One of the most intriguing stories of 2009 has been that of Simon Mann, the British mercenary most famous for getting caught trying to organise a coup in Equatorial Guinea, who was pardoned in November.
I didn’t go to school where kids had nicknames like Smelly and Scratcher (still less know anyone who would still use such names aged 57) and Boys Own tales of daring do, do little for me. But it was interesting to learn what a player Mark Thatcher, son of Maggie, still is even without the UK’s overseas aid budget behind him. (It’s worth noting that Scratcher is not his schoolboy nickname, that was Thickie Mork.)
Poor Mark Thatcher may not enter the USA because he has been convicted of a terrorism related offence as a result of the part he played in this attempted coup. That’s a bit of bummer for him as his ex-wife is shacked up with the kids and a millionaire god botherer in Texas.
That punishment is not enough for embittered Simon Mann, who aching to have Mark Thatcher prosecuted in the UK. So I watched BBC4’s Simon Mann’s African Coup with great interest.
It would be a gross exaggeration to say that my sympathies changed over the course of the programme, but it seemed to me that Simon Mann was not such a great mercenary. A great many people knew of the coup plot; the plotters had informed various countries’ intelligence services themselves. Mann reckons the authorities were incompetent because they waited until the eleventh-hour to step in, but I reckon capturing the team red-handed may well have been a good move, as that must have made it easier to convict. Simon Mann and Co weren’t really a serious threat to anyone after all.
But what really stands out is that Simon Mann didn’t get it when Mark Thatcher and his friend Smelly told him that if it went wrong he was on his own. Mann reckons you don’t ‘leave a man on the mountainside,’ but in endeavours like this, you probably do. When Smelly and Scratcher said, ‘we’ll deny everything,’ they were being upfront and honest.
Simon Mann should gave taken his punishment like a man, instead he squealed.