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. 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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

AFRICOM: A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING - OR WHAT WENT WRONG?

When the US government announced the authorisation of an independent unified combatant command for Africa - known as AFRICOM - on 6 February 2008, they had evidently forgotten one very basic factor in their appreciation and planning: Where would this newly-established instrument of US foreign policy be based?

Asked Africa in return: Forgive our scepticism, but what is its true aim?

Some African governments went even further and claimed that AFRICOM was aimed at a continued destabilisation policy of the US towards African states – something Africa has great experience of. Others said that the US had applied gross arrogance in assuming that AFRICOM would be given a base in Africa as there had been no prior consultation with them.

Theresa Whelan, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence for African Affairs, has stated that AFRICOM’s focus will be on diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid. Few, if any African governments seem to believe this. If that is the case, they argue, why call it AFRICOM and why have such a large Department of Defence (DoD) component? Are all of these humanitarian-soldiers going to be doing diplomatic and economic work in Africa? If so, what are the US diplomats and aid agencies then doing in their countries?

Many African governments are in agreement that AFRICOM was most probably established as a knee-jerk reaction to the Chinese resource-hungry invasion of Africa and the likely threat this will hold for US interests – which are also primarily centred on resource exploitation. This seems to have sent Washington’s planners into over-drive. Additionally, the window of opportunity to establish a significant US presence in Africa was open to the US government all along but they simply chose to ignore it. When approached with options for establishing themselves in Africa, they ignored that too.

In a strange way, it reminded me of the warning we (a source and I) had given to the US in the Saudi Embassy in Pretoria concerning the imminent bombing of the USS Cole while it was docked in Yemen. The warning was there, the window to stop it was there but it was simply disregarded – until it was too late and lives had been lost. AFRICOM’s planners appear to have fallen into the same trap. The end result is that it is a little too late.

However, as America proclaimed the establishment of AFRICOM, Africa in turn greeted it with incredulity. Can anyone really blame them?

A senior African politician once said to me: “When we asked the US to help us, they helped the rebels instead! How can we trust such a nation?”

AFRICOM nonetheless forged ahead and appointed General William “Kip” Ward as its commander. Despite being an African-American and no doubt a very competent officer - many African governments found this appointment amusing. Whereas the US may view General Ward as an “African”, Africans don’t. This became apparent when General Ward toured Africa looking for a home-base for his humanitarian-diplomatic-economic mission. He didn’t understand the complexities of Africa, the politics, the people, their traditions, their distrust and their beliefs. The US, believing that Africa would find instant rapport with General Ward due to his historic “Africanness”, was wrong again.

General Ward’s tour through Africa in search of a base was not very successful, despite the Voice of America (VoA) elaborating on the “friendship”, “strong ties” and “goodwill” General Ward encountered in almost every country he visited. These strong ties and goodwill General Ward encountered throughout Africa have, as yet, yielded no base for AFRICOM – apart from the existing US base in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier) with its 2 300 troops that was immediately inherited from the US Central Command.

This did, however, not stop the establishment on 1 October 2008 of the air support component of AFRICOM, the Seventeenth Air Force which is currently based at Sembach Air Base in Germany.

Looking at the various successive US administrations’ record in Africa, it is one long script of betrayal, destabilisation, political blackmail and even worse. Is it then therefore such a surprise that Africa is concerned about its formation? Of course, the bigger African powers also see AFRICOM as an attempt to overshadow their hegemony and undermine them and their interests in Africa. African governments are willing to accept the US Dollar in times of financial crisis but, at the moment, that is as far as it goes. They remain extremely reluctant and wary to allow the wolf to guard their sheep.

As for the few whites that remain in Africa, they too have seen and experienced US betrayals first-hand. AFRICOM is therefore not seen as their saviour either in any shape or form. Instead, they know that their advice and knowledge of the continent will be turned down and thus they view it as another disaster in the making.

