British Prime Minister Tony Blair has with much fanfare recently announced, that part of the British army will be withdrawn from Iraq. What he did not mention was, that mercenaries will fill the gap.
And he is busy to secure the flow of them to Iraq. On 29th August 2006 the South African Parliament has approved a new anti-mercenary law with a vote of 211 to 28. The bill called "Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Prohibition and Regulation of Certain Activities" compels South Africans to get authorization to enlist in foreign armies or mercenary companies. The bill seeks to close loopholes in the existing anti-mercenary law.
The British High Commissioner to South Africa, Paul Boateng, did his level best to stop the bill or at least to get it watered down, unsuccessfully up to now, however South African president Thabo Mbeki has not signed the bill as yet.. The British Government continues with it's efforts.
Proven in Terror-Combat
Many of South Africans are former members of the apartheid terror- and destruction gangs like Reconnaissance commandos (Recce), 44 Parachute Brigade, the 32 Buffalo Battalion, Koevoet and the death squad Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB)
They came for murderous excursions into neighbouring countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho Angola , Swaziland and even Tanzania.
Botswana had tasted as well the brutality of these gangs. They came on 14 June 1985 and 20th May 1986 to Gaborone, killing at least 14 people, wounding several others and blowing up a number of houses afterwards.
Some of these units used to eliminate captured freedom fighters with the help of poison, delivered allegedly by South Africa's Dr. Mengele by the name of Dr. Wouter Basson, and the bodies were thrown out of a plane over the Atlantic Ocean. The Geneva Convention was an unheard foreign entity.
What has the British Government to do with a South African anti-mercenary law?
The answer is simple. The British Government wants a continuous flow of mercenaries and regular soldiers from South Africa not only into it's own army, where already 800 South Africans are enlisted, but more so in all areas of conflict, where these mercenaries are most welcome to do outsourced duties of the British army, like in Iraq.
Mercenaries have been hired by so called Private Military Companies, like Aegis, MPRI, Erinys, Blackwater and others for mercenary- jobs in Iraq. They outnumber the British Army contingent there by far.The South African contingent is estimated to be around 10.000.
Iraq - A legal Vacuum
The Iraqi Government has no jurisdiction over members of foreign armies as well as mercenaries. And unlike members of foreign armies, who fall under military law, no martial law is applicable for mercenaries. They virtually operate in a legal vacuum, something each and every criminal would highly appreciate. For the mercenaries an ideal environment to operate in, when the killing of innocent civilian rather a day-to-day event. Shoot first and ask questions later on, if at all.
The murderous trail of these companies came to light, when a disgruntled Aegis mercenary put a shooting video on the internet, with music from Elvis Presley.
The South African government, strongly opposed to the occupation of Iraq, tries now to put an end to this unwelcome export.
However, the British Government wants to continue with it's efforts, to get changes done to the bill even after it's approval, that shows, how much Tony Blair appreciates the mercenary service in the interest of Queen and Country.
The desire in Europe to serve for these "security" companies has despite the high salaries somehow watered down. Iraq turns out to be a walk into hell. This experience was also made by Gary Branfield, former member of the Civil Cooperation Bureau and architect of the attack on Gaborone in 1985.
Branfield alias Major Brian, who on 31 July 1981 killed with a death squad the ANC representative in Harare Joe Gqabi, by shooting him 19 times, found eventually his fate as mercenary in Iraq in 2004, where he was killed.
How much ever brutal these mercenaries are, what waits them is more than what they can swallow. What they are dealing with are not civilians, but fully blown fanatics, a Kind they are not used to in Africa. The Most they have seen in africa must have been tribe crazy or affiliation crazy folks, but in Iraq it will be a whole different ball game.
Influx of Mercenaries will result in massive civilian casualties, as these guys are known to be reckless and these casualties will provide more fodder for the so called resistance!
Tim Spicer is an ex-soldier from the Scots Guards, an elite unit of the British Army, a veteran of Northern Ireland (where he got his OBE) and the Falklands, and he also served in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. Spicer's (defunct) company, Sandline International took over from Executive Outcomes (EO) which was disbanded after South Africa made it illegal for South African nationals to engage in mercenary activities.
Spicer has close connections to the government of Tony Blair who hired Spicer's Sandline to illegally supply weapons to restore the Kabbah government in Sierra Leone.
“It's The Wild West”
“The United States government, the American army, and the private security or intelligence companies are today completely interdependent,” says a European expert. “And, from a military point of view, this is on the increase. Just one example: after the attacks on the Blackwater convoys in Fallujah and Baghdad, the Pentagon proposed providing to the coordinating agency, PMO – Program Management Office – and so today to Spicer, air support for all the private companies officially registered with the PMO. The program's code name is 'Quarterback.' It's incredible. It's the Wild West. Apache helicopters and ground attack fighters are going to henceforth be able to “clear” the roads for private companies.”” (Correspondent)
It's estimated that there are at least 20,000 mercenaries operating in Iraq (some put it as high as 30,000), earning between five and twenty times as much as their state-employed 'comrades-in-arms'.
