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March 2004

Iraq: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

In principle, the use of mercenaries has been banned since 1989 by the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, 4 December 1989, an additional protocol to the Geneva Convention. Nineteen countries have ratified the Convention: Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Cameroon, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Suriname, Togo, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. An additional nine have signed but have yet to ratify the Convention: Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The US and UK, each with a huge private military industry, are notable for their absence as signatories.

We should ask John Kerry to commit in favor of the US signing this convention.

I started this post -- concerning the role of private military companies and mercenaries in Iraq yesterday. But I was so shocked at what I was finding that I had to sleep on it before I could continue.

The Economist calls the phenomenon The Baghdad Boom:

British companies have been grousing about losing out to the Americans in Iraq. But in one area, British companies excel: security

The sight of a mob of Iraqi stone-throwers attacking the gates to the Basra palace where the coalition has its southern headquarters is no surprise. What's odd is the identity of the uniformed men holding them off. The single Briton prodding his six Fijians to stand their ground are not British army soldiers but employees of Global Risk Strategies, a London-based security company.

Private military companies ( PMC s)—mercenaries, in oldspeak—manning the occupation administration's front lines are now the third-largest contributor to the war effort after the United States and Britain. British ones are popular, largely because of the reputation of the Special Air Service (SAS) regiment whose ex-employees run and man many of the companies. They maintain they have twice as many men on the ground as their American counterparts. According to David Claridge, managing director of Janusian, a London-based security firm, Iraq has boosted British military companies' revenues from ��200m ($320m) before the war to over ��1 billion, making security by far Britain's most lucrative post-war export to Iraq.

The best pieces I found were a must-read story from The Independent, By Robert Fisk in Baghdad and Severin Carrell in London: Occupiers spend millions on private army of security men ( which also appeared  from The Star in South Africa as Security firms and mercenaries coining it in Iraq) and Britain's secret army in Iraq: thousands of armed security men who answer to nobody

An army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in Iraq's major cities, many of them former British and American soldiers hired by the occupying Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies who fear for the lives of their employees.

Many of the armed Britons are former SAS soldiers and heavily armed South Africans are also working for the occupation. "My people know how to use weapons and they're all SAS," said the British leader of one security team in southern Baghdad. "But there are people running around with guns now who are just cowboys. We always conceal our weapons, but these guys think they're in a Hollywood film."

There are serious doubts even within the occupying power about America's choice to send Chilean mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet's vicious dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport. Many South Africans are in Iraq illegally - they are breaking new laws, passed by the government in Pretoria, to control South Africa's booming export of mercenaries. Many have been arrested on their return home because they are do not have the licence now required by private soldiers.

Casualties among the mercenaries are not included in the regular body count put out by the occupation authorities, which may account for the persistent suspicion among Iraqis that the US is underestimating its figures of military dead and wounded. Some British experts claim that private policing is now the UK's biggest export to Iraq - a growth fueled by the surge in bomb attacks on coalition forces, aid agencies and UN buildings since the official end of the war in May last year.

Many companies operate from villas in middle-class areas of Baghdad with no name on the door. Some security men claim they can earn more than ��80,000 a year; but short-term, high-risk mercenary work can bring much higher rewards. Security personnel working a seven-day contract in cities like Fallujah, can make $1,000 a day.

They also mention ArmorGroup:

Another British-owned company, ArmorGroup has an ��876,000 contract to supply 20 security guards for the Foreign Office. That figure will rise by 50 per cent in July. The firm also employs about 500 Gurkhas to guard executives with the US firms Bechtel and Kellogg Brown & Root.

Check out this nice bit from an Armor press release:

While Armor's products division is tied to law enforcement, its security division -- ArmorGroup Services -- is more closely allied with the world of espionage.

That's why it is useful to have former KGB members such as Mikhail Golovatov, former head of the Alpha Group -- the KGB's counter-mafia and counter-terrorism unit -- on the Armor payroll in Russia.


"I'm very happy with the progress Armor is making and what the company is doing with its business mix. That should show up in its numbers in the next nine months to a year," he said.

Armor executives, meanwhile, say recession or an economic downturn shouldn't hold the company back.  In fact, Latin America's economic doldrums are carving out new business possibilities for Armor, and in the near future it plans to open a Miami office to run its Latin American operations.

"Multinational companies always tend to have money to spend to protect their physical and personal assets," Spiller said. "Our business can only get better as people become more aware of the risks."

