About Me

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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. Until recently, I was a contributing editor 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.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

CHOOSING TO DISINFORM

It is unfair to the many ethical, honourable, hard-working, nose-in-the-muck journalists and researchers to include them in this posting, so this posting, although generalising to a large extent, does not cover their good work. Instead, it is aimed at those who have a responsibility to inform but instead chose to rather specialise in misinforming – and they know exactly who they are. They alone give the media and institutes the bad reputation they sometimes do not deserve. It gets worse when these journalists and researchers view themselves as armchair strategists and want to, through the written word, dictate military and security strategies and tactics. The resultant damage and chaos that is born from their drivel is enormous.

The media does not only comprise journalists who write for the daily newspapers, but also those who work for radio stations, journals, television, credible research organisations, bloggers and the like. It also includes researchers whose work is often transmitted via the media. Deeply embedded in the fabric of the media are small groupings who strive to misinform wherever possible. Only they can explain their actions.

By fabrication, innuendo, fantasy, grey propaganda, black agents (not skin colour) and regurgitation they weave and twist their lies into an almost believable truth. Those targets that are aware of what they are doing are not hoodwinked but, by and large, the majority of the population swallow their fabrications as “truth”.

Words such as “an unnamed source”, “it is assumed that”, “allegedly”, “intelligence sources believe”, “reportedly” and such like are used to blur their lines between fact and fiction, truth and lies and achieve the impact that they hope for. The impact is even greater when some of them feed this to their secret masters who classify it as “secret” and then distribute it to a select policy-making audience.

Again, and no doubt very tediously, I make my statements based on my experience and the manner in which EO was tarnished in the media by these so-called journalists and researchers. Yet, as I recently discovered, there is great unhappiness when someone is caught out and is then quick to point the finger at others whose “work” was used in the “research” without checking the facts – something that shows that some are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. They claim “freedom of speech” as a democratic right only they are apparently entitled to. They and they alone reserve the right to pass judgement without any facts at hand. I recall trying to give them my side of the story – along with evidence to back up what I was saying – but I was told that what I had to say was “not in the public interest”.

Of course, it is well known that a journalist is only as good as his/her sources. But when their sources are the actual people/organisations that may be paying them a secret second salary in order to achieve a strategic aim, they become a danger to society. They are the very ones who, instead of honouring their profession and informing the people, fall into the trap of disseminating propaganda, lies and disinformation. Unfortunately, several respectable authors have used this disinformation in their books, thus helping to spread fiction dressed as fact.

All government agencies use journalists to get their message out to the public in a surreptitious manner. The media is also used extensively to counter political opposition and proclaim a government’s holy agenda. This use of the media is well known and has become almost acceptable. But, when government–, semi-state departments and multi-national corporations use these agents-of-influence (witting or unwitting) to negate/counter/smear a private company in order to protect themselves and their illegal activities, the situation begins to change somewhat. When these misinformers start claiming that a company is about to conduct murder, assassinations, are part of a neo-colonising advance guard, are planning coups, are being paid in mineral concessions, imply burglaries of government offices and the like, they deserve to be exposed. Don’t you agree De Wet Potgieter, Stephan Laufer, Anthony Lobaido, Khareen Pech, Ingo Capraro, Jakkie Cilliers, David Beresford, Talif Deen, Bruce Venter, Sean Cleary and your multitude of similar-ilk friends? (To list them all would be a mission impossible – but many of them inhabit the internet and are easily found there).

Ironically, when the misinformers are caught out they act with indignation…

Then of course, there is a despicable little man known as Riaan Stander, an ex-policeman turned National Intelligence agent. Stander penned his now famous “secret reports” which were sent directly to then-President Nelson Mandela and later Thabo Mbeki. Not only were they pure fabrications but they also included the telling comment: “Checked and verified by the analyst”. (For details, see http://cryptome.org/za-disrupt.htm). These fabricated reports were nothing other than a deceptive attempt to prove an undying loyalty to the “new” South African government.