US foreign policy has in many ways been shaped by the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) (mis)adventures in Africa, both covert and overt. Whereas there have no doubt been some successes, the failures have been spectacular. Casting a look at the continent, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda and many others immediately spring to mind. Indeed, the US Special Forces are still active in Africa – training the Rwandan Armed Forces (amongst others) – nothing wrong with that - but who in turn are accused of providing support to the rebels in the DRC. “Are they part of AFRICOM?” asked an African minister.

The inability of the US to realise that Africa is a very volatile and complex continent, and not a large country with a common language has furthermore compounded their mistakes. The complexities are further evident by the mad dash by all and sundry to seize its natural resources for their own development with the West blaming the East and visa versa. Africa is indeed blessed with an abundance of natural resources - but this blessing is also its curse.

Unlike the Chinese who have made extensive use of human agents in gathering information and intelligence on Africa – as well as influence, the US has relied primarily on Satellite- and Technical Intelligence (SATINT and TECHINT). But Satint and Techint have many limitations – one of them being unable to see opportunities and correctly assess them. In the past, the CIA operatives in Africa were mainly concerned with recruiting Russian diplomats and didn’t pay much attention to Africa itself, apart from some poorly-hatched covert operations. By neglecting the value of human intelligence (or in the case of Iraq placing all their trust in a single disinformation agent – another post for another day) and influence, the US has been unable to gauge the mood of Africa and its likely reaction to AFRICOM.

This misjudgement becomes even more serious when it is considered that the US took their eye off the African ball and focused it entirely on the Middle East pavilion. During this period, the Chinese seized the moment – with India and Russia following in their wake - and several Asian- and Russo-African pacts were entered into, effectively shutting out the USA.

So for now AFRICOM remains firmly entrenched in Stuttgart, Germany – a LONG way away from heartbeat of Africa.

Friday, November 21, 2008

“I DID NOT DIE”

Rummaging through my papers the other day, I found a piece of paper I had saved many years ago. Taken from the magazine Army, dated May 1978, I have kept if for all these years as it made a huge impact on me as a young soldier. It still does every time I read it:

Do not stand at my grave and weep:
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am a diamond glint on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of birds circling in flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
So do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there – I did not die.

From the accompanying sidebar:

“The author was believed to have been a member of the 4th Infantry Division (Mech), which at the time the verse was penned was in heavy action in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. His words were prophetic because shortly after they appeared in a unit newspaper he was killed.

Who he was and how he died is not known. There was a name, once, produced at the editor’s request by a division which had more important things to do. It, too, has been lost.

Some day…

For now, thank you soldier, whoever you were. You have given more meaning to Memorial Day than I could have… LBJ”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PIRACY: A POLITICALLY ACCEPTABLE CRIME…?

The dramatic increase in piracy off the East African coast, in particular off the coast of Somalia – and recently the Saudi super-tanker off Kenya’s coast as well as the Chinese and Greek vessels - has led to an increase in naval activity in the area aimed at protecting vessels that may be targeted by the pirates. US and British warships, known as Task Force 150 (the international naval and air effort in the Gulf of Aden), have counter-piracy as part of their mission. But this mission is restricted in its scope as Task Force 150 has more serious matters to contend with. Some PMCs, along with a single independent Russian warship, also find themselves in this area engaged in protection and counter-piracy duties off these dangerous coasts.

It is only a matter of time before this type of crime escalates off the coasts of West and Central Africa and yields like-wise valuable pickings to this scum of the sea.

Operating with almost impunity, these pirates, joined by local criminal elements and fishermen who see the possibilities of making a quick million dollars, have been encouraged to continue with their criminal activities by the shipping companies who are only too keen to pay the large ransoms the pirates demand in order to secure the release of their vessels, crews and cargo. Whereas it is hoped that the shipping companies will do everything in their power to effect the release of their crews who man their ships - and the cargo they have been entrusted with - what about the ships? Do some shipping companies really want their ships back?

