spies and mercenaries


… the US does not have any positive or credible tradition of genuine assistance to freedom fighters and liberation movements in Africa.

Just as the US military carried out psychological warfare against US senators, one of the tasks of Africom is to rain down psychological warfare on Africans. Built in this subtle psychological warfare is the concept of the hierarchy of human beings and the superiority of the capitalist mode of production and ideas of Christian fundamentalism. It is on this front that we find a section of the US military known as the “Crusaders.” (Horace Campbell)

Ivory Coast and Libya in red, Sudan, Eritrea, and Zimbabwe in orange, these five countries are the only countries left in Africa that do not have partnerships, with AFRICOM. Ivory Coast and Libya already have active rebellions sponsored by the West, US, UK, France, and NATO.

Two [Ivory Coast and Libya] of only five [Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and Zimbabwe] African nations that have not entered into individual and regional partnerships with the Pentagon through AFRICOM are the targets of violent uprisings aimed at toppling their governments and installing client regimes subservient to the U.S. and its NATO allies. Eritrea, Zimbabwe and a truncated Sudan will be left. And will be next. (Rick Rozoff)

Both Libya and Ivory Coast are already subject to western invasion, bombs and black ops in Libya, and attack helicopters, troops, mercenaries, and massacres in Ivory Coast. The United States forced the timing and the execution of the elections in Sudan that called for partition. The US has been demonizing Eritrea for some time, and accusing it of arming Somalia, although most of the arms in Somalia come in courtesy of the US. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe has been demonized for years.

On April 5 the chairman of the African Union, Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, condemned French military operations in fellow West African nation Ivory Coast and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s war against Libya, stating: “Africa does not need any external influence. Africa must manage its own affairs.”

Though hardly a model of a democratic ruler, having come to power in a coup d’etat in 1979 and governed his nation uninterruptedly since, Obiang Nguema is the current head of the 53-nation African Union and his comments stand on their own regardless of their source.

In fact Obieng retains his position in large part because he is propped up by AFRICOM and US military contractors such as MPRI. He is one of the most cruel despots in the world, stealing the wealth of his country and his people, and leaving them with little or nothing. His words are still true, and should apply to himself as well.

Obieng “Each foreigner is susceptible to proposing erroneous solutions. African problems cannot be resolved with a European, American or Asian view.”

Only 30 months after becoming an independent command, AFRICOM has consolidated military-to-military relations with 50 African nations, including non-African Union member Morocco and the world’s newest state, South Sudan. Changes in government in Ivory Coast and Libya would add two more countries to that column.

Just as the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference divided the African continent into spheres of influence between the major European powers and the U.S., with Ivory Coast belonging to France and Libya later taken by Italy, so now the U.S. and all the major former European colonial masters, who are now fellow NATO member states – France, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Turkey – are again planning to establish dominance over what has become the world’s second most populous continent. (Rick Rozoff

_________

Just as the US military carried out psychological warfare against US senators, one of the tasks of Africom is to rain down psychological warfare on Africans. Built in this subtle psychological warfare is the concept of the hierarchy of human beings and the superiority of the capitalist mode of production and ideas of Christian fundamentalism. It is on this front that we find a section of the US military known as the “Crusaders.”

Horace Campbell puts together information from speeches and articles, and tells us about the Crusaders:

… these Crusaders are bent on intensifying a war against Islam, and see themselves as protectors of Christianity. … these neoconservative elements dominate the top echelons of the US military, including figures such as former commander of US forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Vice Admiral William McRaven. These crusaders have held American foreign policy hostage. Hersh said, “What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over.”
… a lengthy report that placed General David Petraeus at the heart of the Crusaders.

Not only do these Crusaders have control over the US military, they are also linked with a faction of the Catholic Church called “Opus Dei,” an arch conservative order that has links with international banking, finance, militarism, and intelligence formations. Besides Opus Dei, one finds the fundamentalist evangelicals in the US, who are linked to the forces of Islamophobia and corporate elements. One crucial figure in this world of neoconservative militarist was Dick Cheney, former US vice president and chairperson of Halliburton. It is worth noting that it was from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush) that the idea for United States Africa Command originated.

Many of these Crusaders are overt white supremacists.
The careers of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their corporate allies in the Carlyle Group, General Electric and Cerebrus spawn a world-wide web of conservative militarists, politicians, intellectuals and capitalists. These crusaders do not only disdain other cultures and religions, they have little or no regards for people of color.

For some time, there have been open disagreements within the military between these Crusaders and another section of the military called the “Rocks.”
Originally, the “Rocks” were formed by senior officers in the military who are non-whites. Colin Powell first wrote of the existence of the Rocks in the US military in his book, My American Journey. Although the narrative on equal opportunity in the US military has been part of the public discourse in the US, these officers faced discrimination and felt left out of the “white old boy networks” in the military. … these black army officers chafed as they saw their counterparts rising to the highest ranks and going through the revolving door of the military industrial complex and private military contractors.

Although the Rocks started out among the ranks of officers of color, by the time Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld intensified the politicization of the military, decent officers who were not crusaders identified with one philosophy of the Rocks: that the military should not be used for the interest of private capital. Many of the rank and file who learnt of the treatment of former servicemen after their tour of duty became Rocks, so that today the Army at its core e is dominated by the Rocks.

… the billionaire Koch Brothers stand out as a formidable financial backbone of crusade activism.

… In the New Yorker magazine we were treated to a very detailed analysis of the neoconservative war by Jane Mayer, Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are At War with Obama.

In the Bush years, the Crusaders conceptualized the US as being in a permanent global war, using the phrase, “global war on terror” (GWOT), to justify their link to particular factions of Wall Street and the manipulation of national security for political and capital ends. …

For a short while when the book, Dark Sahara, by Jeremy Keenan exposed the fabrication of terrorism in North Africa, the Crusaders temporarily retreated. When the Free Officers Movement from Algeria (MAOL) corroborated some of the information that had been outlined in the book by Keenan, the Crusaders toned down the language on Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and instead focused on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. However, with the sweep of revolution across Yemen and the downgrading of the importance of the bogy of terrorism in Yemen, the forward planners inside the Pentagon decided to go all out to rehabilitate Africom in the service of the Crusaders.

In the face of the public opposition from African thinkers and opinion makers, the forward planners for the Crusaders moved to spend money among struggling academics to promote an ideological onslaught to legitimize the United States Africa Command. Beside this intense work among social scientists, the forward planners among the Crusaders decided to employ the services of propaganda firms to fan the flames of Islamophobia in Africa. Africom has embarked on a massive public relations campaign to sell itself as a force for humanitarianism and development in Africa. Hence, for the past two years, almost all aspects of the United States foreign policy in Africa have been subordinated to the Pentagon. Essentially, with the force of only 1,500, Africom serves to hand out contract to private military contractors. … These licenses are granted through the State Department so that the US Africa Command gets the contract for training African armies and then there is subcontracting to firms such as Dyncorp, one of the most energetic of the military contractors in Africa. DynCorp, essentially private army is now owned by Cerberus, one of the largest private equity investment firms in the United States.

… The posture statement of the United States Africa Command declares that, Africom “contributes to increasing security and stability in Africa—allowing African states and regional organizations to promote democracy, to expand development, to provide for their common defense, and to better serve their people. “ However, as the relationship with the dictator Obiang exposes, Africom is more concerned with the stability and security of US petroleum interests in Equatorial Guinea than with the democratic rights of the people.

The use of private capitalist armies by the US military crusaders in the Middle East has peaked in Iraq and Afghanistan, hence the consolidation of their market frontier in Africa.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt shocked the Crusaders and they calculated on how to make a move to gain the support from the US society and consolidate Africom. The debate over saving civilians in Libya provided the best opportunity, and Barack Obama opened the door to strengthening the crusaders – the very forces who do not believe that Obama was born in the USA.

… The Crusaders waited for the moment to bring back their public push for Africom. And they seized it.

AFRICOM is the tool of acquisitive neocolonial crusaders, the most racist and reactionary elements in the US military. Their PR campaigns feature lots of photo-op good deeds, builidng roads, digging wells, painting schools. The soldiers who do these jobs are generally good hearted decent people. As Campbell points out, few are acquainted with the history of US military involvement in Africa. We need to remember that history and avoid continuing it.

The US was complicit in the planning of the murder of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, after which they propped up the monstrous dictator Mobutu Sese Seko who raped and pillaged the country and established a recursive process of war, rape, plunder, corruption, and brutality which the Congo still suffers from till today. Jonas Savimbi was sponsored by the US to cause destabilization and terror in Angola. The US gave military, material and moral support to the apartheid regime in South Africa while anti-apartheid freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, were designated as terrorists. … The US has yet to tell the truth about how Charles Taylor escaped from its prison custody in Massachusetts to go destabilize Liberia.

Read Campbell’s entire article: US Military and Africom: Between the rocks and the crusaders

After reading that read his more recent article: Libya must not be partitioned. Partitioning Libya is exactly what the big oil companies are seeking. The neocolonialists are seeking to repartition Africa according to their current competition for resources. And as in the previous scramble for Africa they are trying to portray their rapacious acquisition as humanitarian.

The raging debates at the highest levels of the US National Security establishment and various interests within NATO over the current military ‘stalemate’ in Libya conceals an even more competitive effort on the ground in Libya by petroleum interests who are keen on dividing up the territory to ensure access to the vast oil resources of Libya. At the forefront of this aggressive partitioning effort is the French military, political and oil establishment that has not only recognised the transitional government in Benghazi but has also been the most pushy on advancing military options even in the face of opposition from other NATO members such as Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey.

I also recommend Mamdani’s article: Libya: behind the politics of humanitarian intervention.

Iraq and Afghanistan teach us that humanitarian intervention does not end with the removal of the danger it purports to target. It only begins with it.

Having removed the target, the intervention grows and turns into the real problem. This is why to limit the discussion of the Libyan intervention to its stated rationale – saving civilian lives – is barely scratching the political surface.

The UN process is notable for two reasons. First, the resolution was passed with a vote of 10 in favour and five abstaining. The abstaining governments – Russia, China, India, Brazil, Germany – represent the vast majority of humanity.

The second thing notable about the UN process is that though the Security Council is central to the process of justification, it is peripheral to the process of execution.

