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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

UPDATING THE NIGERIAN NARRATIVE


There have been, since my posting “FEEDING THE NARRATIVE”, numerous media reports on STTEP’s work in Nigeria.

I, on behalf of STTEP, gave only one interview. I spoke on behalf of the company and not on behalf of the Nigerian Army as any such an attempt would amount to a fraudulent representation of the Nigerian Army. (By the way, I did not run to the media as some have alluded. The media in SA began their usual campaign of condemnation and my one interview was aimed at countering the false narrative they were so keen to propagate to benefit Boko Haram.)

The remainder of the so-called news reports that followed consisted of information lifted off the SOFREP website and many reports were padded with innuendo and fabrications. Some of the journalists even intimated that they had interviewed me when they hadn’t.  

Whereas I fully understand that some in the media need to ensure that their misleading narrative gets as much media play as possible, it is nevertheless a blot on the integrity and honesty of the many good journalists out there trying to make sure they report on real happenings and not figments of their imaginations—or that of their handlers.

I do not mind the mainstream and social media ageing me, demoting me, spelling my name incorrectly, using a stock photo from 1993 (I am told I looked a lot better then than I do now!), and claiming to know my military record. However, these “forgivable errors” merely point to a lack of very basic research. And by the way, Google is not a research asset.

I have no intention of trying to defend either the Nigerian Army or STTEP against fabrications and deception as that would require a book on its own—and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to do so. I do, however, need to point out some of the more obvious deceptions they have tried—and continually try—to carry out:
 
1.    I was a co-founder of Executive Outcomes: This lie has been repeated ad nauseum and forms the foundation of much of the rubbish written about EO. As it has been repeated so often, it has now become “the truth”. Any person who claims that he founded EO or was a co-founder (other than myself and a person who very briefly held shares in the company in 1989/90) is a liar and that can be proven by a quick search at the Registrar of Companies in Pretoria, South Africa. As EO was established in 1988/9 and worked under the radar, it only came to prominence in 1993/4. There are however some who lay claim to founding or being co-founders of EO. Basic research will prove them to be nothing other than liars. Some of these liars have even turned their claims into a business.

2.    STTEP was driving around in tanks in Nigeria: This remarkable comment was made by a journalist who obviously does not know the difference between a tank and an MRAP but who is still deemed to be a “defence journalist” and who happens to be a suspected intelligence agent. I rest my case.

3.    STTEP consists of white racists: Ironically, these reports attempt to create racial tension and nothing else. I am not too sure what race has to do with competence and effectiveness but apparently it means a lot to those journalists. Truth is that the company has white, black and brown Africans in its ranks, some coming from national armies and others from those who fought national armies. Plus, many of our applicants are black which makes a mockery of this comment—unless they too are “white racists”.

4.    EO/STTEP have invaded in Africa in attempts to “colonise” it: Neither EO before it nor STTEP have ever engaged in anti-government actions—anywhere. Some ex-EO men were recruited (several years after EO closed its doors) by a man who (still) puts himself out to be a co-founder of EO (a blatant lie) and he misled them regarding a coup attempt that failed. The initial comments regarding EO “invading” countries was however written by a well-known foreign intelligence asset, despite EO being invited there by the legitimate government to assist them.  Besides, how do Africans colonise Africa especially when invited there by the government of the day? The stupidity of this comment boggles the mind.

5.    I lied to men regarding medical and CASEVAC procedures: This comment by an internet troll claims I lied to my men regarding medical and CASEVAC procedures and options and left wounded men to die. Ironically, as an ex-SADF transport officer who was never part of either EO or STTEP, this troll also appears to know more than I do. No person in his right mind would want to work for a company that treats its employees in such a manner, yet we are overwhelmed with applications… Or is this lie being bandied about for another reason?

6.    I alone was responsible for the training and deployment of 72 Mobile Force in Nigeria: The journo who wrote this has no clue about something known as “team work”. I lay claim to nothing and all credit for the training must be given to the STTEP leader group and training team who achieved a remarkable result in a very short space of time with very little equipment and under extremely difficult and trying conditions.

7.    I sit in my office and expect the men to do what I won’t do: There are those who know me and then obviously many who do not. Suffice to say, I will never ask anyone to do something I am either unwilling or afraid to do. Many who have worked with me can attest to that.

8.    I recently gave a lecture in Europe on STTEP’s tactics in Nigeria: This comment was the result of a poor deduction made by someone who read my blog entry on the RDDC. The journalist who wrote that comment also hinted that he had actually interviewed me—he hadn’t.

9.    We trained the Nigerian Army (NA) in “relentless pursuit”: This comment was way off mark. Relentless pursuit is an element of exploitation and not an operational approach on its own. Another journalist then went on to claim that STTEP was using Boko Haram’s tactics against them!

10. STTEP only consists of ex “apartheid-era” soldiers: Shame, but something must be said to create the perception that we are white racists who harbour the politics of a previous government. Of course, whatever can be said to create racial tensions must be said. And of course, no mention is made of the many black Africans who wish to join STTEP as that would totally upset the narrative. And by the way, many who work with us are not ex “apartheid-era” soldiers.

11. STTEP gets paid for its work: This shocking revelation has truly exposed us as getting paid for our services. The journalist who wrote this obviously works for free. Yes, we do get paid but we get paid a LOT less than foreign PMCs who operate in Africa will multi-million dollar budgets, funded by foreign governments. In this instance, we were a sub-contractor and had no room for any negotiations regarding payment. STTEP has done contracts where it worked for zero-profit to support those who needed help but of course, that must never be mentioned.

12. STTEP is a threat to Africa’s security and stability: It appears that working to ensure an end to conflict, as quickly as possible, constitutes a threat to Africa’s national security and stability. I suspect this comment is made because STTEP is actually seen as a threat to numerous nefarious foreign agendas and interests, not to mention some NGO’s who thrive on conflict as it fuels their income.

13. STTEP has claimed the credit for Boko Haram’s losses:  Unlike those who make false claims, STTEP will NEVER take credit for something it didn’t do. This pithy comment is merely aimed at trying to discredit the Nigerian Army and attempt to create antagonism between the NA and the company. False claims that STTEP rescued hostages in Sambisa forest is another falsehood as that was done by the NA.

14. STTEP engaged in a “secret” war in Nigeria: This sensationalist comment apparently expects the Nigerian Army to send early warning to the enemy that they are about to launch an attack. Maybe the journalist felt that “secret” would add a sinister twist to his story. Or maybe he felt that the Nigerian Army were “playing dirty” by not telling the enemy what their intentions were?

15. STTEP engaged in a “dark war” against Boko Haram: I am not too sure what a “dark war” is. Perhaps the foreign news editor who came up with this comment could enlighten me what it actually means. Or maybe his “sources” that never existed would know what he meant.

16. STTEP is part of the “Executive Outcomes Group”: The so-called “EO Group” (http://www.eogroup.biz) are conmen who are trying to use a defunct company’s name and reputation to gain contracts—albeit under false pretences. Despite being (telephonically) confronted over this fraudulent business practice, they still persist in their deception. Maybe the media should talk to them as they claim—on their website—they have “10 000 employees working in 70 countries”. 

I suppose I could go on and on…but my ramblings will merely become boring—even to myself. Besides, it gives the media the opportunity to say I ramble on and on…

Perhaps now the many decent and honourable journalists will understand our suspicion talking to them. They have been tainted by their very unethical, unprofessional and unscrupulous colleagues who continually abuse their positions to feed a false agenda and narrative—and who, apart from their salaries, most often get paid by their shadow paymasters as well.