I found a bit of research into the subject somewhat disturbing. An analyst in military and intelligence affairs wrote: “In the past, piracy was suppressed by foreign navies destroying the towns of villages the pirates used as bases. This is no longer politically acceptable…

The implication of this ludicrous statement is that it is politically unacceptable to stop piracy. Further analysis of this statement concludes that it is the political right of these seaborne criminals to act the way they do. The recent thwarting of pirates by the Royal Navy was encouraging but why is no-one willing to attack them aggressively in the harbours and villages they use as bases? Could it be that there exists an inherent fear of the Somalis who have, in the past, repulsed the poorly planned and badly led attacks against them?

The ransoms the large shipping companies are willing to pay to secure the release of their vessels and crews totals tens of millions of dollars, money that most certainly is used to further perpetuate piracy, secure weapons and ammunition, fast boats, GPS, satellite radios and so on. This in itself merely encourages the pirates. Besides, how much of this money is passed on to radical terrorist groups?

Stopping piracy, especially in waters where it is a definite danger, is really not a difficult matter. It requires a very simple strategy and the desire to implement the strategy - at a fraction of the costs that have been spent on ransoms. It does not require massive warships patrolling the area. Furthermore, the aim ought to be to prevent the ship from being taken – not to only do something once the ship has been taken.

If it is politically acceptable for pirates to operate and commit crimes at sea, then surely it is politically acceptable for shipping companies to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect their crews, cargo and ships? This action does however require a commitment to end piracy. The fight needs to be taken to the pirates instead of waiting for them to attack a ship.

But the question needs to be asked: Do the shipping companies really want to stop it or are they quite keen to pay the increased insurance premium, use old ships and hope they get taken by pirates so that the insurance can pay them out?

If that is not the case, then political correctness has legalised piracy.

My next posting will take a look at AFRICOM’s African dilemma.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE FAILURE(S) OF THE UN IN AFRICA

It is astonishing that no-one in the United Nations (UN) has the moral courage to step forward and admit their shameful behaviour and subsequent failures in Africa. In fact, their lack of contribution to keeping peace in Africa has been nothing but disgraceful. At least some UN generals have opted to rather leave than be tainted with this shambles. Perhaps they knew that if they didn’t jump they would be pushed.

Perhaps the time has come to hold the UN accountable for not only its mismanagement, mis-strategising, misconduct and for completely missing the objectives of peacekeeping but also for the many thousands of lives that their incompetence has caused. But, this will never happen as long as their salaries are paid. They will merely continue to show their complete lack of understanding insofar as conflict-cause, conflict resolution, strategy and conflict-containment is concerned. Coupled to a lack of discipline, poor command and control, inadequate training and little to no intelligence, the state of affairs just gets worse.

The current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a perfect example at hand.

The UN boasts that this is its largest peacekeeping mission in the world with in excess of 17 000 men. The costs to maintain this monstrously inept machine are enormous. The results they have achieved thus far hover close to an absolute zero. The fact that they are even allowed to wear military uniforms and travel in military vehicles ought to be a disgrace to any military man with some pride.

Hiding behind the impressive name of MONUC, this force has been unable to enforce or keep any peace whatsoever. Yet, their press releases appear to intimate successes that are invisible to everyone else. Chaos and lives lost are apparently of no consequence to them. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless and continue to flee the conflict area, yet MONUC seems oblivious to all of this. If they really are that keen to do their job, why aren’t they then doing it? Perhaps they too will soon blame “mission creep” for their failures. Or, when the whole world finally sits up and takes note, they will probably state that a peace agreement is “imminent”. Until then, Ban Ki-moon and his cohorts will continue to express their desire to solve problems – and do nothing. Besides, solving the problem could have a negative influence on their “jobs-for-life” mentality.