(Robert Fisk also did a brilliant write-up of the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war; not to be missed!)

In The Herald in Scotland, Ian Bruce, Defence Correspondent reports that security/mercenary services are now the UK's most profitable export: SAS veterans among the bulldogs of war cashing in on boom

British mercenary firms have made an estimated ��800m from providing private armies for security duties in post-Saddam Iraq, and now qualify as the UK's most lucrative export earner from the country in the past year. Armed mercenaries being paid out of government or corporate funds outnumber the Army's 8800-strong garrison in the country by "at least a factor of two", according to concerned military sources. Senior sources also say there are more ex-SAS soldiers acting as advisers for "private military companies" than currently serving in the elite, 300-man regiment based near Hereford. Global security firms fill in as private armies
15,000 agents patrol violent streets of Iraq

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2004

A group of American construction executives was traveling in a  convoy down a palm-lined highway 30 miles north of Baghdad one January day  when gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades suddenly exploded everywhere.

Private security agents riding with the convoy fought off the attackers  in a hail of gunfire. Two of the agents died, as did an unknown number of  guerrillas.

The bloodshed was not publicly reported at the time, and the agents'  employer, the Steele Foundation of San Francisco, drew a cloak of discreet  silence over the incident to protect its clients' identity.

The shootout was just one more example of the behind-the-scenes role  played in Iraq by an estimated 15,000 private security agents from the United  States, Britain and countries as varied as Nepal, Chile, Ukraine, Israel,  South Africa and Fiji. They are employed by about 25 different firms that are  playing their part in Iraq's highly dangerous postwar environment by  performing tasks ranging from training the country's new police and army to  protecting government leaders to providing logistics for the U.S. military.

"The rate of growth in the security industry is phenomenal," said Deborah  Avant, a professor of political science and international affairs at George  Washington University in Washington, D.C. "If you had asked a year ago whether  there would be 15,000 private security in Iraq, everyone would have said  you're nuts. It has moved very quickly over the past decade, but Iraq has  escalated it dramatically."

The boom in Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg for the $100 billion-a- year industry, which experts say has been the fastest-growing sector of the  global economy during the past decade. From oil companies in the African  hinterland to heads of state in Haiti and Afghanistan to international aid  agencies in hotspots around the world, the difference between life and death  is decided by private guns for hire.

Meanwhile, Blackwater USA is hiring Chilean guys who trained under Pinochet to help us out in Iraq: US contractor recruits guards for Iraq in Chile

"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals - the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," he said.

Chile was the only Latin American country where his firm had hired commandos for Iraq. He estimated that "about 95%" of his work came from government contracts and said his business was booming.

"We have grown 300% over each of the past three years and we are small compared to the big ones.

"We have a very small niche market, we work towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."

The privatisation of security in Iraq is growing as the US seeks to reduce its commitment of troops.

Lisa Ashkenaz Croke wrting for the elaborates: Mercenaries Hired to Keep Order in Iraq

USA Blackwater isn't the only security firm hiring ex-military of disturbing origin.  Last month, The Forward's Marc Perelman reported that contractor Erinys International utilized "former henchman of South Africa's apartheid regime" to guard oil facilities and train new Iraqi police.

"Franois Strydom, who was killed in the January 28 bombing of a hotel in Baghdad, was a former member of the Koevoet, a notoriously brutal counterinsurgency arm of the South African military that operated in Namibia during the neighboring state's fight for independence in the 1980s. His colleague Deon Gouws, who was injured in the attack, is a former officer of the Vlakplaas, a secret police unit in South Africa," wrote Perelman.

Who would have thought that Iraq needed to import torturers!

From, (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) SOUTH AFRICA: Authorities target alleged mercenaries

Military analyst Henri Boshoff, of the Institute for Security Studies, told IRIN reports that up to 1,500 South Africans could be operating in Iraq were "speculation - 1,500 is a lot of people and I'm sure [South African] customs would have picked it up".

A discussion of the reaction of some governments is provided by Bill Berkowitz, writing for Alternet: Mercenaries 'R' Us

The recruitment of its citizens, however, isn't making either the Chilean or the South African governments happy. The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act prohibits South African citizens from direct participation as a combatant in armed conflict for private gain. Michelle Bachelet, Chile's defense minister, has ordered an investigation into whether such recruitment is legal under Chilean laws. Bachelet also was troubled by stories that soldiers on active duty are leaving the company to sign up as mercenaries.