Thieves, in a leisurely 9 hour raid, stole 3000 Special Ops laptops from iGov Technologies, a military contractor for the super secret Special Operations Command, the elite commandos who help coordinate the war on terror.

On March 6, as many as seven people broke into iGov Technologies at 9211 Palm River Road and stole 3,000 laptops and other electronics, according to a search warrant.

Here is the story from the St. Petersburg Times:

Thieves swipe thousands of laptops from Special Ops contractor in Hillsborough
By Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TAMPA — The thieves hit on a weekend when no one was around.

The target: a military contractor for the super secret Special Operations Command, the elite commandos who help coordinate the war on terror.

What was on the laptop computers? Was it a crime of economics or a crime of security? Did the burglary compromise the safety of any troops?

The answers remained a mystery Monday.

A SOCom spokeswoman said officials are aware of the iGov break-in, but she could not immediately provide a response.

Earlier this year, iGov was awarded a $450-million contract by the Department of Defense to supply mobile technology services linking special operations troops all over the world.

The company is headquartered in McLean, Va., with locations in Springfield, Va., and near Tampa. An iGov facility manager referred calls to the corporate office. Officials there did not return a call for comment.

According to the warrant, the operation went down on March 6, a Saturday. A surveillance camera captured images as a red Lincoln Navigator drove up to the business and as many as seven people piled out.

They broke in through the roof and spent nine hours gathering loot, which included about 3,000 Panasonic Toughbook laptops and other electronics.

The Sheriff’s Office notified the FBI. Sheriff’s Detective David Thatcher obtained a search warrant June 23.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter said that she was unaware of the theft and that Thatcher no longer had the case. It was assigned to a second detective who also was transferred, and she did not know which detective was now handling it.

The Sheriff’s Office records division was unable to find a report of the break-in on Monday. A clerk did locate a record of when the call was received and which officers responded.

The warrant seeks phone records for the owner for the Lincoln Navigator, a man named Oddit Perez-Reyes, 39.

Perez-Reyes’ cell phone was in contact with four phone numbers the day of the heist. Satellite records tracked each of the four phones to the iGov office that day, the warrant stated.

Sprint Communications said the phones were on prepaid accounts and cautioned that subscriber names could be fictitious, the warrant said.

Detectives filed for access to Perez-Reyes’ cell phone for records that include contact information, messages, calls and pictures and videos.

As a result of the investigation, the FBI and the Miami-Dade Police Department located a warehouse in Miami that was used to store the stolen property, the warrant stated, and about 1,911 items were recovered.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department said Monday he could find no record of property seized at the warehouse within the past four months.

Hillsborough sheriff’s records show iGov’s facility manager, Mike Kalinowski, reported the missing computers to the Sheriff’s Office after he arrived at work March 8.

However, when a Times reporter asked him about the case, Kalinowski responded: “I don’t even know anything about that.”

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at nguyen @ sptimes.com
Copyright 2010 St. Petersburg Times

So who are these new volunteer partners in the War on Terror? What information, how much information, and whose information, are we now sharing with these thieves/partners. Any truth as to what happened looks pretty well hidden. There are so many visible layers of coverup here, I’m sure there are infinitely more layers of coverup underneath those. Are the police, the military and the contractors all hiding information from each other? It certainly looks that way. Think of all the possible uses for all the kinds of information that may be on those laptops and other electronics. Who is, and who will be spying on who. This has really nasty potential.

And of course, the private sector, with its lack of accountability and lax security, is so much more efficient and secure than the government.

Governments around the world who are partnering with the US military should be wondering who their new partners are, what do they want, and who are the new partners’ partners. People in the US government should be wondering who these new partners are as well. This should certainly make governments cautious about allowing too much interoperability between their military communications and US military communications.

I’d be quite interested to hear more of this story. I’m sure others would as well. I’m fairly certain all parties involved are scrambling to keep it all hid. So the people who pay for this will never know what happened.

Then, on Wednesday, does this make you feel reassured?

Military contractor: No sensitive information on stolen laptops
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
TAMPA –
Officials with a military contractor in Tampa said no sensitive information was on the laptops stolen from their offices.

According to Bay News 9′s partner paper, the St. Petersburg Times, officials said there was no security breach of military information when 3,000 laptops were stolen from the offices of iGov Technologies earlier this year.

Investigators said the case is still ongoing.

Nothing to see here. Go away.

Herewith a holiday greeting going out to all the shareholders, management, and corporate board members of the PMSCs, the private military and security companies around the world. It comes from this link a friend sent:

War is Christmas with bloodshed.

* * * * * * * *

________

Some links regarding PMSCs I recently ran across:

States, Citizens and the Privatization of Security PDF
Recent years have seen a growing role for private military contractors in national and international security. To understand the reasons for this, Elke Krahmann examines changing models of the state, the citizen and the soldier in the UK, the USA and Germany. She focuses on the national differences both with regard to the outsourcing of military services to private companies and their specific consequences for democratic control over the legitimate use of armed force. Tracing developments and debates from the late eighteenth century to the present, she explains the transition from the centralized warfare state of the Cold War era to privatized and fragmented security governance, and the different national attitudes to the privatization of force.
Book

Codes of Conduct for Private Military and Security Companies
The state of self regulation in the industry PDF

A document from PRIV-WAR
PRIV-WAR is a collaborative research project (European Community’s 7th Framework Programme – Theme 8: Socioeconomics sciences and humanities) coordinated by the European University Institute through the Academy of European Law in cooperation with LUISS “Guido Carli” (Rome) and the other project partners: Justus Liebig Universität Giessen; Riga Graduate School of Law; Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), Centre Thucydide; University of Sheffield and Utrecht University. The project will assess the impact of the increasing use of private military companies and security companies (PMCs/PSCs) in situations of armed conflict. It will examine the regulatory framework at national, European and international levels, with a view to ensuring improved compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights. Launched in January 2008, the project will run for three years.

Somalia is a counterterrorism planner`s dream.

“We’ve moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles … to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper.”

… there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.

PredatorReaper

Predator MQ-9 Reaper

These predator drones are now being deployed over East Africa and the adjacent waters, based by the US in the Seychelles. At present we are told the drones are unarmed, and are part of anti-piracy surveillance. But that is only the toe in the door. The CIA uses these drones for extrajudicial killings in Pakistan, a country that is supposedly a US friend, and with whom the US is not at war. In Pakistan the CIA is probably assassinating some genuine international terrorists. It may also be assassinating innocent individuals, or local political leaders. The CIA appears accountable to no one in the US or the world at large for these actions. In all cases these are assassinations.

The CIA and the US Africa Command now appear ready to expand this predation in East Africa, most likely in order to continue efforts to destabilize Somalia (called stability operations). The US has been pushing the notion that Islamist fighters in Somalia are allied with al-Qaeda. There is no real evidence for this, see the commentary about halfway+ down this page, in response to a comment. But since it is repeated over and over in the US media, many people believe it. Just as the New York Times pushed the bogus story of weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war, it is pushing the supposed link between al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab.

From the:

UNITED NATIONS: US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said. “My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he [UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston] said.

“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.

… you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws,” Alston said.

Since August 2008, around 70 strikes by unmanned aircraft have killed close to 600 people in northwestern Pakistan.

“I would like to know the legal basis upon which the United States is operating, in other words… who is running the program, what accountability mechanisms are in place in relation to that,” Alston said.

“Secondly, what precautions the United States is taking to ensure that these weapons are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law.

“Third, what sort of review mechanism is there to evaluate when these weapons have been used? Those are the issues I’d like to see addressed,” the UN official said.

b real provides more research in his africa comments, where you can read in more detail the information from the following sources:

AP: US drones protecting ships from Somali pirates

Military officials said Friday the drones would not immediately be fitted with weaponry, but they did not rule out doing so in the future.

Analysts said they expected the Reapers would also be used to hunt al-Qaida and other Islamist militants in Somalia. While Moeller said the aircraft would “primarily” be used against pirates, he acknowledged they could also be used for other missions.

“The long-term solution to the piracy issue is basically [us] getting the conditions right in Somalia,” he said.

More information about the Reaper here: MQ-9 Reaper Hunter/Killer UAV

… the [Reaper] aircraft can carry up to 14 Hellfire missiles, compared with two carried on the Predator. The Reaper can stay airborne for up to 14 hours fully loaded.

Trading off some of the missiles, Predator B can carry laser guided bombs, such as the GBU-12. MQ-9 is equipped with both Lynx II SAR and the MTS-B 20″ gimbal, an improved, extended range version of the MQ-9′s EO payload. The availability of high performance sensors and large capacity of precision guided weapons enable the new Predator to operate as an efficient “Hunter-Killer” platform, seeking and engaging targets at high probability of success.

The Wikipedia entry adds:

Then U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley said, “We’ve moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper.”

The New York Times adds its voice to the war machine fear mongering: In Somalia, a New Template for Fighting Terrorism. The NYT starts with the popular but unsubstantiated assertion that: “Al-Qaeda is working feverishly to turn Somalia into a global jihad factory”.

So a new template for fighting terrorism may be emerging as the United States shows less desire to get involved in the local intricacies of nation building and more interest in narrowing its focus to Al Qaeda. …

To Mr. Nagl, in fact, Somalia is a counterterrorism planner`s dream, with its desert terrain, low population density and skinny shape along the sea; no place is more than a few minutes` chopper flight from American ships bobbing offshore. “It`s far, far harder to do counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan than in Somalia,” he said.

And from an abstract of Jane Mayer’s article in the October 26th issue of The New Yorker: The Risks of the CIA’s Predator Drones: The Predator War:

Hina Shamsi, a human-rights lawyer at the New York University School of Law … said of the Predator program, “These are targeted international killings by the state.”

The Predator program, as it happens, also uses private contractors for a variety of tasks, including “flying” the drones.

According to a new study by the New America Foundation, the number of drone strikes has gone up dramatically since Obama became President. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the defense contractor that manufactures the Predator and its more heavily armed sibling, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government’s demand.

there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.

Somalia will make a convenient African practice field for targeted killings by robot assassins. There is no government to stand up for the Somali people in this, especially as the United States claims to be the one standing up for Somalia. As Mr. Nagi said above, Somalia is a counterterrorism planners dream. As long as Somalia is kept destabilized, aka stability operations, it will be an easy target.