This is the same Stander who found himself irresistibly drawn to secret government funds – of which millions went missing in the process. His secret documents were leaked to selected members of the media who lapped it up – again without checking anything. From there, these documents migrated to the internet. Stander and his documents have subsequently been exposed as frauds – but the damage was already done. These documents have subsequently been taken up by a “historian” in Kwa-Zulu Natal who has almost made it his mission in life to prove them correct.

Apart from maliciously causing companies irreparable damage and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue, their misinformation is used by scholars who write their theses based mainly on mistruths and disinformation. The value of these scholarly works is a big zero, yet in academic circles, they continue to tout their (lack of) knowledge and express their (lack of) understanding on military matters. Some even get awarded international prizes for their “work”. Never mind that a lot of it is made up and cannot even be remotely confirmed…

Some even get appointed to “respected” institutes such as the Institute of Security Studies (in South Africa) where they continue to - under the guise of “researchers” - spurt forth their self-constructed stories. This time their “sources” are people who act as advisors to rebel groups, disgruntled intelligence officers and mining corporations – something that to them is quite acceptable. Yet, these same “knowledgeable” people are not prepared to write about matters of international importance or security as they know that their poisoned pens will be exposed for what they are. Nor are they prepared to write about similar companies operating in areas where the values of resources are higher but where their paymasters have no interests.

When one reads the papers, reports, blogs and books, there appears to have been an entire group working only on EO to generate false stories – or, they were receiving much of their (dis)information from the intelligence services. This “information” was then further shared with their other friends in the media who would publish the story in the mainstream media, quoting from “unnamed intelligence sources”. Once published, a process known as “blow-back” allowed them to re-write their stories and now quote it from the media – the very people they had fed the story to in the first place. Some selected pieces were then also fed to bloggers to help spread the story. Of course, they are also keen to assist authors who are writing on the subject of PMCs and again, this “information” is passed on as fact.

More frightening is the possibility that their misinformation can, regurgitated enough times, become entrenched in the minds of people as “fact”. When these quasi-facts are used to substantiate intelligence they become extremely dangerous and embarrassing, as the US can testify with its invasion of Iraq.

Today, there are still some journalists who generate stories on PMCs based on lies, speculation and political and other agendas. They are the ones who give credibility to rebel and terrorist movements and often champion their causes. Yet, when these journalists find themselves in troubles they are unable to cope with, they expect to be rescued – then even a PMC they have slated will do.

To some journalists and researchers, it appears as though their only aim is to underwhelm the public with information and overwhelm them with propaganda. They are the ones that should be held accountable for the lies and disinformation they spread and the chaos that results from their actions. Their shameful manipulation of information should be stopped by the media bosses.

But, despite these misinformers, there are still honourable journalists and researchers out there who are big enough to admit that they had been hoodwinked. I realised this when I read the full-page apology given to both EO and I in the Star newspaper of 5 November 2007. Others apologised to me in person. But, by then, the damage had well and truly been done.

Added on 7 December: Here is an interesting article on Wars That Matter, That You Hardly Ever Hear About by James Dunnigan:
http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200812701441.asp (see Point #4)

11 comments:

Kim Bottu said...

Mr Barlow,

You are spot on.

Regards

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well, Kim – I might as well use my soapbox. However, I can appreciate that some visitors may find this type of posting tedious and boring. But, I was never given a chance to state my case and have now done so. I shall henceforth refrain from discussing this issue again unless another "journalist" or "researcher" decides to fabricate something new.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

Eeben, I agree with your views in regards to 'political correctness', those who choose to misinform and war.

My opinion - the threat is not 'out there.' It is not the 'swart gevaar' in Southern Africa - it is not Mugabe and it is not the 'pirates.' EO's proved that some of these 'problems' can be solved.

The threat is within - those political correct white soft bellies in the world - those that choose to misinform - those who profit from misery - those who let dictators, criminals and rogue governments get away with murder.

These tactics are slowly catching up with the First World - the result pathetic knee-jerk reactions and the total destruction of countries with immense possibilities.

How do we fight THESE bastards?????