It is also only a matter of time before U.S. soldiers grow unhappy with the presence of mercenaries in their midst. The high salaries and shorter terms of employment offered to mercenaries will inevitably make a serious dent on the military's budget. As Blackwater's Jackson acknowledged in the Guardian, "If they are going to outsource tasks that were once held by active-duty military and are now using private contractors, those guys [on active duty] are looking and asking, 'Where is the money?'"

This last question seems to be very much in the minds of the new Iraqi security forces the U. S. trains, half of whom leave over issues of pay.

... and from the Washington Times: Use of private security firms in Iraq draws concerns

"This is a very touchy issue," said a high-level coalition military official who opposes expanded use of private soldiers in Iraq. "There's a lot of pressure to use these contractors. Some oppose it. Some support it."

Some soldiers said privately that the soldiers-for-hire walk around with their weapons in full view as if they belong to a coalition army. They worry that the private-sector soldiers might not be constrained by the same rules of engagement and that any rogues among them who kill or hurt Iraqis could bring reprisals on all foreign forces.

"What are the rules of engagement [for the PMCs]?" asked one coalition military official in Baghdad. "Are they civilians or are they military? I don't know who they are, and I don't want to go anywhere near them."

The Coalition Provisional Authority did not respond to several formal requests for information about private military activities in Iraq. The coalition military commander in Iraq, U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, responding to a question at a press conference several weeks ago, said he did not know of any plans to use contractors to perform security functions for the military.

On the ground, however, the private soldiers are occasionally finding themselves in firefights with Iraqis.

Richard Galustian of Pilgrims, a contractor that provides security for many Western media outlets, described one incident in which his firm's security officials opened fire on a group of suspected bandits along the road from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. "Certainly at least one or two people were hit," he said.

A former Special Forces member now in Baghdad said military contractors guarding ministries on behalf of coalition authorities have killed Iraqis who were trying to loot or attack the buildings.

"It's Iraq," he said. "You're accountable to nobody. But I guess ultimately you're accountable to the U.S. military for what happens."

MEANWHILE, Forbes, "The Capitalist Tool," in an article on the upcoming Baghdad Trade Fair, reports tepid interest in investing in Baghdad:

Although subcontracts are on offer in Iraq, few foreign companies have chosen to set up in the country as instability continues and facilities such as hotels come under attack.

A U.S. engineering executive doing business in the Gulf said his company has been offered subcontracts in Iraq but turned them down.

"Nobody is exactly rushing to go into Iraq," the executive said.

Who needs trade anyway when war for war's sake is making such a profit?

And what will we do for Bad Guys when they've all gotten jobs in Iraq? Will a Bad Guy just be a thug with out a job?

Seriously, the US and the UK are squandering two hundred years of emergent citizenship, patriotism, and respect for the nation-state for political expediency and the financial gain of their mercenary and oil industries. The mercenary situation is way out of control.

All this reminds me of the rhetoric last summer about how Iraq would be a "magnet" for terrorists. Here's Peter Bergen, CNN's analyst, towing the party line:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq is becoming a major "magnet" for al Qaeda terrorists, who now pose more of a threat than remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, two analysts said Tuesday after a truck bomb killed 17 at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

"A half-dozen U.S. officials who investigate or analyze al Qaeda ... say that Iraq has become an important battleground for al Qaeda in the past several months," CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said.

"The officials use words such as 'magnet' and 'super magnet' to describe the attraction that Iraq has for al Qaeda and other 'jihadists,' " said Bergen, author of "Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden."

James Rubin, a former U.S. deputy secretary of state, agreed that the terrorism milieu in Iraq has changed, pointing to increased attacks against civilian targets and fewer large-scale attacks against U.S. soldiers.

"It is my suspicion that the types of attacks in Iraq are either backed or funded by Islamic extremists."

They are coming from other countries and "see it as a rich place to conduct their bloody business," he said.

I'm having one of those experiences when I discover that the world as it actually is is very different from my conception of it. I want my worldview back.

And just in case military contractors feel they need another house or plane, the GOP is surveying its members about where we go from here (AP):

A voter survey tied to a Republican effort to raise money for House candidates mislabels Thailand and the Philippines as countries that "harbor and aid terrorists," say officials from both governments.