They give themselves a new name for every mission and loudly proclaim how they are going to make a difference. The truth is that they do make a difference – upon their arrival things rapidly progress from bad to worse. Then, as they steadily entrench the chaos they bring, they quickly blame everyone else for their ineffectiveness. When they are called on to stand their ground, they buckle and leave in a hurry – or even worse, as they did in Angola, they blame the government for wanting to finish off the rebel forces while they in turn ooze sympathy for the rebels.

Indeed, in Angola it was well known to the men of EO that these so-called blue-helmeted soldiers would, once they arrived to keep the peace, snivel in their bases and send back false area intelligence and patrol reports to their headquarters in Luanda. These reports, which the EO signallers intercepted – and which I still have in my possession - showed what true peacekeeping incompetence is. Even worse, they gave the rebels glowing reports while blaming government forces for any cease-fire violations when the opposite was true.

Had that same situation occurred anywhere in Europe or even the USA, the besieged government would have been helped to defeat any rebel movement aimed at overthrowing or destabilising it. But this does not happen in Africa. Here both sides are supported by the UN and some Western governments/multi-nationals and then a decision is made as to who the winner is likely to be and then that side is supported – until they are overwhelmed. The UN is able to switch sides faster than one can throw a light switch. After all, Africa is mainly black with a couple of whites thrown in – so why would they care? At the end of the day, these lives – be it black or white – are just expendable Africans as far as they are concerned.

Just look what the UN actually achieved in Angola: The rebels, defeated on the battlefield, signed the peace accord in Lusaka, the peacekeepers arrived, confined everyone to base, forced the military to disarm while quietly (and knowingly) allowed the rebels to re-arm and then, when the war broke out again, they fled with their tails between their legs, blaming the government for defending itself. Is that peacekeeping or chaos-creation?

They also successfully applied a similar strategy in Sierra Leone, eventually losing so much control that the British and US had to race to the rescue. Before the DRC, this was their largest mission which they eventually hailed as a great triumph to peacekeeping. If one really looks at what happened in Sierra Leone, the UN is solely to blame for massive loss of life and destruction to personal property – to say nothing of the trauma, disillusionment and refugees they left in their wake.

Their record of indulging in criminal acts is also well documented – child prostitution, looting, rape, robbery and even murder are seemingly part of their peacekeeping portfolio. Perhaps the time has come for governments to start speaking out against the UN’s blundering and fuelling of fires. African governments should hold the UN accountable when they fail as dismally as they do.

It would furthermore do African leaders well to contract reliable PMCs to assist them with redefining containment strategies and implementing those strategies. The UN’s peacekeepers can then be expelled from African soil. This will ensure that there is a definite timeline for ending the conflict. Apart from the fact that it will cost a fraction of what it costs the UN – the DRC costs are currently estimated to be US$ 1,2 billion a year - it will also ensure commitment to complete the mission and there will be accountability to the contracting government – something the UN has neither of.

My next posting will take a brief look at the piracy problem off Africa’s east coast.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

When I was very recently approached by an independent Russian television station and asked why I was setting up offices in Moscow, I was more than just a litle surprised.

This question was put to me by the interviewer as a new South African company claiming to be a “reconstutitued” Executive Outcomes is now Russia-bound. Operating as “Professional Outcomes” these men, according to my sources in Russia, are apparently enroute to “sort out” problems in that country.

I initially found this to be very amusing but then it struck me that those people and companies out there claiming to either have founded or to have been part of Executive Outcomes ought to be exposed for the liars and conmen they are. Besides, the registration of the company in 1989 by myself ought to still be available at the Registrar of Companies in Pretoria thus giving anyone who really wants to know when and by who the company was registered the information they seek.

A lttle digging into “Professional Outcomes” brought up some very interesting information: There is a strong belief that they are a front company for an intelligence agency. I advised the Russians accordingly as I have now got to the point where I can no longer stand by and allow fraudsters to claim their involvement in the company. Besides, I still have a duty towards the real men - both black and white - who served EO so loyally and therefore I cannot allow these people to tarnish the repution of those good men that established EO’s reputation.

