They say if you tell a lie enough times, it eventually becomes “the truth”.
The New York Times have certainly tried to keep up with that adage, prompting me to write to them a few minutes ago.
My letter read as follows:
15th May 2011
It was with interest that I read your article headlined Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder dated 14 May 2011 by your journalists Mark Mazzetti and Emily B Hager.
As the founder and chairman of the now defunct Executive Outcomes, I found it of even greater interest that they state in their article as fact that Executive Outcomes was “a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts...in Africa”.
Indeed, the only fact in their reference to Executive Outcomes is that it was a South African company.
Had your journalists done even the most basic of research, they would have discovered that:
1. Executive Outcomes was intimately involved in drafting the South African government’s legislation on foreign military companies
2. Executive Outcomes had a licence from the South African government to conduct its business
3. Executive Outcomes only accepted contracts from legitimate, internationally recognised governments. This included South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Indonesia to name a few
4. The South African media apologised to me for allowing themselves to be used to perpetuate disinformation on both myself and my company.
The book Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds, was written by myself and published in 2007 by Galago Publishing, detailing the company’s origins, contracts and activities. To date, no information I gave in the book has been refuted by any party.
I personally remain opposed to coups and I also run a blog where I have written, warned against and prevented coups in Africa (http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/warning-against-joining-planned-coup.html)
However, as your paper accepted and published a factually incorrect comment on Executive Outcomes, despite it being libellous, I reserve the right to take legal action. Meanwhile I demand that your journalists furnish me with proof of any coup attempts planned or staged by the defunct Executive Outcomes. Should your journalists argue that the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea is an example of such an action, may I point out that Executive Outcomes closed its doors in January 1998. It therefore cannot, in any way, be linked to a coup attempt several years later. If any ex-Executive Outcomes men were recruited by the planners of such a coup, Executive Outcomes can still not be linked to the attempt.
I look forward to your comments.
I received a reply back that read:
THANK YOU for writing The New York Times. We are grateful to readers who take the time to help us report thoroughly and accurately. Your message will reach the appropriate editor or reporter promptly.
I will keep you all informed of their actions and responses as I in particular want to know when EO acted in the manner they claim it did.