Monday, 14 July 2008

Tim Spicer, OBE

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Colonel Tim Spicer. Well, finding him shouldn't be too hard: he's here, staring moodily into the middle distance. Hiring him may cost you a few bob though.

According to my faded copy of the Grauniad, Aegis got paid nearly 300 million US dollars to run a massive primate army in Iraq. Imagine how many chimpanzees, monkeys and baboons you could hire for 300 million dollars worth of bananas... Now, bananas cost 77p per kilo from Tesco's and the exchange rate is currently a shade over 50p a dollar. So I calculate that $293m buys 192,045,766 kilos of bananas. Say 2 kilos per day per monkey, for 10 years of primate security, you could get over 25,000 monkeys. I know Iraqi insurgents are tough, but I'd certainly run away from 25000 well-motivated monkeys.

Or maybe the Archbishops of York and Canterbury could split it, getting $150 million each? Those crooks could be handy in a fight I suppose, though why primate armies are so important are beyond me.

Much as I applaud loyalty to ones staff, standing by people convicted of murder and insisting that they were just doing their job doesn't endear Mr Spicer to me. Nor does selling arms to extremly unstable countries in Africa and the Pacfic. Suing said governments when they fail to cough up is really taking the piss, though I see that Julius Chan has since been re-elected as an MP in Papua New Guinea, so neither side really wins there.

Just to clarify, the Oxford English Dictionary says: "Mercenary (n) A person who works merely for money or other material reward; a hireling. In later use ... a person whose actions are motivated primarily by personal gain, often at the expense of ethics. ...Chiefly and now only: spec. a soldier paid to serve in a foreign army or other military organization." Sounds like our Mr Spicer.

Puuting all of that to one side, $293m buys you some mighty final legal representation, from those lovely people at Schillings (so called because that's how much they'd sell their grandmother for - boom boom!). Some former ambassador wins University Challenge and later says he's going to publish a book about Tim Spicer, mercenaries, and suchlike, and Mr Spicer runs to his lawyers who start pulling hair and scratching.

Anyway, how the hell can a mercenary get an OBE? Or perhaps I'm being naive. But if we can take back Mugabe's knighthood, why not Mr Spicer's trinket?

PS Bonus not-made-up-fact: Aegis was apparently underwritten (in part) by Frederick Forsyth, which is just perfect. What kind of mercenary army would have been underwritten by JK Rowling? Jeffrey Archer? Roger Hargreaves? ("Mr Shooty stopped and searched an unarmed teenager, then shot him in the back as he ran away. Naughty Mr Shooty!")

PPS And don't forget those bananas would get you 1.5 million Tesco Clubcard points, which, among many other options, would buy you 3.5 million Air Miles, which would be enough to fly the monkeys and their bananas pretty much anywhere.