are paying the company - along with Control Risks - £50,000 every day to protect its bureaucrats stationed in Iraq, amid mounting concerns about the safety of civilians in the war-torn country.”

However, that Morrison is a white devil and that Catan never posed any questions about the questionable influence of his companies in the government isn’t the point, here. We were intrigued, instead, by this sentence: “He fought in the Dhofar war to defeat communist rebels in Oman, then served in Northern Ireland. He turned his hand to counterterrorism in the mid-1970s, when airline hijackings were almost as prevalent as beige and bell-bottoms.”

What Dhofar war? So we decided to research it, and we found a surprising lack of information about the war. Yet it appears that the war was a first blood experience for many Brits – the present Air Force Chief (who bears a name out of Evelyn Waugh -- Sir Jock Stirrup) served, according to his official bio, “on loan with the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force, operating Strikemasters in the Dhofar War.”

So what was this war against “communist insurgents,” and how did it serve the cause of freedom, justice, and democracy in the Middle East? We will leave that to our next post.