The Rest is Politics on Mark Mitchell

The Rest is Politics is a great British politics podcast hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. Campbell is Tony Blair’s former communications chief while Stewart is a former Conservative Cabinet Minister.

Their 26 April podcast saw Stewart talking about his role as Ambassador in Iraq and having to evacuate and being under siege at the Government compound in An Nasiriyah he was in charge of. And he mentioned Mark Mitchell.

Mitchell has been asked about his time in Iraq and specifically about this seige by NZ media several times over the years. Mitchell has always stated he was proud of his service in iraq and those he served with but would not go into more detail. Rory Stewart goes into more detail and share’s some insights into what occurred during the seige of Nasiriyah. So as Stewart has talked publicly about some of what happened there, Mitchell has for what is the first time elaborated on what he was doing in Iraq.

The left of politics have attacked Mitchell for years as being a mercenary for his time in Iraq, but listen to what Stewart said.

Stewart incidentally has been a soldier, diplomat, author, Cabinet Minister, and human rights professor at Harvard University plus a a fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for International relations.

He is also involved in doing restoration work in Afghanistan and Jordan and is President of an NGO providing financial support to the poor in Africa. Stewart states he holds Mitchell in high regard and attributes his actions in helping to save the lives of journalists, diplomats and NGO workers by holding off a determined attack by a militia with overwhelming numbers and fire power for several days until air support finally arrived. 

Italian Senator Barbara Contini, who was also a coaliation provisional authority Ambassador to Iraq, was also attacked by insurgents and wrote in a commendation that if it was not for the cool heads and courage under fire of her two body guard teams one of which Mitchell was team leader then she had no doubt the outcome would have been her capture and death.

British Baroness Emma Nicolson was evacuated overland from Basra to the Kuwait border when terrorists attacked the Basra airport and coalition bases in a wide spread Terror operation. She cited the confidence, experience and local knowledge of the close protection team as the reason she was taken safely to the border. Mark Mitchell was the team leader there also. 

Mitchell moved from his close protection role into a fully embedded advisor and trainer role with the newly formed Iraqi Police special tactics unit known as the Tactical Support unit or TSU.

Mitchell along with 4 other advisors lived with the TSU in their base in the heart of Basra city. 

They were regularly targeted with mortar, RPG and small arms attacks.

It was a difficult environment running operations against terror organisations, criminal gangs sponsored by tribal groups and religious death squads with the involvement of Iranian Quds forces.

The TSU focused its operations on stopping the kidnap and ransom of children from wealthy families, targeting the death squads who were killing gay men and women and working with coalition forces on counter terrorism operations against Al Queda. 

The TSU in Basra were so effective that American General David Petraeus travelled from Baghdad to be briefed by senior Mitchell on the core components of success. 

During this time Mitchell was approached by global logistics Company Agility logistics and asked to take over its security and risk management programme. 

Mitchell was appointed Chief Security Officer for the company which had 30,000 employees in over 140 country’s. He formed Threat Management Group to provide high quality security services to Agility Logistics but quickly had requests for services and support from the UN, NGO’s, multi Nationals and US, British, Australian, Japanese and Italian Governments. 

Mitchell resigned from Agility Logistics in 2010 and Threat Management Group was sold the same year as he wanted to return to New Zealand and re enter public service.

Prior to his time overseas Mitchell had a Policing career. Most of his service was as a Police Dog Handler and member of the Armed offenders Squad. Mitchell and his Police Dog Czar were stabbed stopping an offender armed with a Samurai sword from attacking medical staff at the Rotorua hospital. They received the Police Gold Merit award for bravery and dedication to duty. Mitchell also received the Police long service and good conduct medal. 

Two ambassadors and a Baroness credit Mitchell and his team with keeping them alive. 

The top American general in iraq  sought a briefing  from Mitchell on how a Special Tactics unit he was embeded with was so effective in dealing with terrorists and death squads. 

A global logistics company head hunted Mitchell to help keep thier employees safe. 

Labour MP Emily Henderson took a call in Parliament two weeks ago on a countering terrorism bill in which she acknowledged Mitchell and the work he had done overseas supporting Rory Stewart. 

I wonder if Rory Stewart, Barbara Contini, Emma Nicolson, the men of the TSU, the gay men and women who were being hunted and killed by death squads, the logistics workers and truck drivers keeping supply chains open in war zones and protected by Mitchell and his team would describe him as a mercenary. 

Both past Labour Party Leader David Shearer and current Labour Party MP Emily Henderson don’t seem to think so.  Maybe the rest of the left should follow their lead and praise someone who risked their own life on multiple occasions to save the lives of others.

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