Does that make me hateful of the media?

No, only very cautious as trust is not given unconditionally, it is earned.

65 comments:

Mike Da Silva said...

Good day Eeben. I see you still cannot reach these fools.
You have become our new collective bogey man. Maybe the fools in publication would prefer ISIS, Al Shabbab, Boko Haram to murderlize their way through countries un challenged because this leads to way better video footage than when the true bastard nations are being handed their arses to them.

You are upsetting the ratings apple cart. Screw the people who are being brutalized by the savages and rather print crap about those trying to alleviate the murder of innocents by correctly training the armies in the region to mop out the crap themselves.

I have all but given up on western media and it's fabulously misled double standards, they are allied to the savages for the singular reason of RATINGS.

They get paid more for footage of beheaded and slaughtered civilians than reports of terrorists killed in an ordered and disciplined military contact. You sir are talking the food off the "journalists" table and for that I salute your efforts.

Hell, you may soon find yourself being charged with interfering with the loss of income of the journalists as the attacks on civilians in north eastern Nigeria falls leaving nothing for the blood thirsty journo's to salivate over.

Journalists can be a blood thirsty bunch just like the scum they supposedly "expose" who commit atrocities under the banners of ISIS,IS,Boko Haram ,Al Qaeda, Al Shabbab etc.

Without the mindless slaughter these supposed journalists would be out of work and they strike at you because you are the one they see as the primary cause of their financial demise. These boobs need to find another area of expertise to report on like, dog beauty pageants or flower shows.

It is truly amazing how the world screams in "anger" at the atrocities committed by these black clad mad men but when people stand up and offer training to combat these cowards the world immediately vilifies those who help end the slaughter. People want to see carnage.

Mankind are nothing more than rubber neckers at a car accident scene. We slow down to see the gore and then act all horrified while taking a second glimpse to feed the senses and drive home the shock of seeing pain being suffered by someone else.

A while back I chucked a pile of random thoughts together pertaining to the Van Breda axe murders down the road in Stellenbosch. The families domestic char ended up coming in to work for us on Saturdays and I relayed in very simplistic terms what she related to me about her time with the family. Low and behold I was mailed on Thursday past by a "journo' from You/ Huis Genoot magazine who asked for the domestic char Clara's number to hopefully garner an interview.

I had told Clara that she has an opportunity to earn some income from an interview but she has to set out guide lines to protect her testimony from being warped. I suggested she be very humble and totally honest when discussing the family and insist she record the interview so that her words not be inflamed or warped. She must not guesstimate or imply anything and only give testimony on issues she physically witnessed. Along with the R10000.00 offer she was given (to wet her appetite) she must request a written agreement. This way she has legal recourse if they pervert her story. Naturally she is worried but she has lost quite a large chunk of income due to the terrible demise of her previous employers.

Journalism was once a medium of honour but has degenerated into a scoop fest not dependant on accuracy or truth so long as blood and misery is guaranteed.


Regards Mike (book number 32)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Long time, no hear, Mike!
I do not mind being the bogeyman as the media placed me in that category as far back as 1993 but then at least they should get their facts correct. The problem is that they then wrote so much disinformation and fabrications that they now becomes lost in their own deception as “research”.
Yes, some of them are more interested in chaos and the slaughter of the innocents as that increases their ratings. And when there is a period of relative calm, they try to encourage disorder. Yet, we are the “mercenaries”.
These self-same “reporters” who try to influence public opinion are totally against us training armies to defeat conflict and/or terror. So perhaps their calls for a non-SA company to be prosecuted may soon evolve into calls for us to be prosecuted for having a negative impact on tier “specialist” fields of reporting.
I believe we only have to look at the agenda the journalist is punting to know whose foreign interests he/she is serving as an agent of influence and always for money. Yet we are the “mercenaries”.
I think the tragedy is that they are and have tarnished the many good journalists who really want to report the truth but their lies upset the true stories and are far more sensationalist than the truth could ever hope to be.
Fortunately, many governments in Africa are starting to realise just how they have been misled.
Good on you for helping Clara! She is probably seen as a vessel for further sensationalist exploitation.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Very well written, Eeben.

I am happy, especially considering all the other, more important, things you have to do, that you still try to set the record straight. I know it must often seem like a thankless, endless task.

nkem70 said...

Sir,

I wish you did not take out time from your 'already' tight schedule to respond or answer those ignoramuses, who claimed to be pundits on military issues. However, I admire you for distinctively clearing up the air, as it relates to the allegations, and for giving plausible explanations to the faux pas assertions. Boko Haram created an environment filled with melancholy; the government and the entire Nigerian citizenry seemed confused as to how to combat the menace effectively. Various incongruous theories and oxymoronic analyses were loosely thrown around.

In my opinion, most of the so-called reporters/journalists were trying to justify their miserable existence, hence they cooked up so many stories just to confuse and lure readers to their writings. The 2015 prediction of damnation, which the “West” forecasted for Nigeria, is the main reason why these journalists supported their misguided articles with lies, biases and sentiments.

Colonel Barlow, as a professional you should know that those analyses were orchestrated with bad intentions and, most of them are jealous of your lucrative contract and the collaboration you had with the Nigerian military.

The use of PMC is not rampant in Africa and most are oblivious of the process. As matter of fact, many do not even know anything about the military other than the green or blue uniform they wear. Furthermore, the Nigerian government and the military, did not do a good job with their public information dissemination, they mismanaged the scuttlebutt and allowed the public to form very sketchy opinions about the entire process. The government did not effectively control the allegations and they allowed the public form a wrong perception of the actual use of PMC. I believe they could have reduced the rumors with transparency and active/constant updates.

With Regards
Adegoke
@nkem70

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you David.
I know the media will not take any note of this but from my side, I have put it out there.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your comment Adegoke.
You are correct in that some in the media tried very hard to confuse the readers of their articles. However, when a group of terrorists such as Boko Haram are suddenly referred to as "militants" you can be sure there has been an agenda change.
The media has a huge responsibility as it is able to create perceptions that are lasting. Sadly, some tried to abuse their positions and give Boko Haram a sense of legitimacy and condemn everyone and everything aimed at stopping them.
As you mentioned, the armed forces on the other hand did not exploit the informational environment and I believe this was an error that cost them in terms of perception. Rumours, once they gather momentum, are very difficult to counter, especially when they are given credibility in the media.
Rgds,
Eeben

Alex Perry said...

Good day Eeben,

Many thanks for the many corrections here. As you write, not every journalist will likely read these -- nor take note of them -- but there are very useful indeed to those journalists trying to get their facts right. I am, I have to say, one of those, and for that purpose, I have been trying to reach you. As for my bona fides, I wouldn't claim to be an expert on BH or Nigeria, but I covered Africa for eight years for TIME, and I've been visiting and writing about Nigeria since 2009, and especially Boko Haram. Last year I also wrote a brief ebook on BH: http://www.amazon.com/Hunt-Boko-Haram-Investigating-tearing-ebook/dp/B00LMJTQ76/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1433158257. Let me know if you'd like me to send you a copy). I'd really like to give the story of this year's events in Nigeria the same comprehensive and authoritative treatment, relaying the truth about what went on from those who know. I'm now based in the UK but can travel anywhere to meet you. Can I persuade you to give me some time? I'm at alexanderjperry@gmail.com. Best. Alex Perry

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your message and kind offer re your ebook on Boko Haram, Alex.
The story on Boko Haram is a Nigerian Army story and not a STTEP story. It was unfortunately the media that tried to turn it into something else.
I have given an interview re STTEP's limited role in Nigeria and have nothing more to add to it.
Rgds,
Eeben

Alex Perry said...