So why all the fuss over PMCs? After all, there was a time when most wars were conducted by mercenaries until the time of large-scale state-enforced conscription at the beginning of the 20th century when mechanised warfare demanded millions of young men to fight and die for capital.
What started out as a fairly 'straightforward' investigation of Aegis Defence Services, a small PMC with connections, tailspinned into a global spider's web of corporate and government connections that (so far) spans countries from South/North America, Africa, the Middle and Far East, with a multitude of players including government leaders from Burma to Uganda with stopovers in South Africa, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, then on to Venezuela, Guyana, Colombia and the United States.
This article can only scratch the surface of the intricacies of the global network of mercenary armies and the connected oil, gas, precious metal mining companies as well as the lucrative arms trading that the companies named here are or have been involved in.
Various and sundry companies owned by a host of connected players as far apart as Canada, Burma and Uganda, with one company leading to another via 'fronts', shared directors and shareholders, cross-ownership, tax shelters, in a word, all the devices of corporate capitalism designed to obscure who really owns (and hence is responsible for) what.
In addition, one of the hidden players, 'Toxic' Bob Friedland, a power behind the throne of Tony Buckingham's Heritage Oil & Gas, and also a sidekick of Colonel Tim Spicer, has left a trail toxic waste behind him as he dug his way across Burma, the United States, Canada and Venezuela in search of gold. A search that thus far has left cleanup costs (not his to pay) of hundreds of millions of dollars of the cyanide and heavy metal-polluted landscapes.
The sordid doings of these 'Soldiers of Misfortune' is therefore, not restricted to doing the dirty work of imperialism, but leads them wherever they see a fast buck to be made. This is the side of PMCs that the media doesn't report on when it reports the glib comments of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw when he talks of engaging the “reputable private military sector”.
The successor to Spicer's Sandline is Aegis Defence Services and just awarded a $239 million contract by the US DoD to supply “75 close protection bodyguard teams to coalition and Iraqi officials” as well as “co-ordinate intelligence gathering for other private security firms in Iraq, including the multi-billion dollar US Dyncorp”, it became clear that there is much, much more to Colonel Tim than meets the eye.
Could this connection have something to do with Aegis Defence Services winning the DoD contract (more payback for supporting Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq)?
The contract has been contested by Dyncorp and there are currently three separate US government investigations into the awarding of the contract to Aegis.
Aegis, formed less than two years ago, is small potatoes by PMC standards, In fact in 2003, the company made a loss of £378,000. Investors in Aegis include Frederick Forsyth, author of “The Dogs of War”.
Aegis is also bidding on a 12-month contract offered by the British government's Department of International Development (DFID) to “provide intelligence and security advice” to the government of Sierra Leone. An irony considering Spicer's prior involvement with Sierra Leone when his company broke a UN embargo on arms to Sierra Leone on behalf of Tony Blair's government.
The starting point is Executive Outcomes (EO) (now defunct but not before morphing into Sandline International and then ending up as Aegis Defence Services, with a few stopovers inbetween). EO was one of the first of the Private Military Contractors, set up around 1989, after it became clear that Apartheid South Africa was all washed up. The man credited with creating EO is Eeban Barlow. In addition to Barlow, the other major players in EO/Sandline were Simon Mann (currently languishing in a Zimbabwean jail having been arrested for participating in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea in exchange for oil concessions after the coup was over), Tim Spicer, Michael Grunberg, Tony Buckingham and Nic van der Berg, who later took over from Barlow as head of EO. The military network was controlled by shadowy holding companies, called Plaza 107 in the UK (controlled by Grunberg) and the Strategic Resources Corporation in South Africa.
“EO was registered in the UK in September 1993 by Simon Mann, a former troop commander in 22 SAS specializing in intelligence and South African director of Ibis Air, and Tony Buckingham, an SAS veteran and chief executive of Heritage Oil and Gas. The Heritage Oil and Gas board of directors includes former Liberal Party leader David Steel, and Andrew Gifford of GJW Government Relations, an influential parliamentary lobbyist. The company, originally British, now registered in the Bahamas, is associated with a Canadian oil corporation, Ranger Oil. Both companies had drilling interests in Angola, a country that since the mid 1970s was torn by civil war between the Marxist MPLA government and UNITA rebels who were covertly assisted by the South African special forces.