Somalia is just the beginning, it may have oil, but it looks like there is a lot more oil in the African great lakes region, beginning with the recent finds in Uganda. Southern Sudan has oil and is the site of US corporate and international land grabs. The DRC has vast quantities of minerals including 80% of the world’s coltan. Its mineral resources are considered a US strategic interest. That is why the US helped overthrow Lumumba and installed Mobutu, dismissing Mobutu’s 30 years of failed government as an African problem. For US purposes, Mobutu was a success, he was a faithful client. When he was no longer useful, the US helped overthrow him.

The term terrorist is evolving to mean anyone who questions or stands up to the US in its quest to coopt and control oil, minerals, and other natural resources, or who stands up to the forces of global capitalism. A “terrorist” is a political or economic opponent, only a few of them have violent intentions towards the US.

A robot assassin looks like just the tool to eliminate an obstructive political opponent. It appears risk free and cost free to the US. Few outside the neighborhood will care about the collateral damage, the many innocent civilians killed at the same time. The term terrorist is necessary to give political assassination a figleaf of legality.

From africa comments:

… US targeted killings of Al Qaeda terrorists is a legal act of self defense under international law. (You can get a free pdf download, here, at SSRN, “Targeted Killing in US Counterterrorism and Law.

… US law and regulation contains a ban on “assassination.” Assassination in that specific legal sense is prohibited – but also not defined in US law or regulation. However, successive administrations dating from the 1980s have taken the position – e.g., the speech in 1989 to which the article refers – that a targeted killing is not (prohibited) “assassination” if it meets the requirements for self-defense under international law, including self defense against terrorists.

The Reaper may be a perfect tool for global capitalism to assassinate and decapitate any growing movements and civil society groups with economic or democratic aspirations. Jeremy Keenan reminds us that an estimated 55% of the world population are left out of global capitalism, neither producers or consumers. Many of these live in Africa. If these people continue to be marginalized, the profits and benefits will continue and increase for the elites controlling their resources now. So the elites have strong incentives to prevent and crush democratic movements.

Jeremy Keenan describes this use of the war on terror and the reason for the Africa Command in: Demystifying Africa’s Security:

[The] Bush administration decided to use a military structure to secure access to and control over African oil and opted to use the GWOT as the justification, rather than acknowledging that US military intervention in Africa was about resource control.

emphasizing the threat posed by the marginalised and excluded, Africa’s ‘dangerous classes’, and the role of aid and ‘development’ … merging the development and security agendas so that the two have become almost indistinguishable

The securitisation of Africa has been further promoted by drawing attention to the association between underdevelopment and conflict and the various discourses on ‘failed states’, which, in no time at all, were linked directly to the 9/11 attacks. It took only a few steps – from ‘poverty’ and ‘underdevelopment’ to ‘conflict’, ‘fear’, ‘failed states’ and the black holes of the ‘ungoverned areas’ – to recast Africa as the ‘Heart of Darkness’ and to transpose the GWOT into its vast ungoverned spaces: the DRC, Sudan, Somalia and EUCOM’s infamous ‘swamp of terror’, the Sahara.

Far from bringing ‘peace and security’ to Africa, AFRICOM is directly instrumental in creating conflict and insecurity.

Social scientists unfamiliar with the new ‘security development’ discourse may find its emphasis on ‘security’ and ‘development’ seductive. What more does Africa need? However, as Abrahamsen (2005) has already pointed out, London and Washington have used this discourse to link Africa’s underdevelopment with the threat of terrorism. And the regimes of Africa have followed suit: many are now using the pretext of the GWOT to repress legitimate opposition by linking it with ‘terrorism’. … Above all, the ‘security-development’ discourse explicitly links Africa’s poor, her ‘dangerous classes’ as Abrahamsen calls them, the marginalised and excluded to international security ‘problems’ and ‘terrorism’.

And so the war on terror becomes the war on the poor and marginalized, the “dangerous” classes. Keenan gives us a number of examples of countries in Africa where this is already happening. If the US is using the Reaper to kill, and is not engaged in open war with a country, it is using the Reaper as a tool of political assassination, killing opposing leaders and their families to control the economy and the politics.

Full-spectrum dominance means the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations.”[link]

Full Spectrum Dominance diagramed

Such overblown rhetoric is out of touch with reality, dangerously delusional, and even arguably insane. It is however useful, even vital, to those corporations who have become accustomed to profiting from the Cold War, and who faced deep cuts in U.S. defense and intelligence spending in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are joined by other groups … These include the new purveyors of privatized military services, or what can be called entrepreneurial violence

The Real Grand Chessboard and the Profiteers of War by Prof. Peter Dale Scott writes about how the military industry has used the War On Terror to replace and expand the Cold War across the globe.

Advocacy disguised as expertise, the people making and controlling US military policy are also the ones who profit from violence, profit when the US is at war. Increasingly US foreign policy is military policy.

Scott quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski:

” … the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” (p.40)

This kind of brash talk is not unique to Brzezinski. Its call for unilateral dominance echoed the 1992 draft DPG (Defense Planning Guidance) prepared for Defense Secretary Cheney by neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis “Scooter” Libby: “We must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”[link] It is echoed both in the 2000 PNAC Study, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” and the Bush-Cheney National Security Strategy of September 2002 (NSS 2002). And it is epitomized by the megalomanic JCS strategic document Joint Vision 2020 “Full-spectrum dominance means the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations.”[12]

The Real Grand Chessboard: Those Profiting from Enduring Violence

In March 2001 the biggest oil majors (Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco, and Shell) had their opportunity to design the incoming administration’s energy strategies, including Middle East policy, by participating secretly in Vice-President Cheney’s Energy Task Force.[17] The Task Force, we learned later, developed a map of Iraq’s oil fields, with the southwest divided into nine “Exploration Blocks.” One month earlier a Bush National Security Council document had noted that Cheney’s Task force would consider “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”[18] Earlier the oil companies had participated in a non-governmental task force calling for “an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments.”[19]

Of course, oil companies were not alone in pushing for military action against Iraq. After 9/11, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith established the Pentagon’s neocon Office of Special Plans (OSP), which soon “rivalled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda.”[20] Neocon influence in the Administration, supported by Lewis Libby in Vice-President Cheney’s office, trumped the skepticism of CIA and DIA: these two false charges against Saddam Hussein, or what one critic called “faith-based intelligence,” became briefly the official ideology of the United States. Some, notably Dick Cheney, have never recanted.

Many journalists were eager to promote the OSP doctrines. Judith Miller of the New York Times wrote a series of articles on Saddam’s WMD, relying, like OSP itself, on the propaganda of Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi.[21] Miller’s book collaborator Laurie Mylroie went even further, arguing that “Saddam was not only behind the ’93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade, from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the leveling of the federal building in Oklahoma City to September 11 itself.”[22] Many of these advocates, notably Feith, Libby, and Mylroie, had links to Israel, which as much as any oil company had reasons to wish for U.S. armies to become established militarily in Central Asia.[23]

Private Military Contractors (PMCs), Whose Business is Violence for Profit


The inappropriateness of a military response to the threat of terrorism has been noted by a number of counterterrorism experts, such as retired U.S. Army colonel Andrew Bacevich:

… the concept of global war as the response to violent Islamic radicalism is flawed. We ought not be in the business of invading and occupying other countries. That’s not going to address the threat. It is, on the other hand, going to bankrupt the country and break the military.[24]


To offset the pressure on limited armed forces assets, Donald Rumsfeld escalated the increasing use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) in the Iraq War. At one point as many as 100,000 personnel were employed by PMCs in the US Iraq occupation. Some of them were involved in controversial events there, such as the Iraq Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the killing and burning of four contract employees in Fallujah. The license of the most controversial firm, Blackwater, was terminated by the Iraqi government in 2007, after eight Iraqi civilians were gratuitously killed in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion.[28] (After much negative publicity, Blackwater renamed itself in 2009 as Xe Worldwide.)

Insufficiently noticed in the public furor over PMCs like Blackwater was the difference in motivation between them and the Pentagon. Whereas the stated goal of Rumsfeld and the armed forces in Iraq was to end violence there, the PMCs clearly had a financial stake in its continuation. Hence it is no surprise that some of the largest PMCs were also political supporters for pursuing the ill-conceived “War on Terror.”

Blackwater was the most notorious example; Erik Prince, its founder and sole owner, is part of a family that figures among the major contributors to the Republican Party and other right-wing causes, such as the Council for National Policy. His sister once told the press that “my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party.”[29]

Private Intelligence Companies and the Provision of Violence

Blackwater has attracted the critical attention of the American Mainstream Media. But it was a mere knight on the grand chessboard, albeit one with the ability to influence the moves of the game.

Diligence LLC was licensed to do business in Iraq as a private military contractor (PMC). But it could be called a Private Intelligence Contractor (PIC), since it is virtually a CIA spin-off:

Diligence was founded by William Webster, the only man to head both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mike Baker, its chief executive officer, spent 14 years at the CIA as a covert field operations officer specializing in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. Whitley Bruner, its chief operating officer in Baghdad, was once the CIA station chief in Iraq.[31]

Its partner in Diligence Middle East (DME) is New Bridge Strategies, whose purpose has been described by the New York Times as “a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects.”[32] Its political clout was outlined in the Financial Times:

New Bridge was established in May [2003] and came to public attention because of the Republican heavyweights on its board – most linked to one or other Bush administration [officials] or to the family itself. Those include Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush’s presidential campaign manager, and Ed Rogers and Lanny Griffith, former George H.W. Bush aides.[33]

The firm of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers was the initial funder of Diligence, which shares an office floor with BGR and New Bridge in a building four blocks from the White House. The Financial Times linked the success of New Bridge in securing contracts to their relationship to Neil Bush, the President’s brother.[34] When Mack McLarty, Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff, resigned, he became a director of Diligence, and also joined Henry Kissinger to head, until 2008, Kissinger McLarty Associates.