A question on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Ask America 2004 Nationwide Policy Survey" asks: "Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as Thailand, Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, etc.?"

Accompanying the NRCC survey, which also poses questions about health care, the economy and other issues, was a four-page letter signed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that seeks money to help "keep the Republican Party in control of the U.S. House."

Finally, I'm shaking my head over the story of the "4 American civilian contractors" killed today in Iraq. Here's the best paragraph from the Washington Post version:

[Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's deputy director of operations] added that "the contractors stand side by side with the Iraqi security forces, side by side with the coalition forces. Every time they go out, they know they're taking risk; and they're willing to take that risk for many, many reasons, one of which, they understand that they're part of this process of bringing this country a future that they have not had for 35 years."

I don't dare hope that any reporter will be astute enough to ask directly if they worked for any of the myrid PMCs.

RIDDLE: When is a civilian contractor not a civilian? And when is a dead civilian contractor not a civilian casualty?

AND MEANWHILE: There ahve been coup attempts in Congo (link via African  Oil Politics) and Sudan (both links by subscription).

Trackbacks: Hobson's Choice, Anita's LOL, Making Light, & BoingBoing.

More on ICFA

The weather here at the ICFA yesterday was not great: a high wind advisory followed by rain. (It was nicer in the evening.) I'm sure that this lead to better attendance at the paper sessions.

One might expect that since I'm one of the editors of the New York Review of Science Fiction, I might be attending papers. But no. Since I have no childcare to speak of and David is tremendously busy, I hang out by te pool with the kids, take them places (Monkey Jungle, Butterfly World, the beach, etc.). After six years of this, I'm used to it. Also, it's not as if I'm starved for academic papers about sf, fantasy , & the fantastic in my daily life.

Other bloggers sighted yesterday: Cheryl Morgan, Kevin Maroney, and Arthur Hlavaty (and Graham Sleight, mentioned yesterday).

I think I know who Cheryl was talking to after I went to bed. This sounds like David.

(I noticed a few minutes after finishing this post that I had posted while a panel entitled "The Year in Speculative Fiction" was beginning. Needless to say, I didn't go.)

Tayloring the Plot

Ifve been watching the stories of alternate explanations of what the N4610 mercenaries were up to. The most prominent of them suggests that the mercenaries were just out to bring Charles Taylor to justice. Apparently, the families are the source of the story that the men werenft trying to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea but only trying to capture fugitive Charles Taylor:

Charles Taylor may have been 'mercenaries' target

A saga of claim and counterclaim surrounding suspected African mercenaries continued today when the menfs families disclosed that they had been on a mission to abduct Charles Taylor, Liberiafs former warlord-turned-president.

The men, detained in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea, face possible death penalties, having been charged with planning to overthrow the president of the tiny West African

Seventy suspects have been remanded in custody at Zimbabwefs top security prison. Fifteen others are incarcerated in Equatorial Guinea, accused of accepting an offer from exiled opposition leaders of $1.8 million (1m) and oil rights to overthrow the Government.

However, family and friends told South African newspapers today that the men were simply planning to use Guinea as a staging post on a mission to capture Mr. Taylor.

He carries a $2 million (1.1m) bounty to be paid by America on delivery to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone.

So, let me get this straight: The families admit that those arrested in connection with N4610 in Zimbabwe and those arrested in Equatorial Guinea were working together and that N4610 was headed for Equatorial Guinea? Yes?

(I havenft yet been able to determine whether the families also claim that the mission was associated with the mercenary firm Northbridge Services Group -- this seems to be fairly logical speculation on the part of a reporter.)

I donft know why this story is getting such uncritical media coverage: It is obvious to me that this is a maneuver aimed toward getting the mercenaries off on the charges most likely to involve the death penalty.

UPDATE: The Australian has a good write-up on the mercenaries, Dogs of war walk into carefully set trap, with the general thesis that the South African government, aware of the plot, gave the  mercenaries the proverbial sufficiency of rope, setting them up to be arrested and jailed. Along the way, the piece places the Charles Taylor bounty-hunting as the secondary mission of the group, to be undertaken after the EQ coup. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Vance Security Deployed by Bush-Cheney 04

Given my recent contemplation of mercenaries, a link in Patrick Nielsen Hayden's sidebar caught my eye: The G.O.P.: Now with added paramilitary wing! which takes us to a post by DHinMI on dailyKos. It concerns a Bush-Cheney campaign expenditure for "PERSONNEL SERVICES / EQUIPMENT" in the amount of $185,337.33 from "VANCE INTERNATIONAL, SUITE 210 10467 WHITE GRANITE DR, ROANOKE, Virginia 22124." The firm is best known for its strikebreaking services.