“Most of EO's approximately one thousand soldiers (70 per cent of whom are black) are veterans of South Africa's four elite apartheid-era counterinsurgency special forces: 32 'Buffalo' Battalion; the Reconnaissance Commandos ('Reccies'); the Parachute Brigade ('Parabats'); and the paramilitary 'Koevoet' ('Crowbar'). Their assignment was the destabilization of the apartheid regime's southern African enemies.
“The 32 Battalion, comprised mainly of Portuguese-speaking Angolans, became South Africa's most highly decorated combat unit since the Second World War. Eeben Barlow, the director of EO until July this year, was second-in-command of the 32 Battalion. He chose the paladin, the chessboard knight once featured in the old television series Have Gun, Will Travel, as the company logo when he set up EO in 1989.”
EO's first known major operation was Angola in 1993 where it traded on its 32 Battalion experience defending oil drilling sites and ironically being hired by the Angolan government to fight UNITA, the force Barlow had been working with to destroy the MPLA government during the Apartheid era. In reality, the oil drilling site it recovered from UNITA in Angola at Soyo, was in fact owned by Heritage Oil (which in turn has shares owned by Toxic Bob Friedland's Branch Energy) and at the time, EO was also part-owned by Branch Energy. Heritage Oil has operations in Angola, Congo-Brazaville, DR Congo, Oman, and Uganda. Executive Outcomes was involved in Sierra Leone, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Canada.
“Angola seems to be where EO head Barlow met former SAS officer [Tony] Buckingham, now believed to have ultimate control over EO and the complex web of some 80 companies involved in businesses ranging from landmine removal to water purification. Buckingham was representing Heritage Oil at the time of their meeting and had requested that Barlow recruit soldiers to recapture Heritage's assets in Soyo that had been taken by UNITA during the renewed conflict of the Second Civil War. The success of EO's special forces operation in Soyo had inspired the Angolan government to hire EO to direct frontline operations against UNITA.
“Payments for EO's services were made substantially in partial ownership in Branch Energy, were then transferred through a subsidiary, Carson Gold, and were finally exchanged for shares in DiamondWorks. Capture of vital diamond mining territory was part of the subtext of EO's operations in Angola.”
Also involved in EO's Angolan 'adventures' was Simon Mann, an ex-Royal Scots Guards officer and troop commander with the 'elite' British Special Air Services (SAS). Mann, together with Tony Buckingham, another prominent player in the private army business, awarded Eeben Barlow, the founder of EO, his first contract in Angola.
Led by Lafras Luitingh, a former 5 Reconnaissance Regiment officer, and like Barlow, also an ex-Civil Cooperation Bureau operative, less than 100 EO fighters seized the town in three months and handed it back to the Angolan government. They got huge rewards, including a US$30 million mining contract.
Barlow, joined the SADF in 1974 and went to become a commander of South Africa's notorious 32 Battalion's Reconnaissance (Recce) Wing where he 'assisted' the anti-MPLA UNITA, (the Union for the Total Independence of Angola) guerrilla army. Later, Barlow went on to become a high-ranking employee of the South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) formed in the last years of the Apartheid regime. Barlow it seems, was based in London during the 1980s and it was his job to disseminate disinformation about the ANC but one can speculate on what other activities he and the other CCB operatives got up to whilst stationed in Europe including their involvement in the assassination of the ANC representative in France, Dulcie September in 1987. The CCB was definately involved in assassinations elsewhere, including the assassination of Anton Lubowski, a leading member of Namibia's SWAPO (South West African Peoples' Organisation) in 1989. The manufacture and distribution of drugs, involvement with the so-called Third Force, utilised to destabilise South Africa during the pre-1994 election period. Dr Wouter Basson (so-called Dr. Death) was also part of the CCB operation and behind a CBW programme code-named Project Coast.
The activities of EO, the clients it served, and the global transnational corporate elite that included the DeBeers diamond cartel, Texaco and Gulf-Chevron reveals the role of mercenary groups like EO, especially in Africa. Much of its income came from 'doing deals', that is, getting lucrative mining concessions as payment for providing protection or overthrowing governments that 'got in the way' of doing business such as those conducted in Sierra Leone, Angola and DR Congo. And here the connections between EO and companies such as Diamondworks, becomes important, for the close association between EO and the diamond and gold concessions reveals that EO not only got paid cash for supplying mercenary forces but also obtained lucrative mining concessions as well.
“In Sierra Leone, Branch Energy had a 60% stake in Branch Energy Sierra Leone, the government had 30% while a local businessman/investor held a small stake of 10%. The same pattern was repeated in Angola and in Uganda. Branch Energy's African assets were mainly concentrated in countries where civil wars and rebellions were raging, so was it just pure luck or coincidence that these countries were selected? In fact the selection appears to have been guided by very defined criteria: the potentials in minerals (diamonds, gold and oil), a bankrupt national economy and armed rebellion threatening the ruling strongman.”