Another Private Intelligence Contractor or PIC is Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), an $8 billion corporation involved in defense, intelligence community, and homeland security contracting. In the words of veteran journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele,

SAIC has displayed an uncanny ability to thrive in every conceivable political climate. It is the invisible hand behind a huge portion of the national-security state—the one sector of the government whose funds are limitless and whose continued growth is assured every time a politician utters the word “terrorism.” SAIC represents, in other words, a private business that has become a form of permanent government….[SAIC] epitomizes something beyond Eisenhower’s worst nightmare—the “military-industrial-counterterrorism complex.”[35]

(Later their article made it clear that SAIC is not a unified bureaucracy, but more like a platform for individual entrepreneurship in obtaining contracts: “at SAIC your job fundamentally was to sell your high-tech ideas and blue-chip expertise to [any] government agency with money to spend and an impulse to buy.”)[36]

Before becoming Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates was a member of SAIC’s board of directors. SAIC personnel have also been recruited from CIA, NSA, and DARPA.
[numbers refer to footnotes from the original article]

Scores of influential members of the national-security establishment clambered onto SAIC’s payroll, among them John M. Deutch, undersecretary of energy under President Jimmy Carter and C.I.A. director under President Bill Clinton; Rear Admiral William F. Raborn, who headed development of the Polaris submarine; and Rear Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who served variously as director of the National Security Agency, deputy director of the C.I.A., and vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.[37]

SAIC helped supply the faulty intelligence about Saddam’s WMD that then generated ample contracts for SAIC in Iraq.

SAIC personnel were instrumental in pressing the case that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and that war was the only way to get rid of them. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, SAIC personnel staffed the commission set up to investigate how American intelligence could have been so disastrously wrong …


Needless to say, this SAIC-stuffed commission did not report that SAIC itself had been a big part of the problem.

What we have been talking about until now is advocacy disguised as expertise. But overseas associates of Diligence LLC and its allies have also been accused of false-flag operations intended to provoke war.

These fusion centers, “which combine the military, the FBI, state police, and others, have been internally promoted by the US Army as means to avoid restrictions preventing the military from spying on the domestic population.”

The passage of the Patriot Act generated a new realm of profit for SAIC contractors — domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens – as well as new intelligence fusion centers to carry this out.

Daniel Elombah captures the essence of this system that bypasses and overrides the American electoral system:

In the United States, the president is less a leader than a manager of policies formulated by corporate elite interests. Thus there is stability of the political system, regardless of who is president. US presidents come and go, but the interests remain constant

.

That constant corporate interest is an unending march to war.

It is not only at the US Embassy in Afghanistan that there are problems with the ArmorGroup/Wackenhut security guards, particularly the supervisors, as has been recently documented by POGO. And ArmorGroup/Wackenhut are not the only contractors to operate without serious and adequate supervision, or who fail to fulfill their US contracts in a safe and ethical manner.

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO [Project on Government Oversight] believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

State has repeatedly warned AGNA [ArmorGroup North America] about its performance on this security contract, but its threats have been empty. As a result, violations of the contract continue.

the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out. The language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act could be strengthened to prohibit the reliance on private security contractors for inherently governmental functions, and to include protection of the diplomatic mission in a combat zone as being inherently governmental. If embassy security in combat zones is determined not to be an inherently governmental function, the State Department should consider requiring military supervision of its private security contractors guarding U.S. embassies in combat zones.

By now most people have seen the grotesque pictures of the lewd and abusive games played by the ArmorGroup contractors in Afghanistan. It appears primarily the supervisors who are out of control. The State Department has neglected to supervise or hold anyone to account for grievous violations of their contracts. State has remained intentionally blind to the problems of contractor negligence and abuse.

The the Concerned Foreign Service Officers have issued a statement:

Concerned Foreign Service Officers has for years lamented that the internal corporate culture of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security promotes the concept that all things are allowable in defense of the nation’s security, and that employees who perform illegal acts in the name of security will be protected. The directors of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s security infrastructure promote an all-for-one team mentality which encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law. Complaints of improprieties in investigations and other activities are routinely ignored. Internal oversight is a joke and external oversight is blocked. The ugly photos currently making the news are a particularly ugly manifestation of that culture.

CFSO believes however that such aberrations do not occur when organizations promote a culture of accountability. Large-scale improprieties occur only when perpetrators feel secure that their actions will be either tolerated or ignored. …

Concerned Foreign Service Officers hopes that the search for explanations for the events at the American Embassy in Kabul will not stop at the front lines, but will also target the culture in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that allowed these activities to occur, and those directors of State’s security infrastructure who promote that culture.

There are many security guards from Uganda in Iraq, and by now there are probably some in Afghanistan as well. US PMCs have hired many of their security personnel from Uganda, including guards at the US Embassy in Uganda:

Uganda: Guards Petition American Embassy Over Mistreatment

by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, August 27th, 2009

At least 200 security guards protecting various American facilities in and around Kampala have petitioned the embassy protesting what they describe as unfair treatment by their bosses.

The guards were contracted by the American Embassy through a local private security, Armor Group. However, Armor Group recently sold its interests to Group 4 Securicor which currently provides security at US offices and residences in the country -a development vehemently opposed by the guards .Group 4 Securicor runs the contract through the US Defence Systems -Uganda arrangement.

According to the guards, the May 22, 2008 takeover by Group 4 Securicor flouted various clauses that govern their contract under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. “The presumed acceptance of the terms and conditions of services of G4S by the members of the Local Guard Force and the subsequent transfer of our earned fringe benefits amounted to abduction, forced labour and human trafficking which are all forbidden not only by the laws of Uganda but also by other international conventions that govern and protect the rights and dignity of the human person,” reads part of the petition addressed to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy.

In their petition dated August 6, the guards also accuse their employer of failure to compensate colleagues who sustain injuries while on duty. “Under the Defence Base Act it is a requirement by the employer to provide adequate compensation to the employees but no member of LGF has been compensated for injuries while on duty,” the statement reads.

The American Embassy Assistant Regional Security Officer Mr Daniel Glick declined to comment on the petition but another official at the embassy who requested to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media said they had rejected the petition on grounds that the petitioners never followed the proper procedures.

“Under normal circumstances it is the contracted firm (G4S) to petition the embassy so that we can take action but not the employees as it is in their case,” said an official at the Embassy.

The guards also accuse their employers of frustrating their efforts to join a trade union as a way of boosting their bargaining power. “This has led to the Court Martial and subsequent dismissal of the chairman/spokesperson of the guard’s committee (Mr Opige Elyau) who championed the same course,” the petition said.

In a separate interview, Mr Elyau said he was dismissed on allegations that he was inciting the guard force against management. He promised to challenge his dismissal.

In the comments Feral Jundi writes:

The customer receiving these guard services has some responsibility too. These men are protecting you with their lives, the honorable thing to do is to step up and listen to what they have to say. The unethical thing to do, is look the other way and hope it just fixes itself. pfft

And Bravo2 writes:

For example if the company was still ArmorGroup, a UK Company, they would most likely had been carrying some type of workmans comp on these employees as required by local or UK Law, but when it changed to a local Ugandan company, the Ugandan company only needs to follow Ugandan employment laws.

While I can understand they are pissed off to no end, such as the locals we employ here in Africa and other places I have worked, they have every right to be. This is the art of contracting…squeezing every possible penny out of everyone. These local companies such as the Ugandan one is little more than a broker only…. someone who makes money on another person, while doing absolutely nothing. The contract I work here in Africa…AfriCom was forced into this brokering agreement thru the Djiboutian Govt, and there is nothing they can do about it. The Brokers take 2/3 of the locals pay the US pays them. Suxs ass but thats life.

And in another article Eeben Barlow writes:

… the same company that are acting out their Ramboesque dreams whilst getting paid for it in Afghanistan are treating their staff in Uganda as though they own Africa.

I am aware of similar practices by some companies working in East Africa and the locals are viewing them with increasing contempt. Maybe they are unaware of just how offending their behaviour has become, but it has not gone unnoticed. It is very possibly also proving to be a great recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

The US State Department and the Africa Command are working with numerous mercenaries, PMCs, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Africa, particularly East Africa. The practices revealed in Afghanistan, and those described above, damage the US irreparably with potential friends, and strengthen potential foes.

The top picture above, from apple.jack on Flikr, comes courtesy of tumwijuke, who writes:

My 23-year-old cousin, Benji, is serving as a Ugandan guard in Iraq.

Benji is a tiny man with a big heart. He dreams of active service, fighting for peace and heroism. He’s not content with hearing about the exploits of the military. He wants to be there at the frontline in the midst of action. He says he has understood his place in the world and he needs to fulfill his destiny.

I think of Benji every morning at 5:00 a.m. when a gang of scraggly men and women jog past my house singing part-nonsensical, part-nostalgic, part-motivational war songs penned by Brig. Gen. Chefe Ali and the NRA. I think of Benji when I hear the instructors yelling at the hapless gang, calling them idiots and children and insulting their mothers. I think of Benji when I hear in the distance, the solitary shot of a trainee firing from an AK-47. I think of Benji when after a month, the guards are deemed ready for service, congratulated at a colorful ceremony in a dusty playground and shipped off to war.

Today I read this:

Security Issues Discovered at U.S. Bases in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — A commission investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending has found serious deficiencies in training and equipment for hundreds of Ugandan guards hired to protect U.S. military bases in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

The problems at Forward Operating Bases Delta and Hammer include a lack of vehicles used to properly protect the two posts, a shortage of weapons and night vision gear, and poorly trained guards. Both bases house several thousand U.S. military personnel.

Concerned the shortages leave the bases vulnerable, the Commission on Wartime Contracting alerted military officials in Iraq and at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

“Incidents such as this are a concern in their own right, but they are a particular concern to the commission if they prove to be indicators of broader, systemic problems that impede the delivery of critical services to American military forces in a war zone,” said Bob Dickson, the commission’s executive director.

I think about Benji and I weep.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the training of potential guards in Uganda:

As President Barack Obama announces plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq, thousands of young Ugandans are increasingly desperate to be sent to the war-torn country. Already, the Ugandan government says there are more than 10,000 men and women from this poverty-stricken East African nation working as private security guards in Iraq. Hired out to multibillion-dollar companies for hundreds of dollars a month, they risk their lives seeking fortunes protecting US Army bases, airports, and oil firms.