Thanks Eeben -- I caught the SOFREP interview, which was great, and actually prompted me to get in touch. What I would propose is something different in style -- more reporting from the ground, interviews across the Nigerian military, civilians etc, and also a more writerly style. Your modesty about STTEP's role does you great credit. I won't hassle but, if you'll allow me, the story I think I see from your interview -- not just Africans fixing African problems, but Africans of all colours and nationalities uniting to fix one of Africa's worst problems, and one the outside world singularly failed to address -- is fantastic, and important, and one I'd love to help tell. I have a book out this September (http://www.amazon.com/The-Rift-New-Africa-Emerges/dp/0297871234) which deals precisely with the same themes of African self-assertion, and the idea that Africa is, now -- I think -- achieving the substance of its freedom, in particular by beating back those who would tell Africans what to do and how to be (namely the continent's own dictators, jihadis and (especially) foreign aid workers). Anyway, enough from me, but do let me know if anything of the above appeals enough to change your mind. Best. Alex

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your understanding, Alex.
Whereas I appreciate your candidness, I must again reiterate that the Nigerian Army must be afforded the opportunity to tell the story and not STTEP. It is, after all, their story.
The only reason I was willing to do the SOFREP interview was to negate the almost immediate disinfo campaign that started when it became known that STTEP was in Nigeria. However, we did not "leak" the story as some have alluded as we will never betray the trust of a government.
It still remains ironic (at least to me) that foreign "others" that do what we do are not tarred and feathered by the media. I see this as proof of a definite bias against Africans working to bring stability to Africa.
I hope your forthcoming book does well for you.
Rgds,
Eeben

Alex Perry said...

Dear Eeben -- what you say here, about a weird bias against Africans fixing their own problems, holds a lot of truth. I won't hassle you any more, but I thought I'd write a final note just to say: thanks for the discussion and your eloquent and thoughtful replies. Best. Alex

niek du toit said...

Well, it has been fun battling the Troll, correcting the spelling of your name, and vomiting each time that British arsewipes pic is placed in same report about you....you know, the 'co-founder'....at least I get a chance to practice my vocabulary on social media..ha ha

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Alex.
If ever you visit SA, we can always share a coffee but not for an interview...
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Niek.
There are several of these lurking trolls who prefer to make up stories as they go along but lack the moral fibre to direct their lies at my face.
Rgds,
Eeben

Alex Perry said...

A pen-and-notebook down coffee sounds good, thanks Eeben. I have a couple of stories in SA I'm mulling, plus a lot of old friends in Cape Town (where I lived from 2006-2014), so I'm sure I'll be over soon enough. Is this forum the best way of contacting you? Best. Alex

Tony Kandralides said...

Don't bother wasting your time explaining yourself because of rotten excuses for journalists. Well done and keep up the great work to you and the whole team.

Jose Alves said...

Greetings Colonel Barlow, congratulations on another excellent article I really enjoyed reading it, so much so that it has become a subject of intense debate amongst us expats here in Nigeria.
To quote the words of Thomas Jefferson "the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers".
Ironically journalist always cry foul when they get censored but when they write garbage and it gets publish they expect to be commended.
Well done my Oga, and looking forward to reading your next article!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Keep me posted on your travel plans Alex.
If I am around, we can share a coffee.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Tony.
However, I have always tried to give these people the benefit of the doubt but they have proven that they do not deserve it at all.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you Oga Jose.
Jefferson was a wise man.
It is sad that some of these people cried foul went on their anti-STTEP campaigns with the express aim of trying to save Boko Haram from annihilation. At least, we now know who their media supporters are!
Take care up there!
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I can only assume you are an illiterate person who has aspirations to enter into journalism Anonymous. The fact that you need to hide your name is proof of your cowardice. Your blasphemy makes me think you were educated in the hull of a sinking ship somewhere. I cannot publish your foul-mouthed rant on my blog - perhaps you might rewrite it and discard the blasphemy and vulgar language?.
Sadly for you, Executive Outcomes had – and still has - more friends than you can imagine. By friends I mean governments in Africa. Sadly, your “educated” West put them under pressure not to talk with us and some were even threatened with being destabelised if they made use of EO. This approach to “peace” has also recently played out with governments informing us of the threats made against them by Western powers. It seems you all are so desperate to ensure that Africa remains in conflict with all of the death and destruction you so thrive on.
I somehow suspect you stumbled across Pauli Poisuo’s 7 January, 2014 as your guide to knowing more about us than anyone else. That are many who whisper that Poisuo may be a disinformation agent as it is obvious he could not have thought out the rubbish he wrote on his own. Also, I never recall him traveling to where we were working or even going to any effort to check his “story”.
I really would like to meet you one day in Africa.
Until then, get a life.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Mr. Alves comment makes me want to respond so, while I am happy to acknowledge there are a lot of scandal seeking twits out there pretending to be journalists, I will say, having researched and written on the subject of PMSC for over twenty years, and having dealt with many, many reporters regarding this issue that not all of them are Aholes. Some of them have done very decent work, even including those working for newspapers.

Yes, not enough of them, perhaps, but I suspect that has less to do with bias against contractors and more to do with not understanding how military affairs work, most of them not having been in the military themselves.

That said, I fully understand the ire against those who have written, shall we say, stupid stuff, about STTEP. I'm just saying that not ALL reporters are like that.

David Isenberg

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are absolutely correct David – there are many decent and honourable journos out there. In my post I referred to “some” and not all.
I cannot speak on behalf of Jose but I suspect he too was referring to the “some”.
As South Africans we have been subjected to the uninformed opinions of “some” who work hard at shaping the opinions of many. In so doing, they do not even make an attempt at basic research but instead lend their ears (and pens) to lies, rumours and innuendo (that is much easier than having to do research!) and then they expect to be showered with accolades for their “work”.
You, having been a Navy SEAL, are one of the very few who has a deep understanding of conflict and war and you are tireless in your research. I know that. But sadly you are one of the very few. The difference is that you not only understand the subject matter, you conduct hours of research into the subject. As such, I have never regarded you as a journalist but rather as an author, a researcher and my friend.
My gripe, in particular, is about those who have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the political and military situations in a country, have never been there, have never conducted one iota of research (apart from using Google) never check facts, do not know the difference between strategy, operational design and tactics and so forth, yet expect everyone to believe the utter and absolute rubbish they write. It is also evident in their writings that they have a great sympathy towards those who rape, pillage and murder.
It therefore becomes a “scoop” in their minds if they can, in whatever manner possible, attack those who try to stop the chaos happening but they make no effort to write about those who are causing the chaos. I also suspect that some of them had never heard of Boko Haram until it became known that we (STTEP) were in Nigeria.
Rgds,
Eeben

Jose Alves said...

Dear David, I was merely making a point about the way that certain members of the press and their respective employers have been reporting on the situation as it’s happening in Nigeria.
I work and live in Nigeria so I agree 100% with Colonel Barlow’s assessment on those who are critical have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the political and military situation over here and I suspect that they have another agenda to discredit STTEP.
If my comment gave the perception that all journalists write lies then I apologize because there are many honest and professional journos out there who are a credit to their profession.

Regards,
Jose Alves

David said...

Dear Jose,

I both take your point and agree with you. I would be the last one to say that all reporters do good work on this issue.