Aside from the fact that the UN outlawed the practice, mercenary outfits are 'free agents' not covered by Geneva Conventions or indeed aside from countries like South Africa who have outlawed the practice, are not regulated by the leading exporters of war, the US and the UK.
“The American government has also been using these private companies and others, more discreet, for secret activities, as the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal revealed recently. Intelligence agencies subcontract their activities, notably for interrogations. Not only are these private “soldiers” not subject to military discipline or prosecution, but their companies are paid, or see their contracts renewed, on a pro rata basis, according to how much information is obtained. This would appear to have pushed some contractors to extract fantastical confessions from prisoners through torture.”
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the drive to privatise war is the fact that our political elite is busy producing rationales for it. Hence British foreign secretary Jack Straw had this to say on the subject,
“…[a] reputable private military sector might have a role in enabling the UN to respond more rapidly and effectively to crises”.
This followed the Sierra Leone affair, where the UK government had hired Sandline to smuggle weapons into the country in contravention of an UN arms embargo. Clearly Straw's statement (following the publication of a Green Paper that called for the hiring of PMCs to do the work of government) was part of the drive to circumvent all the 'inconvenient' laws that prohibit governments from acting without due process or being accountable to public oversight.
Straw's forward to the Green Paper went on to say,
“Today's world is a far cry from the 1960s when private military activity usually meant mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind involved in post-colonial or neo-colonial conflicts.”
Unsavoury seems an odd choice of word especially in the light of the subsequent events in Abu Ghraib and the involvement of CACI, the US PMC in the torture of Iraqi prisoners, for surely the point of privatising state activities is primarily to avoid taking responsibility for one's actions. The smokescreen being used by the likes of despicable individuals like Straw who seeks to justify privatising such activities under the guise circumventing 'bureaucracy', is the height of cynicism. It reveals that far from being the advocates of freedom and democracy, our rulers feel that they can write their own rules in this dog-eat-dog world that they have created.
But unlike the US government who have already made it quite plain that PMCs are above the law,
“If accepted by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, it would put the highly visible U.S. foreign contractors into a special legal category, not subject to military justice and beyond the reach of Iraq's justice system. … Two U.S. contract employees at Abu Ghraib prison who were accused in a Pentagon report of participating in illegal abuse of Iraqi prisoners … have not been charged with any crimes in Iraq or the United States. … Estimates of the total number of foreigners working here — from Americans to South Africans to Chileans — have ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.”
The British government hides its actions, embarrassed perhaps that its activities expose its hypocritical position? But this is nothing new for the Blair government whose activities ever since coming to power in 1997 have been exemplified by an endless trail of broken promises and lies about its true intentions as it attempts to resurrect the empire. So the fact that it rewards the dregs of its former colonial empire's military occupiers with crumbs off the US table should come as no surprise.
Executive Outcomes - Business Ventures (A legetimate front for illegal activities)
Executive Outcomes, the mercenary firm based in Pretoria, South Africa, and manned mostly by former members of the South African Defense Force, has proven to be a decisive factor in the outcome of some civil wars in Africa. Involved in forcing rebels to the negotiating table in Sierra Leone and more well-known for contributing to the Angolan government's success in forcing UNITA to accept the Lusaka Protocol in 1994, Executive Outcomes reportedly has a web of influence in Uganda, Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Lesotho and South Africa.
Even though the firm's expertise lies in fighting bush wars, it has diversified and reportedly operates 32 companies, whose interests range from computer software to adult education. The firm's tactic of quickly regaining control of a client country's mineral-rich regions is well-documented. Within a month of Sierra Leone's hiring of Executive Outcomes in May 1995, government forces had regained control of the diamond-rich Kono district, which produces two-thirds of Sierra Leone's diamonds. In Angola, oil- and diamond-producing regions were the first areas secured by government forces trained by Executive Outcomes. The firm also reportedly mines gold in Uganda, drills boreholes in Ethiopia and has a variety of interests in the other countries noted above.
Executive Outcomes claims that its sole purpose is to bring stability to the region by supporting legitimate governments in their defense against armed rebels. Nevertheless, rumors persist that the firm is connected to either the South African DeBeers Diamond Corporation or the South African government. These claims are denied by all parties, and the South African government has tried to restrict Executive Outcomes' business ventures.
The intermixing of paramilitary and commercial ventures makes it difficult to determine the number of mercenaries involved in various countries. Most reports indicate there were between 150 and 200 in Sierra Leone, while reports from Angola vary, indicating between 500 and 4,000 members in that country. At any rate, Executive Outcomes has proven to be a sound investment for the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone. Those successes may help to persuade other countries in the region to employ the firm's services. Increased involvement in regional security problems and an expanded portfolio of affiliated businesses suggest that Executive Outcomes will play a periodically visible role in sub-Saharan African affairs.