The war in Iraq is the most privatized conflict in history. Since the invasion in 2003, the US Department of Defense has doled out contracts worth an estimated $100 billion to private firms. Covering a vast range of services from catering to dry cleaning to security, one in every five dollars the US spends in Iraq ends up in the pockets of the contractors, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Increasingly these jobs have been outsourced to developing countries.

hiring Ugandans is cheap. Since the first Ugandans were sent to Iraq in late 2005, competition from other developing countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent has seen the government cut the minimum wage from $1,300 to $600 a month. That compares with the $15,000 that one industry insider estimated an American guard could make each month. Nevertheless, competition is fierce, and for those Ugandans who land a job, Iraq can prove a bonanza.

Discussing one Ugandan guard, who has built himself businesses back in Uganda from his Iraq pay:

the fact that he is putting his life on the line to help US companies make massive profits is not lost on him. “If I am earning $600 a month and these companies are making billions, it is not fair,” he says.

For Uganda, however, another country’s war on a continent far away has proved to be lucrative. “The Iraq opportunity brings in about $90 million dollars, whereas our chief export, which is coffee, brings in around $60 or $70 million a year,” says the former state minister for labor, employment, and industrial relations, Mwesigwa Rukutana, now minister of higher education. That figure is mostly made up of remittances.

But domestic criticism has been fierce, with some equating the system to human trafficking or slavery. Reports of abuse, ranging from poor conditions and changeable contracts to sexual assault, have appeared in the media
.

And what will happen to Uganda when all these experienced soldiers bring their battle hardened expectations back to Uganda. The country may be sitting on a time bomb, as Charles Onyango Obbo wrote about in Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps. And the potential for political conflagrations is far greater with the recent discovery of oil.

It is smarter to make friends than enemies, it gives you more options. If the US wants to make friends, and to keep the friends it has in Africa and elsewhere, it needs to examine its policies with care. An ethic of squeezing every possible penny out of everyone is very short term thinking for the long term interests of a country. A culture that encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law is guaranteed to make enemies. If the State Department wishes to engage in credible diplomacy, it needs to clean its own house, and practice some oversight and accountability at home.

wreckage from the plane

wreckage from the Ilyushin 76, photo/Reuters

On March 9 an Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, Soviet era plane, owned by Aerolift, known gunrunners, and chartered by Dyncorp, one of the largest suppliers of mercenaries, burst into flames and crashed into Lake Victoria. Supposedly it was carrying tents and water purification equipment to the AMISOM, African Union Mission in Somalia, soldiers in Somalia. Reports say 11 people on the plane were killed. Dyncorp is currently under contract with the US Department of State.

From Uganda’s New Vision, a description of the crash:
Entebbe place crash kills eleven

The accident occurred moments after the Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, operated by Aerolift left the airport. Dynacorp, an American company, had chartered the plane.

The aircraft plunged into the water at a place referred to as Magombe, loosely translated as graveyard, owing to the disasters that have occurred there in the past. Several boats have reportedly capsized in the area, fishermen disclosed.

Magombe, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority, is about 5.5 nautical miles (9.9km) south of the airport. The plane burst into flames before it hurtled into the water and got submerged, witnesses said.

“It left the airport after a Kenya Airways flight but it made an awkward sound. It caught fire soon after it got off the ground,” an officer at Kigungu Police post said.

A policeman, Gerald Ssesanga, who resides near the airport, said he saw the blaze but thought it was a fire lit along the shore. Juma Kalanzi, a fisherman, also saw the fire but initially thought it was on the nearby Nsaze Island.

“I realised it was a plane when the fire started spreading on the lake,” he stated.

So big was the blaze that it caught the attention of the early risers along the shores of the lake.

A search and rescue team comprising the army, the Police and CAA staff rescued two tired fishermen, Karim Mubajje, and another only identified as Deo. Mubajje and Deo narrowly survived after their boat capsized as the blazing plane plunged into the lake where they were fishing.

Mubajje recounted hearing a loud explosion as they drew nets out of the water. “In a few seconds, the plane spun several times and tumbled into the water, capsizing our boat,” he said.

They held onto the wooden pieces of their boat for four hours until they were rescued.

Responding to a question on whether the crash was the work of terrorists, Masiko remarked: “I am not ruling out anything and I am not including anything. Don’t speculate. Let us wait for the investigations.”

On the plane’s airworthiness, the minister disclosed that it was okay, adding that it flew to Somalia 20 times in February.

There are only 28 days in February, that means this plane, chartered by Dyncorp, was making almost daily flights to Somalia during February. What was it carrying? Who was paying for the cargo? Was it in violation of the UN Arms Embargo? And was it only flying these trips in February, did it start before that? Does Dyncorp continue to charter Soviet era Aerolift planes registered in Sao Tome for flights back and forth to Somalia?

Further description of the crash from Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Mr Yusuf Buga, a fisherman, said he heard an explosion first and then about 10 miles away from where he was winding up his fishing, a fireball fell from the sky into the lake.
“It was not a plane that plunged into the water; by the time it hit the water, it was a fireball that continued to burn on the water surface for about an hour,” Mr Buga says.
Mr Charles Kiwanuka, 19, seems to have seen even more action than Mr Buga.

“By 5:00am, we were all packing up because we fish at night. From our boat we heard an explosion and, on looking up, saw a fireball headed for the waters where two other fishermen dozed on their canoe. The aircraft exploded from the air before falling into the lake as a fire.”

The two fishermen Mr Kiwanuka refers to, who survived by holding onto a piece of crap from the shattered aircraft …

Also from Uganda’s Daily Monitor: Crashed plane ‘not inspected’

The Illyushin-76 cargo plane carrying 16 tonnes of supplies including tents and water-purification equipment for Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Somalia plunged into Lake Victoria soon after take-off from Entebbe Airport.

The aircraft was on a support flight carrying water purifiers and other equipment for ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia.” It seems unlikely that the plane was carrying 16 tonnes of just tents and water purification equipment for the 3700 AMISOM troops. So what else was on the plane? Additionally, three high ranking Burundian officers were in the plane, including a brigadier general and a colonel.

SA plane crash victim identified

Duncan Rykaart, a former special forces operator and colonel, was one of 11 people aboard a Ilyushin 76 cargo plane that crashed into Lake Victoria on Monday.

He had been working for Bancroft Global Development, an American company specialising in research on explosive devices and landmines, since January. The company advises the African Union’s peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

Regarding Mr. Rykaart’s history:

November 2001: Guns for hire again

A born-again Executive Outcomes operation is at the centre of allegations of a military contract between ex-South African Defence Force soldiers and the Sudanese army.

We hear South African security has established a link between a local company known as NFD and the Sudan contract.

NFD’s directors include Duncan Rykaart (ex- colonel in the SA Defence Force’s Five Recce Brigade)

NFD Operations Manager Rykaart denies any knowledge of the Sudan contract, though SA military sources pinpoint him as taking the lead role in the negotiations with Khartoum. … Rykaart insists his company has no foreign security contracts currently, although the NFD website boasts a client base in Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Bulgaria.

As b real points out:

all of the training & arming of somalis on all sides continues in violation of the arms embargo. that’s part of what makes the 20 flights into mogadishu so interesting. and the u.s. sponsored training by the ugandans, rwandans, and kenyans (and possibly even south africans)

He adds some relevant background material on Dyncorp, and its contract with the Department of State:

US hires military contractor to support peacekeeping mission in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya: The United States has hired a major military contractor to provide equipment and logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, bringing U.S. dependence on private military companies in several hot spots to a particularly troubled corner of Africa. The DynCorp International contract is the latest in a series of deals that allow the United States to play a greater role in African military matters, without having to use uniformed troops…

The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include “support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries’ armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to bid documents.

If everything was legit, why was Dyncorp using an uninspected Aerolift plane? The old Russian planes were supposed to be banned in Uganda in 2005, plus, the crew of the plane may have been drunk:

Queries raised over ‘condemned’ aircraft that plunged into Lake Victoria

..as efforts to recover the wreckage and the bodies continued into the weekend, reports were emerging that the aircraft should not have been in Ugandan airspace in the first place because the Civil Aviation Authority had banned aged Russian-type planes from operating in the country in 2005.

Even more intriguing were reports from patrons of a popular pub in Entebbe that the crew drank well into the night before their 5.14 am departure on the flight.

Conceding that the authority suffers from political interference that limits its capacity for safety oversight over ad-hoc operators, highly placed sources in the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority told The EastAfrican that the flying coffins were back in force, operating on the authority of powerful political figures who exert considerable pressure on the regulator.

So far AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, has not been named in this story. But it officially enters the picture in the efforts to recover the wreckage from the lake:

US Army to help Uganda in plane crash recovery
The US government is scheduled to assist the government of Uganda in conducting search and recovery operations of human remains and the flight data recorder from the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria recently.

Service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a US body based in Djibouti are expected in Uganda to help in the rescue mission, according to a press statement from the body.

This follows a request by the U.S. Embassy in Uganda and the government of Uganda for U.S. military assistance in recovery operations at the crash site. …

AFRICOM and the Ugandans work on recovering the wreckage:

Ugandan, US divers recover plane wreckage

The Americans have been tasked to retrieve the remains of the dead, recover the black box and advise the investigation team based at the Civil Aviation Authority offices in Entebbe. “US service members are in the Horn of Africa to build relationships with partner nations,” Anthony Kurta, a US commander, said.

“We have deployed a team to support Ugandans in the operations. We work beside Ugandan military forces on a regular basis as part of our efforts to strengthen their own security capacity,” he added.

Two Russians; a captain and the co-pilot, two Ukrainians, three senior Burundian army officers, two Ugandans, a South African and an Indian died in the March 9 incident.

The remains of the Ugandans, Burundians and Ukrainians have been buried.

And the nature of the plane’s cargo, and the recovery efforts take an even odder turn in this press release, with explanatory comments from b real:

From a press release by CJTF-HOA’s public affairs outfit: U.S. Horn of Africa Personnel Dive for Aircraft Wreckage in Lake Victoria

U.S. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa have located the wreckage of an Ilyshin II 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria and are conducting diving operations to retrieve information.

The divers have found the aircraft tail.