In hindsight, my comment was more a reaction to those who criticize reporting on all private military and security contracting companies, or the industry as a whole, as opposed to those who criticize STTEP.

I'd agree with both you and Eebeen that when it comes to the latter there are lots of people who, to put it politely, don't know their tuchus from a hole in the ground.

I'm not a reporter but having written early on about EO, when I did a television episode on the subject, believe me, I am sympathetic to the idea that there are lots of people out there who are clueless about the subject. Note to them: to understand why PMSC are not mercenaries try looking up Art. 47, Additional Protocol I, Geneva Conventions.

That said, I can say, without a shred of doubt in my mind, and having had the opportunity to work at the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) in its final year that there were and are lots of companies out there who do deserve criticism.

Regards,

David

David said...

Dear Jose,

I just replied to your comment but the system seems to have crashed and it has not been published. Suffice it to say there is no real disagreement between us.

Regards,

David

David said...


Eeben,

I noted that you were careful to distinguish between some and all in your post. That was a careful distinction. Ironically, not all "journalists" do the same.

I have often pondered why coverage of the PMSC industry is frequently inaccurate. Contrary to what others say, I don't think it is because there is a bias against contractors. Ignorance of what they do and how they do it plays a role, of course, as I previously mentioned. But I think there is something more than that and I believe it is this.

Usually, good reporting on any subject comes because the reporter doing it is assigned to a beat, meaning there is one subject he or she covers every day, regardless of whether it is the Middle East or making cars. They study the documents, talk to the "experts", dig deep, go in depth,....

But what IS the PMSC industry? if you take EO as a starting point it has now been over 20 years. Clearly it is a lot larger, involves a lot more money and people, spans a far bigger part of the planet. But you still can't find two people who will agree on what a definition of it is.

If the industry itself can't define itself, although the promulgation of ISO standards is a sign that things are getting better in that regard, it should not be that surprising that news coverage is bad.

I suspect and hope that when the industry is clearer on what it is and does coverage of it will improve.

However, in the meantime there will be, as you and others note, people who are just lazy, incompetent, and sloppy. Jeremy Scahill anyone? Ah well, it's an imperfect world.

BTW, thanks for the promotion but in the interest of maintaining an accurate historical record I was just a Navy swabbie, not a SEAL.

Cheers,

David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your input, David.
Much of what you write makes sense but then surely these reporters ought to get a grip on their subject before they write about it?
The world has moved on since EO's days but the disinformation many of these journos wrote (and many of them were actually agents I exposed in my book) lingers on the internet and forms the basis of much of what the media writes about today.
In your previous comment, you alluded to a great many companies who put themselves out to be PMCs but in fact are nothing other than incompetent extensions of foreign policy. That hardly makes them "private" and many of them have failed dismally in their contracts that were awarded to them on silver platters.
STTEP/myself have seen the result of some of their efforts and either they purposely set up those they trained to fail or they should never have even been allowed into the country where they worked.
Neither EO nor STTEP ever invaded a country, set itself up to conduct organized crime such as resource and people smuggling, drugs and weapons smuggling, prostitution, rape and so forth.
However, I do note a disturbing trend when "terrorists' become "militants" or "soldiers" and giving those who create chaos an alluded to sense of legitimacy.
The media ought to inform people and not misinform them. But lazy, sloppy and incompetent journalism, along with an implied sympathy for terror groups appears to be the path many so-called journalists wish to walk.
But until some of those who purposely write disinformation and lies are held to account, this trend will simply grow.
Sorry about the SEAL vs Swabbie...my mistake.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Eeben,

I think the difference is that many of the reporters writing on this don't have it as a full time subject. Maybe they generally write about military affairs, or Africa, or terrorism, but they know next to nothing about private military or security companies.

Note to the media: If you would like to have someone write on this full time I'm available.

So, they start calling around and may, or may not, actually reach someone who follows it. But that supposed expert may not know much more than the reporter so it quickly becomes a vicious circle, or perhaps circle jerk is a better term.

Yes, surely reporters, in theory, should get a grip on their subject before writing about it. But the reality is that they are always under deadline and have limited time.

I take your point about disinformation lingering on in the online world since EO's day, but I think a big difference is that the universe of information has expanded by orders of magnitude, as has the ease of getting it.

As an example, when I wrote my Soldiers of Fortune Ltd. study, which came out about the time I did my TV episode on EO, MPRI, and Sandline I had an intern scour the internet for a month or so to try and find info on the subject. She came up with about 60 references. This was about '97, so only 2 years after the internet became widely publicly available. I knew more about the subject so I found another hundred or so.

But now? You would get hundreds of thousands of results. And not all of it would be useless dreck. There is now a lot of high quality info on the subject out there.

I agree that there should be accountability but it should not just be for journalists. It should also be for the governments who employ them and who neglect their obligation to due due diligence and ongoing monitoring and oversight for contract compliance on them. And, as you noted in your book, it was governments who took steps to spread BS about EO

I don't follow the African press as closely as you so I can't speak to them. But here in the USA I can't think of any in the media that have sympathy for Boko Haram.

If anything, generally the press here accepts the gov't party line fairly uncritically and the party line is that BH is a terrorist group, pure and simple.

Yes, sadly, there IS, lazy, sloppy and incompetent journalism. There is also, lazy, sloppy and incompetent GOVERNMENT.

Using Iraq as an example it seems clear, at least to me, which bore the greater blame for getting us involved.

Best,

David


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You make some valid points David but again, I believe that some journos are just lazy and incompetent and harbor sentiments for anti-government forces that chose to use crime and terror to coerce the innocent into joining their cause.
I gave up speaking to them a long time ago as I realized that the truth was the last thing they wanted to write about. In fact, they were happy to write anything but the truth.
Yes, it was governments who generated the disinformation on EO as they saw us as a threat to their nefarious foreign agendas. (STTEP is apparently placed in the same box as EO by the USG) But, the media lapped it up without giving any consideration as to why a government will attack a company working with a legitimate government to end terror and chaos. The fact that they (some) were unable to even use half a brain cell was in itself disturbing. Ultimately, the truth lost.
The fact that, in this example, Nigeria has been the beneficiary of years of foreign training by foreign government forces that, in our opinion, set the Nigerian army up for failure, is not even considered.
I still firmly believe that some in the media abuse their positions to create perceptions and in so doing indirectly influence public opinion to gain some sympathy for terror groups. EO/STTEP are apparently "sinister names", we "secretly" plan the downfall of these groups, we wage a "dark war" (I have still to discover what this means!) and so on.
But, I have long come to realize that some of these clowns thrive on chaos and the more chaos, the more they have to write about. Which is precisely why we do not speak to them and allow them to spew their lies and then we will expose them for the con artists they are.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Eeben,

Re "but again, I believe that some journos are just lazy and incompetent" well, yes, I would not presume to argue against that.

As for "and harbor sentiments for anti-government forces that chose to use crime and terror to coerce the innocent into joining their cause." are we speaking of BH? If so, are you speaking of media in Africa? If so, I'll gladly take your word on it. But, as I noted previously, I haven't seen any media in the USA going that route.

Re "The fact that they (some) were unable to even use half a brain cell was in itself disturbing. Ultimately, the truth lost." well, yes, I can see why you would be disturbed. If I were in your shoes I'd doubtlessly feel the same way. But the state of humanity being what it is these days a whole lot of people, not just the media, are like that these days, so I'm not sure they are much worse than anyone else.