Kim said...

Mr Barlow

This may not be appropriate to publish on the blog:

All I remember is that EO almost succeeded to bring "peace" to Sierra Leone,untill it was forced to disban and retreat.

The next thing I remember is the UN peaceforce making a mess, right untill this day....

To me, it doesn't matter if EO was there for the money. Everyone with two braincells should see that the UN also only intervenes if countries see economic profits.


regards,

Kim

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You have hit the nail on the head Maurice – we have become so politically correct that we now seem unable to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong – in case it infringes on someone’s human rights. For some reason we seem to never see the problem coming until it has hit us with full force. The self-imposed blindness is costing us, and will still cost us dearly. When perspectives and unsubstantiated allegations/claims are rammed down our throats every day, confusion and doubt are sown.

I certainly do not claim to have all of the answers but I believe that we should stand up and make a point of highlighting false reporting – and insisting that the truth is put out in the public domain. Then people can judge for themselves.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good point Kim.

Just a small correction: EO did succeed in forcing the rebels to sue for peace but we were forced to leave Sierra Leone by international pressure – this departure is somewhat different from a retreat.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

Coming from America, we are deluged with either over the top one sided reporting on africa or we hear nothing at all. The hypocritical policies we do have in africa for decades should be a shame reported by 'journalists' but as you say, any media powerful enough to reach a broad audience is simply tarnished by economic or ideological forces.

I tend to believe that Africa will become more of a hit on the radar for americans as the world economy lags and the need for natural resources soars. The need for cheap resources. While America chooses not to be involved, the others such as the chinese are laying a stranglehold by proxy economic warefare.

I gag over issues like zimbabwe. It may well be that the continent that America ignores will be a centerpiece of foreign policy. And how will that be spun by the media ? Regards. Simon

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very valid point Simon. However, I am still of the opinion that we need to challenge false and irresponsible reporting in the media. Those journalists who have alternate agendas need to be exposed – but for some reason, they are allowed to get away with it.

America has had so many opportunities to establish a close tie to Africa yet most of the time, it has followed this up with betrayal and threats. For that reason, many Africans view US policy with suspicion. Of course, the Chinese have realised this and although many view their entrance into Africa as a form of proxy economic warfare, they were upfront about what they wanted. But the Russians and the Indians have trailed closely in their wake and when the West realises that they could do with a friend in Africa, the East will have blocked that door. What happens then is what bothers me.

The situation in Zim is enough to make one sick, but, we in SA seem to be following in their wake. Although the media reports on crime and corruption in SA, there have been no really in-depth investigations of “why” and thus is simply continues. The spin being put on all of this is to show the world at large that we are a good, obedient democratic society. The West, as usual, nods its collective head, speaks of action and does nothing.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
For all of our misgivings, our current president, George W Bush (media reports) has appropriated more money to the African Continent that any previous president.
Where it goes who knows, but they say it has gone.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

ER, the Bush administration has given more money to Africa than any other administration in the past. That is, indeed, so. But as you rightly question – where has it gone? And what checks and balances – if any – are in place to ensure it is spent as agreed?

Rgds,

Eeben

Alex said...

Hi Eeben,

I normally try to reserve my posts for more recent and therefore 'active' threads on your blog, but my internet research directed me right back here!

My question is, do you have, or know of, anywhere it is possible to view The Star's 'apology' online? I have been unable to locate it thus far in my web-trawling (although rest assured I am still looking) and it would be an absolutely perfect source for the chapter on EO I'm currently writing. I'm trying, perhaps fruitlessly, to find some sources that don't correlate with the mass of disinformation out there on the company, but apart from your book, two others and the odd comment here and there I haven't found much yet.

So if you or anyone else knows of where this (almost legendary) apology can be found outside of South Africa I'd be very grateful. You have my email if you need it for this matter but I thought I'd clog up the blog rather than your inbox for a change. I'm going to reference your post from here as well as it's very useful, perfect for what I'm trying to argue in my paper.

Thanks in advance for any help/advice.

Regards

Alex