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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Friday, November 28, 2008

PERPETUATING DISINFORMATION

I was somewhat surprised to receive an article titled “China’s capitalist gangster” written by Jody Ray Bennett and published by the International Relations and Security Network, otherwise known as ISN Security Watch. The ISN is, in turn, a service of the Centre for Security Studies (CSS) at the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich).

For some inexplicable reason Bennett felt the great irresistible desire to not-so-subtly include Executive Outcomes in the body of the article, trying to draw a link/distinction/parallel between the Chinese mafia boss Yang Shukuan and the “adventurous profiteering operations” of EO. (http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?lng=en&id=94172).

This really caught my attention and by doing some internet searches, I discovered that Bennett is also apparently another self-styled expert on EO and especially Simon Mann’s alleged role in establishing and running the company. Apart from discovering that Bennett’s “research” is based on the internet and lies, Bennett is also based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Those of us who served in the South African Defence Force in the 80s are well aware of how that country was supporting terrorism and “armed struggles” in Africa and elsewhere.

Upon further investigation of the ISN’s partners, I discovered that the South African NGO, Institute of Security Studies (ISS) – another vigorous purveyor of disinformation about EO and myself – have a very close tie. Coincidence, I wondered? But then again, NGOs are famous for rebuking anyone who makes a profit – as long as no-one points a finger at their profit margins. Their oft-pronounced claims that they do what they do to make the world a better place are pure fabrication in many cases – they do it because they profit from it. However, Bennett would undoubtedly defend their sponsorships as a mere income, whilst denouncing EO’s income as shameless profiteering.

But then I have often wondered – who sponsors these people and organisations? From the manner in which they target select companies for often inexplicable specific reasons, I wondered if their sponsorship is not perhaps derived from governments and multi-national corporations whose interests EO threatened. Finding out exactly which multi-nationals and governments sponsor these fabricators of disinformation will be an interesting direction to take up for people who take pride in independent research – and who are not using the convenient label of findings to disguise propaganda as research.

The title researcher is undoubtedly meant to convey authority, professionalism and objectivity. That is why so many people believe what they write in their reports. That is why so few people will never realise the extent of the abuse by some of them of the generally accepted notion of research as something objective. They count on the fact that the public at large would be certain to accept as truth the findings of researchers working for an institute or other such body. Even newspapers and magazines who publish these findings don’t usually go to the trouble to first check by whom a particular institute is funded. Thus very few people come to realise that both the topics of so-called research as well as so-called findings often depend on who is doing the funding – and what their agenda is.

Having aired my opinion on this disturbing trend, I have to note that I do know of ethical researchers who double-check the intelligence they get fed by governments and who resist attempts by companies with vested interests to dictate the nature and the outcome of their research.

I responded to Bennett’s disinformation with the following:

I find it amazing how the gross fabrications on Executive Outcomes are continually perpetuated due to poor research and lack of facts and somehow worked into an otherwise good article. However, if your facts on EO are incorrect, how correct can the other facts in the article be?

Simon Mann was NEVER a founder/member/partner or anything else in EO, yet for some reason (again no research) he is continually portrayed as such. What a shame that you abuse your responsibility to inform and instead choose to misinform.

However, I am sure that no attention will be paid by this researcher of the ISN or any other one for that matter.

In my next posting I shall take a look at how the media acts as a source of disinformation.

16 comments:

somekindofdemocracy said...

Mr. Barlow,

This article has nothing to do with you, Executive Outcomes, or ANY of your past endeavours.

If you are so worried that you feel you must reply to any piece of writing that contains "Executive Outcomes", then I fear you have an awesome project on your hands.

You should read again carefully the story that you seem to be so upset about. Simon Mann is NEVER portrayed in my article as being a founder or owner of the company. To the contrary, the facts and interviews presented in the story come from Robert Pelton, someone I would believe you would/should want to consider before contacting ISN Security Watch or myself.

If you so desperately feel you must defend yourself regarding your role with the aforementioned topics, then write your own article for ISN so that readers might not endure your insufferable squabbling, but otherwise become so wonderfully informed as you wish they to be.

Best,
Jody Ray Bennett

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your attempt at a coherent and convincing response. I reserve my right to continue to insist on a fair press and on holding opinion makers responsible for what they write about me and EO.

Rgds,

Eeben

Francois said...

While Shukuan's company did not resemble the types of adventurous profiteering operations that were carried out by other notorious PMCs like Executive Outcomes,.....

Dear Mr Jody Ray Bennett,
For what it's worth from me, it does seem as if your article implies that EO is in the same league as some Chinese gangster outfit. Whether EO is as notorious as you make out, is beside the point. Someone that knows little about a PMC will immediately think that EO is linked with a drug cartel, and I would think that this would be far from the truth. I do think that in this instance Eeben Barlow has the right to defend himself.

somekindofdemocracy said...