As a case in point I invited you to watch C-SPAN on any given day and watch one of our members of Congress talk about what to do about ISIS.

Yes, yes, I know, it is the press and they are supposed to be better than that. And politicians are supposed to act for the greater good. How's that working out for you over there, by the way?

Overall I actually think we agree more than we differ. My only caveat is that we need to be specific when we talk about the media. Who exactly are we talking about? An actual reporter, someone on an editorial board penning a thumb sucking polemic, when he or she wouldn't recognize a rifle even if they were butt stroked by one?

Call me Jewish but I'm always wary of generalizing, which is why, for example, I don't use words like mercenaries when writing about PMSC issues.

Similarly, we've both seen good and bad in the media world. I just don't want to assume that the bad are representative of all. That would just be untrue.

When it comes to PMSC issues I have always found it helpful to read what is in the trade press, i.e., Jane's, Defense News, military monographs and studies, or periodicals that still do detailed longform reporting, i.e. Atlantic, Harper's,...

Cheers,

David

Feral Jundi said...

Outstanding discussion and it is good to see some familiar folks in the comments section. First, congrats to STTEP for the great job they did in Nigeria! I only hope that Buhari will consider what impact STTEP had on the fight against Boko Haram, and continue Nigeria's relation with your company. Goodluck picked the right tool for the job, and Buhari should set aside politics, and deal with that truth.

Unfortunately, the West will probably pressure Buhari not to use STTEP, and throw money and military advice/hardware at him to keep him in their pocket.

As to the media thing, interesting conversation. My view is that I started my blog to fill that information void, and counter the lies, myths and half-truths floating around out there. I also can build upon what is reported, and actually give some analysis and perspective that is unique to someone working in this industry. The media no longer has the monopoly on information dissemination, and blogs or social networking are a big factor in that new reality. We have had this discussion in the past, and it is as true today as it was yesterday.

If anything, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I am able to connect with way more people, share more opinions and ideas with those people, and learn way more about this industry and the people in it because of networking, than I ever could have on the blog. And because the 'Facebook machine' loves blog posts or articles, any post I insert into that machine gets traction. And of course the media is trying to do the same thing, but will never compete at the same level when it comes to niches like this industry.

One question Eeben in regards to what STTEP did in Nigeria. I don't remember reading in the SOFREP articles if this was asked and answered. Did STTEP create the strategy to fight Boko Haram or did someone else advise the military and leaders on strategy? Or did the Nigerians come up with the strategy, and call STTEP to build capability within a key aspect of their strategy? The reason I ask is that training and mentoring is one thing, but actually helping a country with a strategy and building capability to support that strategy is pretty significant. I mean the results speak for themselves, and Buhari would be dumb not to keep your company involved. Cheers!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

David, the SA media has a few journalists who are very apologetic towards anyone who rises up against a government in Africa. One or 2 of them are even “defence reporters”. Perhaps they believe that by showing sympathy to those who wish to overthrow governments will make them be viewed as “objective” or “politically correct” when in fact, their insinuations, innuendos and blatant mistruths are very obviously aimed at generating sympathy for anti-government forces.
Whereas some may have a genuine reason for rising up against a government, the manner in which they do it and their motivations, support and end-game are seldom if ever questioned. Maybe we should invite some along and arrange for them to spend some time with these anti-government forces so they can witness the carnage and murder of innocents first-hand.
The C-SPAN link you sent me was very good and some pertinent points were raised in that discussion. You also added a lot of value to it.
I doubt there would be many people, had they had to endure the blatant lies and disinformation myself/EO had to endure, would be able to look at their actions with anything other than distaste and loathing. Ironically, some of those who immediately began their “reporting” on STTEP, were the same who jumped on the EO bandwagon. They also hinted at the SA government going after STTEP to prosecute us, not realising the SA government cannot prosecute a foreign company.
Insofar as our politics is concerned, we are well aware of many shortcomings. But, that does not imply I have to take up arms to make a point.
Yes, we do agree more than we differ but debate is never a bad thing if it is not aimed at being divisive and confrontational.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good to hear from you again Matt and thanks for the compliment.
As you know, the West has pressured the new Pres not to use STTEP and have again offered advice, training and support. As it certainly didn’t work last time round, what will make this any different? Ironically, some African governments have already asked me why the new Pres thinks this will work when several years of foreign training trained the NA to do very little.
Sometime ago, someone started a FaceBook profile using my name. I seem to have sorted that out but truth be told, I often just don’t have the time to access these platforms and exploit them as I should. Someone on Twitter has also given me advice on using the social media platforms.
You certainly run a well-maintained blog that informs as opposed to misinforms. Well done as it is one place to go for current info on matters relating to PMCs.
Currently, my blog is my counter to much of the disinformation the media punts about us. I really ought to investigate the other options.
It is a very good thing the media no longer has the total monopoly over reporting on conflict and war. At least I can voice my opinion on some matters now.
In Nigeria, the Strike Force was an asset of a certain infantry division. As such, the division commander was responsible for the overall theatre strategy. He would brief us on a specific operation and ask for our input. He would also ask us how best we could support his operations.
Generally, our relationship with African armies is that they engage with us on planning and execution and we give our input. At times, we are asked to plan the overall operation and then oversee the execution.
I think Pres Buhari will play his cards close to his chest but I also think he wishes to avoid the pressure the previous government was put under by Western governments for using us.
After all, we are beginning to suspect that the end-game is to ensure a destabelised Africa, especially resource-rich areas.
Rgds,
Eeben

Feral Jundi said...

Very interesting. Do you think there is a chance that STTEP might be brought back for it's original task of rescuing the '200 girls' from Boko Haram? Or was that removed from the contract?

What is interesting to me is that STTEP was also called upon to go after Kony, by training Ugandans in pseudo operations. None of that history was talked about with the various articles written, and it was odd that it was missed.

The results of that contract speak for themselves. Here is a quote from the New Yorker about the damage done to the LRA because of the training the Ugandans received.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/10/how-a-texas-philanthropist-funded-the-hunt-for-joseph-kony.html

"But then she reminds herself of the numbers. In the past two years, L.R.A. violence has dropped by ninety-three per cent, from seven hundred and six killings in 2010 to only fifty-one in 2012. According to Resolve, a U.S.-based analysis and advocacy group, the L.R.A. had approximately four hundred fighters in 2010; by June, 2013, they were down to a hundred and eighty Ugandan fighters and fifty armed zande—abductees from Congo and the Central African Republic.
“It was only ninety-three per cent because of relentless pursuit,” Davis said. “If we pulled out, that would plummet. I know that is something to celebrate. And if Kony dies a natural death under a mango tree someday, I’m O.K. with that—I know he’ll see justice, as long as he is not hurting kids and women.”
“We don’t need accolades,” Davis told me. “We are not bleeding at the end of the spear, getting pursued by crocodiles and killer bees. The Ugandans are.” And they show no signs of letting up."

What is even more shocking about the Kony operation, was how close the pursuit force came to getting him in the Sudan. Who do you think tipped off Kony and his crew, because it sounded like they had clear satellite imagery that showed he was there in that camp--fat and lazy. Is it possible that certain groups did not want STTEP and Bridgeway to be successful. To show up the west and their gold plated armies and prove that private industry can actually accomplish such tasks? Much like what Roelf and the PMPF/Sterling did in Somali with the rescue of the MV Icerberg 1? Or what Bull Simons did in Iran when he helped to rescued captured employees of Ross Perot's EDS company?