“It was very tall, and it was in the flight path, so we splashed divers on it and there it was,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Scott Bryant, the on-scene diving operations officer. “We also located portions of the fuselage, that are not enclosed, they are cracked open like an egg.”

According to Bryant, divers have also located both wings, landing gear with four tires and what they believe to be one of the engines. However they believe the other engines are sunk and will confirm over the next few days.

“Most of the heavy stuff is underneath the silt. We found parts of the tail that are sunk and the divers had to dig five feet under,” he said. “This is very difficult diving and potentially very hazardous. Probably some of the most difficult I’ve seen in 19 years of service. There is no visibility, especially once you touch the bottom; a powder, like talcum powder, floats up everywhere and you can’t see at all. Because of the wreckage, there are very sharp medal objects pointing everywhere and we have fishing nets to deal with.”

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The wreckage is 80 feet under water, buried in approximately 15 feet of silt and 6.8 miles from the closest pier.

CJTF-HOA brought personnel and equipment to Uganda from Bahrain, Italy and Djibouti. Equipment includes sonar systems, self contained under water breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear, surface-supply diving equipment, a hyperbaric chamber for emergencies and three boats. CJTF-HOA is part of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

As b real points out:

of course the pr piece omits any mention of dyncorp or its contract w/ DoS so that it can portray (“shape” is the popular term these days) the operation as assisting the ugandan govt.

that’s alot of expensive equipment to bring in for the recovery operations. fortunately for them nobody really is asking any important questions

Note the captions of the following pictures of the recovery operation taken from the CJTF-HOA photo gallery:

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

Recovery operations include U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11). Again from b real:

at least 3 EODMU units on the scene?

according to the website global security, this represents both “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1″ (EODGRU 1) and “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two” (EODGRU 2)

on the former,

The mission of EODGRU 1 is to provide the Pacific Fleet with the capability to detect, identify, render safe, recover, evaluate, and dispose of explosive ordnance which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material.

on the latter,

EODGRU 2′s mission is to provide combat ready EOD and Diving & Salvage forces to the Fleet per unit ROC & POEs. Eliminate ordnance hazards that jeopardize operations conducted in support of the national military strategy. Clear harbors and approaches of obstacles. Salvage/recover ships, aircraft and weapons lost or damaged in peacetime or combat.

nothing in either of those missions about recovering tents & water purifiers

which is more likely –

1. the EODMU’s are looking for evidence of sabotage
2. the EODMU’s are looking to recover ordnance

After this there is not much more information. At least two accounts say the black box was found, although there was one denial that it was found.  No statements about any information from the black box have been forthcoming.

no mention of dyncorp, dos, dyncorp, amisom, africom, the eodmu teams, ordnance disposal, etc…

okay, hold on a moment.

“The wreckage is still 80ft under the water and 15ft under silt in Lake Victoria that cannot enable the divers get the black box out of the wreckage,” The Air Force spokesperson Captain Tabaro Kiconco has said.

yet

Capt. Kiconco said that the divers had successfully mapped the area w[h]ere the wreckage was found and also retrieved the cracked open portion of the fuselage, plane wings, one of the engines and landing gear with four tyres.

what do you wanna bet that’s not all those divers from the different explosive ordnance disposal mobile units retrieved from the lake?

And that is where the story ends, or at least where the telling of the story ends. There are no serious answers on what caused the crash, or what the plane was carrying that required explosive ordnance disposal units to recover. There are no further questions asked or explanations given. There is no clue as to what those multiple Aerolift flights back and forth to Somalia were (perhaps are) carrying. In fact, no one has posed serious questions to the parties involved, and they are not volunteering any answers.

So all we get is: move along there, nothing to see here, move along, just keep moving. Everything is under control. And it certainly looks like everyone concerned is under very heavy manners. Unless someone with some clout asks some questions, and that does not seem likely, we are unlikely to learn AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria secret.

Note:
I am indebted to the extensive research on this incident by b real, and posted in the comment threads on these articles:
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread
Africa Comments

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

Oil spill fouls the water supply

Oil spill fouls the water supply

defenders of human rights

defenders of human rights

Violence has been an instrument of governance in the Niger Delta as a constant companion to the oil business. Sokari Ekine has written a moving and well documented account of “how women have spearheaded the defence of local livelihoods through organised protests which cut across regional ethnic divisions” in Women’s responses to state violence in the Niger Delta, Violence as an instrument of governance.

The Niger Delta is a region of Nigeria that has been subjected to excessive militarisation for the past 13 years, where violence is used as an instrument of governance to force the people into total submission (Okonta and Douglas, 2001; Na’Allah, 1998). It is where, by far, the majority of the people live in abject poverty and where women are the poorest of the poor (Human Rights Watch, 2002; 2004; 2007). This region has little or no development, no electricity, no water, no communications, no health facilities, little and poor education. In contrast, the region generated an estimated over US$30 billion in oil revenues over a 38-year period in the form of rents for the government and profit for the multinational oil companies

Now, in order to keep this population poor, without water, without communications, or health facilities, or education, or jobs, in order to keep oil and money coming out of the Delta, going to the politicians and the oil companies, according to Nigeria’s Next, The Mercenaries Take Over.
(h/t Foreign Policy Exchange)

The Niger Delta is crawling with British and American private paramilitary companies providing security services for clients in the oil and gas industry, in clear violation of Nigerian law

There are at least 10 mercenary companies operating in the Delta, including Triple Canopy, Control Risk, Erinys International, ArmorGroup, Aegis Defence System, and Northbridge Service Group, the successor company to the now defunct Executive Outcomes … “the notorious South African paramilitary force known for its role in helping the Angolan government during the war with the rebel UNITA forces of Jonas Savimbi,and for fighting directly in the Sierra Leonean civil war.

Our laws forbid foreigners from operating armed security companies or paramilitary organisations of any kind and, strictly speaking, these hired guns are forbidden from freelancing here. But almost all of them have sought to get around the law by forming vague partnerships with local companies and by claiming to provide mainly advisory services, which contradict their stated objectives and services on their parent websites and their known activities in other countries.

Government denial

Astonishingly, our military and security services also claim to know nothing of their presence.

“I am not aware,” said the spokesman for Defence Headquarters in Abuja, Col. Christopher Jemitola. “If there is any evidence, including photographs, bring them up and we will address the issue.”

Some of the security companies also claim not to bear any arms in the Delta, a chaotic frontier where foreigners are routinely kidnaped and gunfights are a fact of daily life in cities such as Port Harcourt and in the creeks of the mangrove swamp.

This denial beggars belief, said Ishola Williams, a former commandant of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command.“They must be magicians,” said the retired general. “Are they going to fight the militants with karate or judo? We have to be very realistic, because if someone gives you a contract to provide protection for oil workers in the Niger Delta, what would you do– you would go there with your bare arms?”

Apart from the Biafran war of 1967-70, paramilitary groups are relatively new to Nigeria. But the protracted and deteriorating insurgency in the Niger Delta has made them increasingly sought after. One of the security companies that claims local partnership in Nigeria is Erinys International, a British company with experience of guarding oil installations in Iraq.

In the wild frontier of the internet, private military companies are rife and active, peddling their services to prospective patrons. Many of them have announced that they are now operationally domiciled in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, and some claim they work in partnership with the military Joint Task Force, the Nigeria defence forces known by its acronym JTF and which has primary responsibility for security in the area.

A JTF spokesman, Musa Sagir, denied knowledge of the existence of the foreigners nor any collaboration with them. We don’t have any connection with any foreign military contractor,” Col. Sagir said, adding that “With my inside knowledge and experience in the Niger Delta, in particular River State, I don’t have formal or informal knowledge of the existence of foreign military contractors.”

What was more, he added, somewhat indignantly, “we are trained for the job and we know what to do at the right time.”

Willaims, the retired general and now head of the local Transparency International office in Nigeria, was buying none of that. “Remember that these are government officials. If they say they know them, you as the press will go and blow it up that foreign military companies have taken over the job of security in this country and what are they doing? The House of Representatives will take it up and want to investigate, and it shows the weaknesses of all the armed forces and all the security agencies in Nigeria.”

Official denials and a seeming lack of awareness of the activities of these companies also demonstrate the enfeebled state of the Nigerian state, said Kayode Soremekun, a professor of international relations at the University of Lagos.

My own problem here is that the ministry of internal affairs and ministry of defence are not aware of their existence,” Soremekun said. “It is either one or two things: the ministry of defence is genuinely ignorant of this particular development, or it is pretending. Either way it does not bode well for the Nigerian state. And it simply shows what a lot of people had thought all along, that those who really control the Nigerian state, those who really determine what happens in the Nigerian state, cannot even be located in this country. You can locate them offshore.”

Since our laws do not allow for foreign owned security company to operate locally, most of these private security contractors have resorted to calling themselves “risk management consultants” rather than hired guns.

This way, they are able to provide a cocktail of services and products that are not different from what regular private military companies provide– or what the same companies do elsewhere in countries like Sierra Leone

Most of the companies are not forthcoming about their activities, for example:

At Control Risk, yet another of these security companies active in the Niger Delta, company spokesman, Edward Murray, told Next on Sunday to “go to hell” when asked to help define the scope of their Nigerian operations.

The company states that it is in Nigeria to protect British oil workers and names “a large oil producer” as a client. However, its mission includes, according to its official web site, “the provision of technical security services (onshore and offshore) and sophisticated management of security strategy in places where security is linked to broader issues of social performance.” In plain English, the company guards oil company interests against restive locals.

The mercenary companies are there to protect the “rights” of the oil companies to kill and oppress the people of the Niger Delta, pollute their land and water, and steal the resources from under their feet.

The people who are suffering most are the women. They are also organizing and fighting back. So women and children will remain major targets of violent military governance.

Meredeth Turshen wrote in 2004:

Specific effects of oil development on women’s health seem not to have been investigated. Although I found an article on the effects of exposure of crocodiles to sub-lethal concentrations of petroleum waste drilling fluid in the Niger Delta basin, I could find nothing on the health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations, and nothing on reproductive outcomes in areas adjacent to petrochemical plants. Yet it is known that cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead are contained in the refinery effluents that are constantly discharged into nearby bodies of water. At high concentrations these metals cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings. They enter the food chain through the drinking water and the local fish that people consume. Fish store mercury without metabolizing it, and people who eat mercury-contaminated fish can contract Minamata disease.