Francois,

He has the right to defend himself, but the correlation between a company like EO and Shukuan's company is that they were private organizations that took up arms which challenges the state's monopoly of force. That's it.

It would actually be nice to see a real defense or response by him, but his argument is nothing more than branding his own statements as the truth.

I'm surprised that someone as successful as he could only muster up the following "defense":

1. "Apart from discovering that Bennett’s 'research' is based on the internet and lies." Just because you say something is a "lie" doesn't make it so. My sources are there and as I stated before, the Mann coverage was lended in large part by Robert Pelton, someone you should contact if you are indeed so upset about its contents (or write your own account and post it!)

2. "Bennett is also based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Those of us who served in the South African Defence Force in the 80s are well aware of how that country was supporting terrorism and “armed struggles” in Africa and elsewhere." Wow. This argument is just amazing. As if the country I happen to be in has any connection whatsoever with what I am doing, much less what that country was up to 20 YEARS AGO. Your logic here would suggest that anyone from South Africa can be discredited because of Apartheid. Applying a country's historical blunders to the writing/arguments in the present isn't a defense, it's just dumb. (For the record, I'm not even Dutch, I'm an expat residing in Amsterdam.)

3. "NGOs are famous for rebuking anyone who makes a profit – as long as no-one points a finger at their profit margins."

What NGOs? ALL NGOs are famous for this? Really? It seems you just won't be satisfied until everything written about EO/Sandline is published with no critical analysis at all. THAT, sir, would be propaganda.

Further, I am not opposed to "profiteering". (See the article I wrote for ISN before this one, 'PSC prospects in Darfur'....ahh but you don't mention this, do you?) Finally, to lump ISN as some organization that would "denounce profiteering" is just silly. Our organization is made up of hundreds of researchers and writers that have ideas, opinions, and worldviews from varying perspectives.

Kind Regards,
Jody Bennett

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Surely Mr Bennett has a civic duty to pass on any evidence to the relevant authorities he has of mine or EO's involvement in any dubious activities. I challenge him – and any other journalist or researcher - to also publish on the World Wide Web any such information he/they have in their possession, as that would truly be in the public interest.

Take Mr Bennett’s latest pronouncement. I quote: “but the correlation between a company like EO and Shukuan's company is that they were private organizations that took up arms which challenges the state's monopoly of force. That's it”.

I defy him to provide evidence of a single instance in which EO took up arms to challenge a state’s monopoly of force. If he is unable to do so, it is perhaps time for him to stop profiteering from his lack of knowledge of EO.

Rgds,

Eeben

always-a-realist said...

The likes of you and your company sold out all whites in South Africa to the Kaffirs all in your quest to make a quick buck out of the Kaffir chaos in Africa. Savimbi was our only allie in the region, you sold him out and ultimatley led to his death. Anglo American and Texico involvment in the region did not give credence the MPLA.You simply did Anglo's and Texico'sdirty work for them (for a price)and now you are trying to justify you actions.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A pity you do not know your history very well, always-a realist. When you have discovered that Savimbi was actually a Maoist and not the great Christian you believe him to be, come back and enlighten us all.

By the way, this blog is not a forum for racist remarks and therefore, if you cannot argue your case in a sensible manner, I shall delete your future comments.

Rgds,

Eeben

Francois said...

Eeben, I am not sure if the first comment went through. If there are 2 similar comments, please delete one of them.

....they were private organizations that took up arms which challenges the state's monopoly of force...

Dear Mr Jody Ray Bennett,
Shukuan's company, if it could be called a company, was nothing more than a glorified extortion racket. Judging by your article, Shukuan had amassed a considerable amount of weaponry, and was becoming a force to be reckoned with. If they were naive enough to challenge the might of the Chinese military, then they deserved to be arrested. It is highly unlikely that this was the case. After all, if he could only accumulate USM$14 in 9 years, and be caught with 4 APC's, 38 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, tear gas grenades, illegal explosives, 20 luxury automobiles and a Rolls Royce, it hardly qualifies as a private army challenging the state!!! Even with my limited military experience, an army would need more than 38 firearms to become a fighting force.
From the little that I know about EO, I am of the opinion that they were supporting the government in whatever nation they were in, be that government good or bad. Quite possibly I am wrong in this assumption, but from what I have researched and know, EO were not a gang of mercenaries challenging the State. On the contrary, they were in a particular nation on the request of the government that was in power.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Francois, only one of the comments came through.

You are quite correct that EO only worked for governments that were recognised in the international political arena. In every country we worked in, we were invited by the government of the day. Where we worked for multi-nationals in those countries, we had the host government’s authorisation to be there and comply with our contract.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

"The Puerto Rican island Vieques is calling the military base an illegal occupation and Ecuador’s has shut down the US military base in Manta.
Not having one African, Asian, Latin American, western European friend will ultimately have consequences."