And back to the Nigeria, could the same scheme be applied to the act of rescuing the '200 girls'? A rescue that would yet again, put the spotlight on private industry upstaging governments and their ineffectiveness at accomplishing such tasks? Interesting thoughts... Although I certainly would have loved to see Mrs. Obama shaking the hands of the rescue force as they delivered her the '200 girls' that Boko Haram kidnapped. lol We will see....

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I doubt it will ever happen Matt.
Our mission only changed because of Boko Haram’s gains that needed to be countered and reclaimed by the Nigerian Army. Sadly though, we only had 3 months in which to do it (this included retraining NA members) so it was not a perfect scenario at all. We did what we could in the limited time we had but at least we know that despite the international panic, we did good. Bottom line is we were merely a subcontractor and had little or no say on some matters.
Maybe the reason the SOG training to hunt and kill/capture Kony got so little media coverage is that it might really have exposed the poor training the Ugandans got from foreign armies. It was disgraceful. The article you referred to also came under huge fire for writing positively about STTEP. I suppose such is the nature of modern foreign policy where the aim is to provide bad advice, poor training and attempt to keep chaos going.
And yes, there was great concern that we might succeed in our mission – and the concern was not from African countries.
As for Bridgeway, I can only state that they were truly keen to end Kony’s reign of terror but were stopped from using STTEP – and not by the Ugandans. You can make your own conclusions.
I was asked by an African army’s COS to sit in a room next door to where a Western General was briefing him and to listen to what was being said. He, his country and his government were threatened with “unfortunate things can happen” if they made use of STTEP. Recently a National Park was similarly threatened if they used us. I can only therefore surmise that there is a desperate effort to keep chaos going in Africa to suit foreign policies – and I think you know exactly who I am referring to. I find this both sad and disturbing but such is the foreign policy of some.
I doubt the private enterprise model using a PMC would work in Nigeria for numerous reasons. But again, that would be politicking. However, we would have loved to have played a role in the rescue of the Chibok girls but that was not to be.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...

Re "As you know, the West has pressured the new Pres not to use STTEP and have again offered advice, training and support." It would be good if you could provide some details on that. It would make for a good story/article.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Some of the offers from free training and so forth have already been widely written about David.
I will, in the not too distant future, write something about the pressure exerted on governments who "dare to use" STTEP.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Eeben,

Yes, I'd seen articles about the offers, but it is the "pressure" that interests me.

No news to you, of course, but EO had to deal with this in Sierra Leone.

I very much look forward to what you will write.

Cheers,

David

David said...

Speaking of training you might find this relevant,

http://www.lobelog.com/think-twice-about-more-military-aid-to-nigeria/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks David.
I will soon be getting around to writing on the efforts to block us. Ironically they follow a process of "talk peace but make war".
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link David.
One has to wonder exactly what training was given at what cost? Perhaps that is why there may be second thoughts on it?
Rgds,
Eeben

Jacinta said...

Hi Eeban I think you are my 2nd cousin my mum is mara my grandmother is margurite ( nee Wilson ) ( her sister was sally ) we would love contact cheers

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Jacinta.
Yes, I believe we are related. I discussed this with my Dad and he knew Marguirite. My mum was Sally.
Please send me your email address (it will not be posted on the blog) and we can take it further from there.
Rgds,
Eeben

PorkHead said...

Good Morning Eeben,

I trust that you are well.

I just finished reading your book, Executive Outcomes, against all odds. It would not be decent of me not to write in and tell you how much I enjoyed each and every page and how much it inspired me.

Thank you very much for sharing your remarkable story. Respect.

Regards & best wishes - Shane

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your kind words, Shane.
However, it is also the history of many remarkable men.
Rgds,
Eeben

Mwaura Kinuthia said...

Hi Eeben!
I'm a male 40 smth year old US born Kenyan male with much respect for what you do. I've been following the terror narrative in Africa and caught your sofrep interview in which you said:"BH pows have stated they're flown by helicopter piloted by Europeans."
I find this fascinating since even here in Kenya, a few,still only a few wonder about the true nature of Al Shabaab. Fyi,the owner of the westgate mall in which almost 70 were slaughtered in September 2013 has clear links to 911.
"The mall attack,like every terrorist atrocity in the past 2 decades everywhere on earth has the unmistakable whiff of a false flag. It wasn't possible to prove the exact shareholding but one of the directors of the Westgate mall is one Israeli citizen,Frank Lowy. An Israeli with the same name had an interesting relationship with Larry Silverstein properties. Yes,the one and only Silverstein who owned the World Trade Complex and managed to double his insurance payout."
http://karanjazplace.blogspot.co.ke/2013/09/the-nairobi-westgate-mall-mindrape.html

Please do your own research to confirm this-I have,and its all factual. Which Europeans are these flying BH fighters-Brits,French or even Americans,maybe? When was this and to where? Is this support still continuing?
I do believe these 'terrorist' atrocities will continue till we identify the real forces behind terrorism. If you can't answer these delicate questions publicly,please email mwaura7@gmail.com
Rgds
Kay

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment, Kay.
As for who the “Europeans” are one can only speculate. Sometimes also, it is possible that lighter skinned Eurasians and even Middle Easterners could be mistaken for “palefaces”. As we left Nigeria at the end of March 2015, we are no longer there to follow up on this matter. A pity though as I would love for us to capture one or two of them.
I must admit that I have not really researched all of the information available on the 9/11 tragedy and its possible link to Kenya. Thank you for pointing me in that direction. It is something I will need to check out.
There is also a lot of circumstantial evidence that points to some foreign powers covertly assisting and supporting terrorist movements and other proxy forces. One does not have to look too far for that information although the internet can be effectively used to alter/modify perceptions of a specific nation-state. It is what happens on the ground that gives the “evidence”.
Take care!
Rgds,
Eeben

Mwaura Kinuthia said...

Hi Eeben!,
I was checking in to ask your opinion on the captured BH cluster munitions when I saw Alex Perry above. Fyi,the same guy wrote in 2011 "Faced with al-Shabab’s well-armed, experienced and more numerous guerrillas – fighters who two years ago saw off a far fiercer, better trained and bigger Ethiopian force – Kenya’s soldiers seem headed for deadlock at best and, at worst, bloody defeat."
http://world.time.com/2011/10/19/kenya-invades-somalia-does-it-get-any-dumber/
Btw,Alex,have you been to Kismayu since it was captured in a combined night time airborne/amphib operation in September 2012? Have you changed your mind? You have your own opinion to which you're entitled but you come across as contemptuous,ignorant and unnecessarily snarky proving why Eeben stays away from journos.
Rgds
Kay

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

These people never cease to amaze me, Kay. In their minds, they have the worlds problems solved...yet they seem to have a desire to fuel conflict with their bias reporting usually in favour of those wishing to sow destruction.
However, we must never deny them their human right to make a fool of themselves...after they publish their 'facts' it usually only takes a few months to prove they were lying anyway.
BTW, the BH cluster munitions were not something we encountered.
Rgds,
Eeben

Alex Perry said...

Hi Kay, hi Eeben -- I don't mean to take up any space on this excellent blog with a diversion into the sins of the press. But if you'll allow me a brief response, I'd say: foreign correspondence is an anachronism, a colonial hangover, and the idea that foreigners should, in any way, be defining Africa to the world, rather than Africans themselves, is clearly nonsense. Telling your own story, to the extent that it impacts your control over your own destiny, is a fundamental human right. For foreigners to abrogate that right, whether they are foreign correspondents, foreign aid workers or foreign human rights observers, is to trample on that human right. Africans should be telling African stories. That they often don't -- or don't get heard -- is a simple reflection of global material inequality which, far too often in the West, is taken to indicate political, social or even racial inequality. Foreigners think they're superior, and it's been that way, sadly, since the first European arrived in Africa. Also since that first arrival, and very often as a direct result of that arrogance and presumptuousness, foreigners have got Africa's story wrong.

