PMCs


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.

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90% of the revenue of Xe, formerly Blackwater, comes from the United States Government, which means it comes from United States taxpayers. What are taxpayers getting for their money?

Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

Is this the work of Blackwater/Xe? This is from the aftermath of a mosque bombed in Mogadishu May 1, 2010, bombed while people were at worship. I do not usually include pictures of horrors, I do not like to disrespect those people caught in the chaos. But we need to ask: Are US taxpayers paying for this? If we are, what are we getting for our money?

The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience .  The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

Prince appears both clueless and contemptuous of Afghani and Pakistani opposition, calling them “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” This kind of COIN partnering will bring the US many more enemies. It is also unlikely to bring any victories, just more violent interludes. It seems unlikely that Prince and his company have any greater respect or concern for the people of Somalia than they do for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prince claims he has been operating under US contract in Pakistan. Although the US and Pakistani governments officially deny this.

“You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

This kind of arrogance makes people blind. Blackwater/Xe was in charge of security at “the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.” Did arrogance cause them to miss important clues, or skip security protocols?

Regarding the bombing of the mosque in Somalia:

A senior official of Somalia’s radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab, who was target of Mogadishu mosque blast that killed several people have accused American security companies of the attacks.

Sheikh Fu’ad Muhammad Khalaf aka Shongolo accused the Xe, formerly of Black Water, whom he alleges to based at Mogadishu airport of being behind the blast …

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which attracted condemnation from all quarters of the war-torn Somalia. (Garowe Online)

Generally some group claims credit for bomb attacks. Bombing a mosque with no claim for credit makes it appear more likely that foreign fighters are involved, foreigners who are not allied with the various Somali Islamist movements. The largest group of foreign fighters in Somalia are those sponsored by the donor countries, chiefly the US and EU, trying to prop up the TFG, Transitional Federal Government, the government installed primarily by the US, which is neither federal nor a government. It limps along under constant propping and pressure from the US.

Garowe Online: Somali warring sides condemn Mogadishu Mosque blasts

A twin bomb explosion that killed scores of people inside a mosque in Somalia ’s restive capital Mogadishu on Saturday has been strongly condemned by all warring sides involved in Somali conflict.

The attack took place inside a packed mosque in the main Bakara market, an area controlled by insurgent group Al-Shabaab.

The leader of Somalia’s Hizbul Islam Islamist militant Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said targets on worships are unheard off in Somalia but now seems to be getting its way into the country thanks to ‘foreign enemies’.

The fragile UN-backed [read: foreign-backed] Somali government termed the incident as ‘new foreign barbaric phenomena’ that totally dints the historic Islamic culture of Somalis.

Sheikh Abdullahi Abdirahman Abu Yusuf Al-Qadi, a spokesman for pro-government Ahlu-sunna Wal-jamaa group, which is involved in bloody war with insurgents groups Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam described the act as a foreign terror campaign that is finding its way into the Somali society.

Al Shabaab movement blamed the attacks on foreign security firms operating in Mogadishu. The group is waging war against the UN-backed Somali government and its backer African Union troops.

We know mercenary corporations are working for the US Government in Somalia. Dyncorp has its own offices in Mogadishu. Employing mercenaries, especially to commit acts of terrorism, will accomplish nothing, and earn the United States quite a few more enemies.

Prince and Blackwater/Xe also want to go into Nigeria where they could make even more enemies for the US. In his speech Prince spoke about this.

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

Prince fails to note that many members of Nigeria’s government are reputed to be involved in the illegal oil bunkering. And that the neglect and exploitation by both the oil companies and the Nigerian government, is responsible for much unrest and dissatisfaction in the Niger Delta. The only help Blackwater/Xe might provide is assisting in some temporary financial gain by the exploiters, and quite likely for itself as well. Of course with Prince’s contempt for local populations, he may see this as a plus.

Regardless of the income that comes from their employers, PMCs and their employees are ideally placed to deal in contraband, especially weapons, drugs, and slaves. All of these are traded and for sale in a war zone. Five Blackwater employees are currently under indictment for weapons charges.

Poppy production continues strong in Afghanistan. Much of the product is currently being marketed in Iran and Russia. A PMC operating in Afghanistan is perfectly placed to take advantage of this trade without any US stigma that might attach to dealing drugs to the United States. They might even regard themselves as engaging in a patriotic activity or carrying out the wishes of their employers, at the same time making a huge profit.  This is especially the case for Prince who characterizes Iran as the source of evil in his speech.

Prince claims:

“The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”

The private sector also operates as a private sector, and can engage in additional enterprises including the trade in contraband to enhance and supplement their income. That is one way to be more efficient.

If Blackwater is engaged in acts of terror, such as bombing mosques or other places where people are gathered, it hurts the United States. If taxpayers are paying for it, they need to know what they are getting. And the US taxpayers have a right and responsibility to monitor the words and deeds of Prince and his companies wherever they operate at taxpayer expense, and wherever their actions threaten the security and reputation of the United States.

Artist's impression

Graphic h/t to Ado on The Darkest of Liquids

Photo credit from the bombing wardheernews.com PDF

h/t africa comments where there is more information on ongoing events in Somalia

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)

Montgomery McFate - lead scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System
Montgomery McFate – lead social scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain system is supposed to provide information to the military on local people and local culture. I have written about it in relation to AFRICOM previously here: Human Terrain mired in a swamp.

HTS seems to be mired deeper than ever.

John Stanton describes:

Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater, destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.

… Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described by HTS personnel as “a poisonous individual,” “the crazy aunt in the room”, and a “hustler”. One said “you’ve got to watch your six with her.”

Here are some quotes from people involved in the Human Terrain project:

“The HTS program is a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, and in the midst of a recession. Millions have been wasted. And the moronic management of the HTS program seems to have absolutely no problem placing poorly trained individuals in harm’s way, going so far as to falsifying training documents.”

“The amount of cash flying around the HTS program with very little oversight or accountability is disgusting. I continue to work for the HTS program out of obligation because I finish what I start, but trust me, I am counting down the days.”

“I feel for the people whose careers are being ground up in this HTS program mess.”

“It never ceases to amaze me how many egotistical individuals are involved with this HTS program.”

The article points out:

It isn’t really necessary to bring in academics to try to understand psychology, except perhaps for rare pathologies that are not likely to be encountered in everyday life [evolutionary psychology can speak to that]. Where HTS could have helped a lot is in understanding cultural norms and they did try to do that. But it seems to me that HTS over-promised when they claimed that they could help front-line tactical troops with specific situational awareness problems. The key thing to remember is that the differences between any two humans’ behaviors will be greater than the differences in behaviors between cultures.”

As someone who has moved between cultures a certain amount, I heartily endorse this last sentence.

Montgomery McFate, pictured above, is a major player in the fraud and failure. There is a great version of the picture of her here. And more about her domestic spying at Mother Jones.

More from journalist John Stanton on HTS:

Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends.

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”

Interesting about AFRICOM HQ being located in Botswana. I have wondered about this. I have read other speculation on Botswana as the location. The current President of Botswana seems amiably disposed towards western militarism. So far I have seen nothing official.

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