The health of the people and of future generations is not even important enough to study. The people polluting the environment don’t want the effects known. Until there is a serious effort to create a political solution to the problems of the Niger Delta, the people will continue to suffer, and the health and lives of the entire population are in danger. The proliferation of armed mercenaries will only escalate and prolong the problem.

(h/t sdnnigeria’s photostream)

Using PMSCs, private military and security corporations, deregulates the military, just as was done with the banks. I’m blogging on the run, but I thought I’d bring these quotes from CorpWatch, (h/t b real).

“Why are we using private contractors to do peace negotiations in Sudan? The answer is simple,” says a senior United States government official who works on Sudan-related issues who preferred to remain anonymous. “We are not allowed to fund a political party or agenda under United States law, so by using private contractors, we can get around those provisions. Think of this as somewhere between a covert program run by the CIA and an overt program run by the United States Agency for International Development. It is a way to avoid oversight by Congress.”

Meanwhile, on another continent:

But DynCorp’s role in another State Department contract also appears designed to circumvent United States law under Plan Colombia. In the Colombian conflict, Washington has supplied more than 70 Black Hawk and Huey helicopters and other military hardware that are maintained and flown by private contractors.

Anxious to avoid the “secret wars” conducted by the Pentagon in Laos and Cambodia in the 1960s, Congress limited the number of US personnel that can operate in Colombia to 400 in uniform and 400 civilian contractors at any given time. US law also requires congressional notification before the government can approve the export of military services valued at $50 million or more.

By limiting each individual contract to several million dollars; labeling them peace-keeping missions; employing retired CIA and Special Forces personnel working for private contractors as well as foreign nationals (to whom the 400 person ceiling does not apply), Congress does not have to be notified, making the contracts harder to oversee.between a covert program run by the CIA and an overt program run by the United States Agency for International Development. It is a way to avoid oversight by Congress.”

The Special Court for Sierra Leone

In September the Swiss Initiative on Private Military and Security Companies and the International Committee of the Red Cross published the The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies PDF , described by David Isenberg:

The document, while not legally binding, recalls existing obligations regarding private security companies during armed conflict and identifies good practices to assist states in ensuring respect for international humanitarian law and applicable human rights law, and in otherwise promoting responsible conduct in their relationships with private security companies during armed conflict.

The document was signed by Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iraq, Poland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States. The signatories represent an interesting mix of past and present experience with private contractors. Afghanistan and Iraq are obvious choices, by dint of the enormous presence of contractors in those countries.

The United States and Britain, which are the world’s largest users of contractors presently, and the countries where the vast majority of private security contractors are headquartered, also must be included.

Finally, Angola, Sierra Leone and South Africa were all countries that had to deal with the now defunct Executive Outcomes, the mother of all security contractors. EO, based in South Africa, had fought in the civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone. As a consequence, both South Africa and Sierra Leone had passed some of the most detailed legislation anywhere in the world on how to regulate private security contractors.

The document is divided into two sections. The first highlights existing international laws with which such companies should comply. The bottom line is that under existing international law, states cannot circumvent their obligations by using private military contractors. They have to take appropriate measures to prevent any violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and to provide the necessary remedies for the suppression of such violations. They are directly responsible for the conduct of contractors if these enterprises act in a governmental capacity.

The second lists some 70 “good practices” for assisting countries in fulfilling their legal obligations. These include: avoiding the use of contractors for activities that clearly require the use of force; states must assure the good reputation of companies they send abroad, and they are encouraged to create a system of control, surveillance and sanctions in case of breaches; companies should be regulated and licensed; and the personnel from these companies, among other things, must be trained in the rules of international humanitarian law.

To its credit, the IPOA, the PMSCs trade and lobbying association welcomes the document.  I am not the biggest admirer of the IPOA, but to their credit, they have supported accountability to a much greater extent than the Bush Cheney administration has done.  The Bush Cheney administration employ PMSCs precisely in order to circumvent the law and avoid accountability.  It is their way of deregulating the military, just as the Republicans have done to the banks.

The big drawback to the document is that it is not legally binding, but it articulates important points that need to be considered when states employ PMSCs.  It recommends the same principles for private entities and corporations that employ PMSCs, but does not really get into much depth or detail regarding private employers, other than recommending they follow the same practices.

The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies PDF does a particulary good job of defining PMSCs, and the role of states in relation to PMSCs.   It divides involved states into contracting states, territorial states, and home states as follows:

That for the purposes of this document:

a)  “PMSCs” are private business entities that provide military and/or security services,  irrespective of how they describe themselves. Military and security services include, in  particular, armed guarding and protection of persons and objects, such as convoys, buildings and other places; maintenance and operation of weapons systems; prisoner  detention; and advice to or training of local forces and security personnel.

b)  “Personnel of a PMSC” are persons employed by, through direct hire or under a  contract with, a PMSC, including its employees and managers.

c)  “Contracting States” are States that directly contract for the services of PMSCs,  including, as appropriate, where such a PMSC subcontracts with another PMSC.

d)  “Territorial States” are States on whose territory PMSCs operate.

e)  “Home States” are States of nationality of a PMSC, i.e. where a PMSC is registered or  incorporated; if the State where the PMSC is incorporated is not the one where it has its  principal place of management, then the State where the PMSC has its principal place of  management is the “Home State”.

The document includes the subcontractors as part of the contractual obligations of the states involved and the PMSCs.

Following are the first four of the understandings that guided this document:

1.  That certain well-established rules of international law apply to States in their relations with  private military and security companies (PMSCs) and their operation during armed conflict,  in particular under international humanitarian law and human rights law;

2.  That this document recalls existing legal obligations of States and PMSCs and their  personnel (Part One), and provides States with good practices to promote compliance with  international humanitarian law and human rights law during armed conflict (Part Two);

3.  That this document is not a legally binding instrument and does not affect existing  obligations of States under customary international law or under international agreements to  which they are parties, in particular their obligations under the Charter of the United  Nations (especially its articles 2(4) and 51);

4.  That this document should therefore not be interpreted as limiting, prejudicing or enhancing  in any manner existing obligations under international law, or as creating or developing new  obligations under international law;

The first two understandings state that there is already applicable international law regarding the employment and conduct of PMSCs.  The second two understandings make it clear that this document is nonbinding, and does not create any new obligations under international law.

On the plus side, the accountability described in the document is supposed to come from the three categories of states involved in the contracting process, and is not dependent on international law except in its guiding principles.

The gigantic problem that is not mentioned is how do you enforce either the guidelines or the law.  We have seen in Iraq, even in circumstances when there have been serious and visible violations of applicable law, even under the jurisdiction of military justice, bringing perpetrators to justice, collecting and preserving evidence, and finding witnesses is close to impossible.  So until there is law that is binding, and has both reach and teeth, accountability will be elusive and PMSCs will be outside the law.  We hope that the Montreux Document will begin to bring some influence and pressure between states to move in the direction of accountability.


Click here for the interactive version of this map.
Then, in the frame on the left you can view the list of these oil and military involvements in Africa.

Foreign Policy in Focus had an article by Antonia Juhasz titled AFRI(OIL)COM, speculating as to whether the next war for oil will be in Africa. Many of her points have been discussed here at Crossed Crocodiles at one time or another. She states:

Under the rubric of the Global War on Terror, the Bush administration has implemented the greatest realignment of U.S. forces since the end of the Cold War. With a map of Big Oil’s overseas operations, the world’s remaining oil reserves, and oil transport routes, one can now track the realignment and predict future deployments of the U.S. military.

And for a picture of this, click on the link below the map. In a frame on the left you will be able to scroll down a list of Major Oil Corporation and U.S. Military Activities in Africa. The list is by no means complete. But it provides a lengthy introduction.

Sniffing hard on the heels of the US military come the dogs of war, the mercenaries, the International Peace Operations Association, who are organizing to feed at the AFRICOM trough, feeding on the blood and the futures of African citizens.

David Isenberg wrote in his Dogs of War column Friday discussing whether or not PMCs are cost effective.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it countless times: Governments and corporations turn to private military contractors because it is more cost-effective than using regular military forces. But is it true?

But whether it’s true that contractors are cost effective is at best an open question, the answer to which depends, in part, on what you mean by cost.

While outsourcing can be effective, doing things in-house is often easier and quicker. You avoid the expense and hassle of haggling, and retain operational reliability and control, which is especially important to the military.

Then there is the fact that outsourcing works best when there’s genuine competition among suppliers. …

The Bush/Cheney administration has greatly reduced competition:

An analysis showed that fewer than half of all “contract actions” -­ new contracts and payments against existing contracts -­ were now subject to full and open competition. Just 48 percent were competitive in 2005, down from 79 percent in 2001.

Many academics who examine the issue of the relative cost of private versus public point to the politics behind the ways one can measure cost. What you include or exclude can be a complicated, and highly political, exercise. Economists disagree on how to answer the question at least in part because they use different variables when measuring cost.

… What little cost-benefit analysis there has been to date has focused on narrow economic cost comparisons and generally avoided addressing equally important political factors, such as avoiding tough choices concerning military needs, reserve call-ups and the human consequences of war.

As Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, wrote, “Excessive use of private contractors erodes checks and balances, and it substitutes market transactions, controlled by the executive branch, for traditional political mechanisms of accountability. When it comes to Iraq, we’ve yet to see the evidence of a large practical gain in return; instead, use of contractors may have helped to make an ill-advised venture possible.”

And related to the “human consequences of war”, one big question is who pays which costs? The military budget, and the government’s operating budget are hardly the only ones affected. Many employees of the PMC corporations are finding that their immediate employer is a shell incorporated outside the US to avoid US laws, such as medical coverage for the PMC employees. Quite a number of PMC employees are third country nationals, and as individuals, may have to carry a lot of the cost of their participation. The other cost may be to their countries of origin. What needs or expectations will they bring back? And how will their training in Iraq affect their participation in society and government at home?