In a foreign journalist's case, that linear and undeniable position is counter-balanced, to a degree, by two things: the fresh insight that an outsider can bring to a situation; and the experience and insight that a professional journalist (by which I mean a genuinely intentioned one, who spends his or her working life in pursuit of knowledge) can also impart by being relentless in the pursuit of the facts and skilled in their clear and accessible presentation. Still, there's no doubt that, as I say, foreign correspondence is an extremely imperfect way of educating or informing, not to say an outdated one, and should always be following African voices, not leading them.

Pursuit of knowledge is actually why I was trying to talk to Eeben. Eeben knows a lot about some things I'm researching. On the other hand, I quite understand why both of you are skeptical of journalists. I understand, too, why you might be skeptical of my journalism, in particular: I'm British, I used to work for an American magazine that many took as a shorthand for the Western establishment and there's no doubt that from time to time I made mistakes in my copy. I like to think that whenever those were pointed out, I/we made corrections and apologies but there may well be some that slipped through. More to that point, I given the wider context of foreigners getting Africa wrong, I can see how any mistakes I did make would be taken as further evidence of that presumption and ignorance.

Alex Perry said...

Regards Kenya's invasion of Somalia, you may differ, Kay, but I think it's hard to make the argument that that was either a military success, or to deny that Kenya's accompanying xenophobic campaign against Somalis in Kenya stoked further polarisation on the coast and in Eastleigh and created an atmosphere in which al-Shabab began to view places like Garissa University and Westgate shopping centre as legitimate targets. I'm not saying al-Shabab's view was justified. I'm just saying Kenya's Somalia policy created blowback, which I think was the prediction I was making in the article you highlight. That said, AMISOM's campaign against al-Shabab -- into which Kenya eventually rolled its efforts in Somalia -- is the most stunning example of Africans taking care of African problems (problems which the US, the UN and the 'international community' failed to address for close to two decades). It's amazing. The revival of Mogadishu, notwithstanding attacks like today's on the Sahafi hotel, is astounding. And I have covered that at far greater length.

As you say, Kay, we're all entitled to our opinions. What gets everyone's goat, whoever they are, is when they are misperceived and misunderstood, especially when those misperceptions persist even after the facts point to different conclusions. It's quite remarkable how that happens -- how perceptions are so often more powerful than reality -- and, I promise, quite disconcerting to the well-intentioned journalist. In Africa the facts, it seems, are not enough. I promise I am not trying to punt books here, but I should probably point out that this September I released a book which takes in close to a decade of reporting in Africa and covers the continent's past, present and future. Its central point is that outsiders have, really, always got Africa wrong. It tries, at some length, to expose these misperceptions and misunderstandings (and you should tell me if I've missed any.) It devotes a number chapters to Somalia and AMISOM. It actually opens on an investigation into how well-meaning foreigners were partly responsible for one of the worst war crimes in history in Somalia in 2011 (in brief, famine relief workers, at the US' behest, created a famine in which a quarter of a million people died). Perhaps most significantly, I think, it positions Africa today at a pivotal moment of self-assertion where rising economic and social well-being is giving Africans the means and the authority to push back at anyone pushing them around, whether they be the continent's last remaining dictators, the new resurgent jihadi groups, aid workers -- or even, yes, foreign correspondents like me. I'm hoping that, if you read it, you might adjust what does seem to me to be a misperception of my work (though, I grant you, a not uncommon one and one whose foundations, as I say above, I do understand.)

Best to all,

Alex

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your clarification Alex.
However, my skepticism sadly remains as I have been the victim of much media-instigated disinformation in favour of those who wish to destabilize and create havoc in Africa. It therefore becomes increasingly difficult for me to alter my position and perception as much damage has been done to Africa through the promotion of foreign agendas.
You are correct in your view that Africa ought to take responsibility for its media coverage - something it seems loath to do and that does give those who wish to entrench negative perceptions through the media an ideal opportunity to do so.
As for the 'well meaning foreigners'...they are very few and far between...
Good luck with your work.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...


Re "Its central point is that outsiders have, really, always got Africa wrong." I would just say that having traveled around the world, probably at least more than most Americans, I would say that outsiders to EVERY region, not just Africa, usually get it wrong.

It takes a LONG time to understand a single country's culture, let alone a region, assuming that is even possible, so it should not come as a surprise that any outsider, tourist or foreign correspondent, gets it wrong.

Personally, as an American I am in favor of foreign correspondents, in the sense that they produce snapshots, not definite judgments, of the rest of the world, which Americans, being famously ignorant about the rest of the world, sorely need.

Cheers,

David Isenberg

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A valid comment David.
I don't think too many people have a problem with foreign correspondents IF they report the facts and not their version of a situation. I know that you do in-depth research on what you write but that is sadly not the case with many foreign correspondents who, after being in Africa for a week, are suddenly specialists on the continent. And often their stories are coloured in by their perceptions of a given situation to appease the agendas of their papers.
Mind you, many African correspondents are the same.
My cynicism towards them remains.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...

Eeben,

I think when discussing the subject of "foreign correspondents" it is helpful to remember that the term is not monolithic. Just as it was helpful to remember that not all communist nations were equally communist (and, no, that is not an apologia for communism) not all foreign correspondents are the same.

For one things, some people confuse foreign correspondents with pundits who spend a few days, or maybe a week, in country X and then presume to declaim to all us supposed common lay people on what is going on.

It is also helpful to remember the pressures and challenges that the media faces nowadays. The news business has been cutting back on foreign correspondents for decades. Only a very few major print publications, some global news services maintain a network of foreign correspondents with any depth in scope. Their professionalism and competence I leave others to judge; although I think many are still quite good.

Also bear in mind that a foreign correspondent may really know his or her stuff, and write a great piece, only to find an editor spikes it in favor of the ten millionth piece on the antics of the Kardashian family.

And then, at least for the USA, there is the reality that the bulk of the population isn't that interested in the rest of the world. That is, of course, ironic, considering that most Americans take it as their semi-divine right to be the presumed masters of the world, but that is another story.

In short, you get what you pay for. Considering that people only pay attention when tragedy happens (the old news maxim, if it bleeds, it leads, applies here) is it any wonder Americans pay more attention to the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars?

This not to excuse bad foreign correspondents. We all know they exist. But I think there is a real supply and demand problem here. Despite the reality of an ever more connected works (Thanks a lot, globalization) people don't want quality foreign coverage, even though they need it.

Couple this with disruption of the media universe in a digital age and it is small wonder, at least to me, that the traditional sources of foreign news often under perform.

Personally, I believe quality foreign news coverage is still not hard too find, IF you are willing to invest some effort in it.

The difference between now and when I grew up in the 60s is that you can no longer depend on the established sources, the national newspapers or the nightly news, to be the authoritative source. Everyone now has to be their own editor in search of the news that matters relevant to their own area of interest.

Of course, that means more work, which most people, understandably, don't have time for, so they fall back on the old verities, even though they know they don't give even a reasonably complete picture. They know something is happening but the details, which always matter, are beyond them.

In short, it is caveat emptor, for those interested in foreign affairs.