Logi,
I think your streching your knowledge a bit when you throw Vieques in the pot. Suffice it to say that Vieques was used by the military for almost fifty years maybe more, and is a United States territory. The total picture of that part of the world has changed. Vieques was shut down under pressure from the "ecologically concious" people and Politicians. A trend which has cost the United States dearly for a variety of things in a variety of places.. Im sure that there were other involved in that with political motives not in support of U.S. stability. It also resulted in the U.S Military base at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico to be abandoned with the loss of thousands of jobs to the Puerto Ricans. All due to the shouting of a few who had no other reason than hate for the Government.
I cannot comment on the Ecuador situation, can only assume it has been brought about by the increased involvement of the Communist influence in Latin/South America.
As to AFRICOM, and based on my experience, I can only see decision makers gathering who only know Africa based on the what they have read in National Geographic and have no clue what its like to have Red Mud on their shoes.
Hopefully the Masked Rabbit will dig my hole on this subject a bit deeper.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I believe Gatvol's answer was in response to comments on the AFRICOM posting.

Rgds,

Eeben

Fuzzy Lojic said...

I am quite shocked and disgusted by this blatent misinformation. I've read various articles regarding EO and what I dont get is why no one bothers to check the source. Perhaps if you intend mentioning EO you should get a comment from a REAL founding member to corroborate what you are saying otherwise you are printing an opinion and it should be greatly emphasised that that is all it is.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I do agree with you, Fuzzy Lojic.

He then even stated in a subsequent comment that “It would actually be nice to see a real defense (sic) or response by him”. I see no reason why I should defend myself from his misinformation and thereby give a semblance of credibility to what he wrote. I will much rather just expose it.

I do now have a platform on which to air my thoughts and my next posting will delve into the misinformers and their modus operandi. It is just a pity that some of those who have a responsibility to inform rather prefer to misinform.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
I've read these articles, both very compelling reading of information for the liberal leaning mind.
Making a deal out of no gun crime in China due to the Central Government controlling the sale of guns and ammunition. China has a long list of what their citizens are not permitted to do, one of which is to even read Bennett's article on the internet. No matter what your position, you can line em up behind you in support of it. I can appreciate your discust in them getting run time at your expense. But, you weren't actually selling Girl Scout Cookies at the time of reference. You will be historically referenced, like it or not. The Simon fella sounds like a money mongering POS, not working for the greater good.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Ha-ha, ER. I enjoyed your comment about EO not “selling girl scout cookies”. However, working for the greater good is a very subjective thing – as who gets to decide which side is REALLY the good guys? Also, EO worked for governments and not rebel groups, unlike some governments who got extremely concerned at our activities exposing their duplicity.

Having been to China (I was asked to visit that country prior to the Olympic Games and have some talks with their Special Forces), there are MANY things they are not allowed to do. But, their military were very well informed on what was happening in the world. That doesn’t make me an apologist for the Chinese – I am simply stating a fact.

As far as EO is concerned, the company was only as good as the men who served in it. I was VERY fortunate to have outstanding men working for EO and I am often, incorrectly, credited with their outstanding work. In Angola, they did more than several NGOs did insofar as humanitarian work was concerned. In Sierra Leone, they were the ones who started getting child-soldiers out of the war and trying to rehabilitate them. When a man crossed the line and dabbled in crime, action was immediately taken and no excuse was accepted.

More importantly, those men actually ended two major wars in Africa, saved countless civilians, and rescued hostages in Indonesia (some were working for the UN) and so on. I shall NEVER be ashamed of what they did nor will I allow their names to be any further tarnished by irresponsible journalists and researchers.

Rgds,

Eeben

Stupid said...

Jody Ray Bennet, frankly you have mud on your face. And you try and justify your appalling mistakes with such a response??? Why not show some semblance of an interest in the truth? Here you have an opportunity to engage with Eeben Barlow to revisit some of the things that you have discussed but that is all you can come up with?

Your statement, “If you are so worried that you feel you must reply to any piece of writing that contains "Executive Outcomes", then I fear you have an awesome project on your hands,” was an ABSOLUTE SHOCKER! You have implied that if the truth is not out there, because Eeben Barlow can’t possibly correct all that has been written about EO, he should just as well give up by trying. Therefore you, and the seemingly majority of journalists, will beat fabrications of facts into the public’s minds by your quantities of articles as opposed to writing quality articles that contain the truth.

It almost seems like a threat. What is your agenda? You have been far too defensive to show any kind of objectivity in your opinions. I don’t know what the answer is. The obvious answer is that you seek status in the political circles of these security networks.


You represent what I despise about the first world and its so-called “freedom of speech” which has invariably been developed into BS that you yourself have the freedom to create. You are fucking humanity.