Outsourcing is a way of cost shifting rather than cost saving. I see it every day. The young Spanish speaking woman who cleans our offices daily is our colleague. She does a superb job. Yet the contractor she works for pays her minimum wage and no benefits. My employer “saves” money by not paying permanent employees salaries and benefits to do the cleaning. The costs are shifted onto the individual at the bottom of the pay scale who is least able to bear these costs. And of course, the costs come back to government, which must deal with the emergency situations this cost shifting generates. Walmart is famous for these cost shifting “savings”, but its size makes it visible, it is hardly alone.

As Isenberg says, it depends on what you mean by cost.

Mercenaries in New Orleans – “nation building” at home

David Isenberg at Dogs of War writes:

When it comes to issues of accountability, oversight and transparency in the private military and security industry . . . there is actually a fair degree of consensus that, yes, there should actually be such a thing: not just in words, but deeds as well.

The companies themselves, industry trade associations, and even various governments, are working together to try and hammer out standards that would apply to the industry globally.
. . .
But there is one government that should be in the lead on this issue, considering it is both the largest user of such firms and the country where the majority of them are based. Guess who it is. That’s right, the United States.
. . .
The dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006, according to a recent report by a Pentagon panel. But the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.

And one can bet that the contract supervisors who are left vividly remember the case of Bunnatine H. “Bunny” Greenhouse. (story here) She was the senior contracting officer for the Army Corps of Engineers who objected — first, internally, and then publicly — to a multibillion-dollar, no-bid contract with Halliburton for work in Iraq. She was then removed from the senior executive service, the top rank of civilian government employees, allegedly because of poor performance reviews.
. . .
Not having provided the oversight that any half-wit would know is necessary when dealing with tens of billions of dollars in contracts is bad enough.

But turning a blind eye to possible criminal behavior is far worse. And yet that is what the Bush administration is doing.
. . .
Finally, as recently reported in the National Journal there was this head-scratching revelation. When President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization in January his approval support came with a catch: a signing statement in which he wrote that various provisions of the act, including language that would create a commission to examine “waste, fraud, and abuse” in wartime contracting in Iraq and elsewhere, “impose requirements that could inhibit” his “ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and execute his authority as Commander in Chief.”

Only in Bush-World can protecting the American taxpayer against graft and fraud be seen as endangering national security.

I doubt the IPOA is as interested in accountability as it claims. I suspect it may be more analagous to the steps the baseball players union took to prevent drug abuse, minimal, insincere, and ineffective. Although PMC, mercenary, accountability is becoming an issue around the world.

The definition of mercenaries is key. As of now, the definition excludes most of the people employed as PMCs. Step one needs to be an inclusive definition.

Just before Bush left to play at being benevolent uncle in Africa, his administration cut funding for UN peacekeeping in African countries.

From ABC news:

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.
. . .
In war-torn Liberia, which President Bush will visit on his trip, the White House has proposed spending $56 million less on the U.N. peacekeeping mission there than it did last year. Bush . . . visit(ed) Rwanda, which is still struggling to right itself after a devastating, years-long civil war took the lives of millions. His administration’s budget proposes cutting $5 million (from the UN tribunal in Rwanda.) . . .

The administration’s 2009 budget also cuts millions for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sudan; Democratic Republic of Congo, where a decade-long war still claims thousands of lives a month; Chad, where rebels attempted a violent overthrow of the government Feb. 2; and Cote d’Ivoire, whose stability the Bush administration says “is a critical element in restoring peace to the entire West African region.”

Obviously peace is way too important to pay to restore it.

Why did Bush cut funding for UN peacekeeping? The Bush administration is still planning on spending rivers of money on “nation building”, “stability operations”, and “peacekeeping”, just not with the UN. The Department of State just issued AFRICAP Program Recompete, looking for contractors to:

. . . undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations.

And the mercenaries are salivating at the Bush administration plans to hire more and more mercenaries, private military and security contractors, to accomplish Bush aims in Africa.

In October (2007), leaders in the private military security industry — ArmorGroup, DynCorp, MPRI, and several others — gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel near the Capitol for the annual three-day summit of their trade group, the International Peace Operations Association. Panel speakers and members of the audience debated the future of nation-building efforts in failed states.
. . .
. . . handing out his business card that day, Army Lt. Col. James Boozell, a branch chief of the Stability Operations/Irregular Warfare Division at the Pentagon, said that the U.S. military was in fact experiencing a “watershed” moment in its 200-plus-year history — nation building was now a core military mission to be led by the Army.

Boozell adds, however, that the Army can’t possibly raise up failed states without . . . of course, private security contractors . . . — boom times for nation building are here to stay.

They may need a lot more states to “fail” in order to keep the PMCs busy with new contracts.

Vijay Prashad and Mahmood Mamdani tell us how the US and the EU previously cut funding for African Union peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and Darfur. The AU was actually having some success in reducing violence. Bush does not want that success. By cutting UN peacekeeping funds now, Bush is trying to prevent an indigenous African force, or an international agency, from succeeding in peacekeeping.
In Darfur:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do its job. The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani (who is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Africa) says of this, “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Undermining the UN, and paying mercenaries instead of the UN, does not save money. This is not frugality. Private military contractors, PMCs, are in business to make money, and they are still very much on the Bush agenda.
cost + profit = increased cost

Of course the costs for PMCs can be reduced by using conscripts and child soldiers. And PMC profits can be increased by dealing in contraband. There are plenty of precedents.

I see these possible reasons why the Bush administration has cut UN peacekeeping funding.

  • Prevent African or international solutions to African problems.
  • Maintain the US as the only ones capable of solving violent unrest in African countries by preventing indigenous or alternative solutions.
  • Provide more jobs and contracts for corporate cronies, the private military contractors.
  • Prevent oversight, avoid US law and international law that might apply to US activities in African countries.
  • Continue an intentionally destructive policy of undermining the UN.
  • Incompetence (does not preclude any of the above.)
MAS peasants arrive in La Paz after 190km march in 2005
Picture: Indymedia Bolivia

When the proponents of AFRICOM talk about stability operations, one can look at Bolivia and Venezuela to see examples of how these operations work. With AFRICOM, USAID will be subsumed under the Department of Defense. In Bolivia USAID is using taxpayer money to destabilize the Bolivian government. AFRICOM intends increased use of mercenaries by US and corporate employers. In Venezuela US and Columbian mercenaries are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations and destabilize the central government. Much of the funding for the mercenaries comes from drug dealing. Many of the mercenaries come from AUC, a right wing terrorist organization from Columbia.

Undermining Bolivia by Benjamin Dangl:

Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
. . .

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.
. . .
“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. __ . . . “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

USAID has funded the regional right wing governors, allowing them to oppose democratic distribution of resources, giving them more political strength and clout to defy the central government. It has undermined youth movements, and other local political activities.

“USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

In the one demonstration project USAID invited Mr. Dangl to view, workers would not give their names, and said they would be beaten if they told the truth. And Fulbright scholars are being asked to report political information to the US embassy, in violation of Fulbright guidelines.

And this week from the Washington Post:

President Evo Morales declared a U.S. Embassy security officer to be an “undesirable person” on Monday after reports that the officer asked an American scholar and 30 Peace Corps volunteers to pass along information about Cubans and Venezuelans working in Bolivia
. . .
Fulbright scholar Alex van Schaick told The Associated Press that Cooper, the embassy’s assistant regional security officer, asked him to pass along the names and addresses of any Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might encounter in the country. “We know they’re out there, we just want to keep tabs on them,” Schaick quoted Cooper as telling him on Nov. 5.
ABC News reported that Cooper made a similar request to 30 newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers on July 29

The US embassy came out with the usual, why we would never consider doing such a thing, we only do good. They also made the following laughable statement:

Peace Corps volunteers had been mistakenly given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report “suspicious activities.”

In Venezuela:

Azzellini (Caracas-based German Political Scientist Darío Azzellini, author of a study of Columbian paramilitary activity titled The Business of War) reported that paramilitary operations are carried out by mercenaries from the U.S. and Latin America who are recruited by private military companies but pose as civilian employees. Beyond government oversight, they are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations.

A principal source of paramilitary income is their control of 100% of Colombian heroine exports and 70% of Colombian cocaine exports, Azzellini claimed. In Colombia, giant drug cartels manage large quantities of the drugs, but in Venezuela paramilitaries deal smaller amounts in local communities to increase their leverage within the populations they are contracted to control. Chavez and Azzellini publicized this “open secret” at a time of heated opposition accusations that Chávez does not sufficiently cooperate in combating drug trafficking through Venezuelan territory.

Azzellini explained that the groups now in Venezuela are descendents of the United Self-defense of Colombia (AUC), a brutal paramilitary force formed in the 1980s by Colombian elites to assume the dirty work of the government, which was seeking to improve its dismal international human rights reputation. While the AUC tactic of “total terror” has been used in Colombian cities such as Medellín, paramilitaries now in Venezuela leverage local economic and political power more than sheer violence, according to Azzellini.

Nonetheless, paramilitaries in Venezuela are known for “social cleansing,” or the hired killing of local community members, says the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers’ Front (FNCEZ), an organization that defends the rights of rural communities. Since an agrarian reform law favorable to rural workers was passed by the Chávez administration in 2001, paramilitaries have murdered 190 rural community members who dared to stand up to the owners of plantations, milk factories, and mines.

The most recent killings were last month, when Municipal Legislator Freddy Ascaño and Community Council Federation President Alfredo Montiel were executed by paramilitaries in their municipality of Tucaní, south of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela, the local population reported

I don’t generally write about issues in Latin America. But the way the US deals with Latin America, historically, and especially under the Bush administration, has many parallels and lessons for African countries.

AFRICOM brags about engaging in stability operations and nation building.
Nation building and stability operations mean:

  1. Destabilize the current government (unless it is already a compliant or puppet government, in which case, undermine the opposition).
  2. Call opponents terrorists.
  3. Stabilize, engage in “nation building”, by supporting or installing a government that will follow US corporate bidding, rather than democratic principles.

This is imperialism.
“Stability” and “nation building” follow a Bush pattern of naming things the opposite of what they are and what they do.

Africa has already experienced some of these “stability operations”, in Somalia, destroying the only functioning government in 15 years, and creating an overwhelming humanitarian crisis, and in the Kenya election fiasco, being the most recent and dramatic. There are ongoing “stability operations” in other places in Africa and around the world.

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