Professional Outcomes are not the only ones riding the crest of someone else’s success. What I find rather surprising is that given how hard some intelligence services, especially the South African ones worked at fabricating false intelligence reports to prevent EO helping African and other governments, they now want to ride the EO bandwagon. It appears that one of the principles of establishing cover has been either forgotten or overlooked.

It has become semi-common knowledge that there are a few PMCs out there that claim to be the reincarnation of EO. In one instance, they even claim to be the “real” EO. I am aware of two such companies in the USA and one in Australia. Maybe there are several more operating under the radar that I am blissfully unaware of. It appears as though some of them have even negotiated contracts based on this fallacy.

Then there is the Simon Mann myth: Despite the claims, he was never a founder-member let alone even a member of EO. Nor was he ever the “close friend” of mine as some journalists and bloggers claim he was. In fact, I would have been ashamed to have had him as a senior member of the company. But this never stopped him from insinuating that he was in some manner or form the founder of the company. On his latest adventure, he apparently even recruited men by somehow intimating that he was doing it on behalf of EO. But, talk is one thing and look where it got him.

There are others who likewise are out there winning contracts on the basis of their fabricated involvement in EO.

I find it a great pity that there are people out there that are willing to stoop so low and falsely lay claim to what some very good men built up with their sweat and blood. An ever greater pity that these frauds (I can think of no other name for them) never had anything to do with EO but now swagger about with a “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” attitude and by implication act as though they were part of the company. This is a slap in the face of the good men who served in EO and gave their all to the company and those governments that contracted us.

One trait a PMC ought to have is integrity. Sadly, these men seem to have none and therefore are blots on the names of those PMCs who are honourable and do the best they can, often under very difficult and trying conditions.

As I still have the complete name list of everyone who worked for EO, I would gladly verify any queries a company or organisation may have regarding a person who claims to be an ex-EO member. As every EO member had a specific “book number” – this was the person’s EO identity and file number – it will be very easy to establish his bona-fides.

As far as I am concerned, it is a crime to represent yourself or your company as something it isn’t and never was. Crime and associated elements such as security and personal protection are subjects I will shortly be addressing.

But first of many on the agenda will be the UN’s spectacular failures in Africa. After all, freedom of speech is something the UN subscribes to.

Friday, November 14, 2008

LOOKING BACK AND GOING FORWARD

I never thought I would find myself having a blog but since the publication of my book “Executive Outcomes – Against all Odds” (Galago, 2007), the feedback I got from across the world made me realise that a blog might be a good way to give some insights into the current situation. The book, as well as some of the reviews, can be found at http://www.galago.co.za/

Writing the book was however never a guarantee that people would read it. Today still, there are bookstores in South Africa that refuse to carry the book and book reviewers who refuse to review it. This despite the fact that I can prove what I wrote but those so-called journalists who wrote scathing reports about myself and EO cannot prove what they wrote. Some of them even had the gall to threaten to sue me…something I am sorry they didn’t do because a court of law would expose their duplicity even more.

Truth has a strange way of resurfacing several years later as I discovered when The Star newspaper in South Africa published a full-page apology to me.

Of course, running Executive Outcomes (EO) had me labelled as a “communist”, “mercenary”, “right-winger”, “conservative”, “racist”, “nigger-lover”, and even worse. Although I initially found the entire name episode directed at me a rather bitter pill to swallow, I eventually figured out that people were confusing what I considered to be right with their political and business agendas. Furthermore, wherever EO worked in a country where diamonds were a resource, the disinformation against the company started. I wonder why other countries’ diamonds were of such interest to a specific mining company, South African Military Intelligence and the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, not to mention their association with a company acting as an advisor to all three of them.

Be that as it may, I shall refrain from continuing with that tedious subject as I covered it in some detail in my book. Instead, I shall rather focus on defence and security issues at hand and particularly in Africa and the Middle East and give my opinion and thoughts on what is happening.