Cheers,

David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Again a very valid view David and one I cannot fault.
That said, I too have also witnessed the utter mistruths and deception some of these specialists write and thrive on. Their views are often tainted by their support for forces who are intent on destabelisation and the ‘heavy-handed approaches’ followed by national armies. They punt their agendas as ‘truthful reporting’ but any investigation into their writings reveal that they are punting a foreign policy. As perceptions determine many people’s realities, it is no small wonder that people have little to no clue as to what is really going on in the world today.
You are very correct: There are many good correspondents out there. The problem is (1) identifying them and (2) they are tainted by their unscrupulous and unethical colleagues.
It is not strange for us to get an email from a so-called foreign correspondent in effect trying to threaten us with negativity if we do not speak to them. We don’t speak to them but we do take very careful note of who they are and who they proclaim to work for. Their hypocrisy and lack of understanding of conflicts and wars boggles the mind yet they are supposedly informing a readership on matters which they have no understanding of.
I speak from an African point of view and it is very obvious to see how some of these people are being used to further foreign agendas and even prepare a country for conflict.
It is equally interesting for me to read about ourselves where these so-called champions of free speech appear to know more about us than we know about ourselves. But then again, they will never allow the truth to get in the way of a good lie.
In many professions, people with such a lack of integrity and understanding of a situation would be immediately fired.
So I retain my cynicism towards them and what they stand for.
Rgds,
Eeben

David said...

Eeben,

I have just a couple of other points I wanted to add; namely, that I think there are some structural issues that need to concerned, which have nothing to do with media bias.

First, we have been using the term "foreign correspondents" when what we really are discussing is war/conflict correspondents. The latter is a narrow subset of the former, and, as such, it is even more difficult to find people who can do well at it.

Why is this? To start, covering conflict requires, I believe, a combination of skills. A reporter may be good as a reporter but woefully ignorant about military issues. That is not necessarily their fault. Lots of people don't know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to military affairs. Even worse, lots of people like to pretend they do, because it's seen as a sign of being hip.
But, if they do have military experience they may not want the job.

Let's say you are an experience infantryman or Marine. You are a civilian now, maybe with a family, who understandably doesn't want you in a war zone. Even if they accept it you probably aren't going to be well paid. Okay, maybe the NY Times pays C.J. Chivers well, but he is probably an exception.

The old saying, you get what you pay for, applies here.

Conversely, one may have great understanding of the politico-military issues involved but be a lousy writer.

Unless you are a major paper or wire service in a country that is engaged in a major multiyear war in another country (such as the case was re the USA in Iraq of Afghanistan) you are probably not going to go to the expense of setting up a bureau, or even a dedicated individual who really understands what is going on. You are more likely to rely on a local stringer. That saves money but he or she will likely lack understanding of the military, political, and cultural issues.

Finally, you have to consider the fractured media age we live in. The news is no longer the province of a few major papers, wire services and a few tv channels.

Instead, everyone is doing it. Professional media, bloggers,, citizens, man in the street ignoramuses,... and they ALL have a need to produce content 24/7. They don't all produce it themselves and if they do may not be that careful when they produce it (that, btw, is just incompetence, not bias) or they may not produce it at all and just post material found anywhere. As you well know large parts of the digital world are just mindless echo chambers.

For all these reasons I am less concerned about bias on the part of correspondents and more concerned about the influence of corporate despots (Rupert Murdoch and Fox, anyone?) who are more than willing to use their massive media networks in the service of whatever extremist politicians who will give them a better deal.

Since, the vast majority of the media is CORPORATE owned, perhaps we should be talking more about corporate bias.

Cheers,

David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Points well made and taken David. Thanks for your input.
I agree that corporate news services do the bidding of their major advertisers and supporters. That does not excuse them for acting as a witting channel for misinformation/disinformation - or to at least get SOME of their 'facts' correct. Having been on the receiving end of this utter hypocrisy, I can only but shake my head at the amateurish approach that is sometimes followed.
But, once something has been posted as a 'fact' on the internet under the banner of a major news outlet, it remains there forever. Indeed, the internet does not forget...and nor do I.
I will therefore go to whatever lengths necessary to expose these people for that they are...useful idiots with an inability to truly connect the dots.
Rgds,
Eeben


Mwaura Kinuthia said...

"Regards Kenya's invasion of Somalia, you may differ, Kay, but I think it's hard to make the argument that that was either a military success, or to deny that Kenya's accompanying xenophobic campaign against Somalis in Kenya stoked further polarisation on the coast and in Eastleigh and created an atmosphere in which al-Shabab began to view places like Garissa University and Westgate shopping centre as legitimate targets."
After all this time you haven't changed our mindset and you're still wrong! If you'd done a minimum of research you'd have realised this was actually the KDF's second war;the first in the 60s was against Somali secessionists in the vast dry North Eastern Province bordering Somalia. The air force was tiny consisting of I think 4 or 6 strikemasters and/or hawks jets;but don't quote me,90% of the Somali NEP residents supported secession and there was no air cav-who won that conflict?
There is no xenophobia against Somalis-our foreign and industrialisation secretaries are both Somalis,as was our police and army chief 6 and 25 years back respectively.
The foreign forces in Somalia,the Ugandans and Ethiopians have taken heavy casualties-in September the UPDF took 50 KIA and annouced their withdrawal. The EPDF around the same time took a similar number.Also,Eeben has mentioned more than once the foreign hand in terrorist/rebel activity.
Did you see this:"As for who the “Europeans” are one can only speculate. Sometimes also, it is possible that lighter skinned Eurasians and even Middle Easterners could be mistaken for “palefaces”. As we left Nigeria at the end of March 2015, we are no longer there to follow up on this matter. A pity though as I would love for us to capture one or two of them."

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment Mwaura Kinuthia.
Rgds,
Eeben

Mwaura Kinuthia said...

I know its late Eeben,but happy new year to you and everyone else on this page! Yes,Alex,even you! Have you seen the latest false flag?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3377850/Westfield-bomb-pair-guilty-Pathetic-drug-addict-family-turned-tried-blame-diamond-wife-terror-plot.html#ixzz3vmkDtBGU

Luckily there were no casualties. Obviously it was purely a psyop. Who owns the London Westfield? "Despite the Westfield Group's asset dimensions, the Westfield Group is strongly controlled by the Lowy Family Group, including non-executive chairman, Frank Lowy, one of its founders"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westfield_Group
G-A-A-A-S-S-SP! Where have we seen that name before?
If you don't see the truth of all these inside jobs fabricated by Western intel by now you never will. Lets make 2016 the year we all say no false flag terror!

Unknown said...

Greetings mr. Barlow, I have for sometime now tried to follow up on the situation in Africa, and STTEP's activities, although it is hard to get any real info (other than rattling about EO's mercenary era). It is just now that I find out STTEP has stepped away from Nigeria. If it isn't something secret - what is the company up to now ? Do you have current operations going ? Just for the record, I am not a journalist, just a former soldier, who is now in the PMSC industry. Hope everything is well, wish you all the best.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment, Mwaura Kinuthia.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Journalists are quite amazing Unknown. They even believe the disinformation they wrote about EO and now quote their own lies. And then they wonder why we despise them and refuse to help them push someone else’s agendas against us.
STTEP left Nigeria last year and we watch the sad results that the latest foreign training has brought them. Yet the media have nothing to say about this.
We do not disclose where we are active or what we are doing. That is for a client-government to do and not us.
Rgds,
Eeben