DHinMI wonders what legitimate use the Bush campaign might have "for a firm that specializes in high-tech surveillance, personal investigations, and paramilitary protection?"

Looking over the Vance web site, I was looking hard to try to determine whether they are strictly into security, or whether they offer mercenary services, too. Covert Action Quarterly answers my question: it has a write-up on Vance as part of an article by Mike Zielinski, Private Police: Armed and Dangerous:

One of the most active strike-breaking firms is Vance Security, founded by Charles Vance, ex-son-in-law of ex-President Gerald Ford. Vance's agents were deployed against striking Greyhound drivers in the late 1980s and served as shock troops for the Pittston Coal Group, Inc. in its protracted and bitter battle with the United Mine Workers.

Vance runs a rent-a-mercenary operation which recruits through ads in Soldier of Fortune and offers its agents training in the use of firearms, Mace, and riot batons. An ad in the 1986 Gung-Ho Yearbook, a paramilitary magazine, was aimed at those of you who have military backgrounds who are interested in $100-a-day, all-expenses-paid work. The company offered a refresher course in the use of firearms should things get completely out of hand.

The Asset Protection Team, a Vance subsidiary, runs an ad which features a jack-booted security agent equipped with a riot shield, club and helmet. A brochure guarantees guards will arrive with all the personal equipment necessary to handle all levels of violence.

These firms' stock in trade is the creation of a threatening atmosphere for union supporters. During a dispute between Caterpillar, Inc. and the United Auto Workers in 1992, Vance Security transformed the company's plant into a war zone, placing barbed wire around the grounds. Striking steel workers at an Alcoa plant in Tennessee were subjected to constant surveillance with video cameras, while gun-toting agents were stationed on the tops of buildings and ground-level security brandished riot shields and tear gas canisters. Vance guards followed union members after they left picket lines.

Union organizers view these tactics as a form of psychological warfare. According to John Duray of the United Mine Workers, private guards act as provocateurs, attempting to incite a violent response from strikers. Duray says that security firms create a violent situation, then record it, and take the film to court. Employers then seek a legal injunction against the union.

The most current case of union-busting security guards is unfolding in Detroit this summer. Members of the Newspaper Guild and the Teamsters are on strike at the city's two daily newspapers, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, owned by Knight-Ridder and media giant Gannett, respectively. In mid-July, agents from Vance Security attacked four strikers, sending three of them to a hospital emergency room. Local police confiscated four armloads of wooden clubs from security guards employed by the newspapers.

So, um, yes, Vance is partly a mercenary operation. Also, Vance has offices in many parts of the world so, for example, it could be retained to assist the campaign by undermining unsympathetic foreign heads of state.

The most likely reason Vance has been retained is to provide security for the self-important and paranoid among those in the campaign not entitled to Secret Service protection, but indeed, as DHinMI points out, this expenditure is something Bush-Cheney in 04 really needs be asked to explain.

UPDATE: I've looked into the FEC filings further and found more payments to Vance. They bring the total paid to Vance to above the half-million mark. My preliminary thought is that Vance seems to submit monthly bills. If that is so, judging by what I've come up with, Bush-Cheney is not paying Vance mere hundreds of thousands of dollars, but rather millions, which would afford Bush-Cheney considerably more in the way of services. From Bush-Cheney's SCHEDULE B, ITEMIZED DISBURSEMENTS, All Listed Line Numbers 2003 year end filing, p. 4 of 9:

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

I doubt that they need $500,000 plus security for people not eligible for Secret Service protection. This is really interesting!

FURTHER UPDATE: DHinMI is on the case: More Money To Vance

Yesterday I posted that Vance International, a firm that specializes in, among other things, Secret Service-like personal protection, surveillance, and corporate security during labor disputes, had received almost $200,000 from the Bush-Cheney campaign committee. ÝI was wrong. ÝSince July, Bush-Cheney Inc. has paid Vance International and one of its subsidiaries approximately $750,000. ÝShould they continue at their current rate, by election day the Bush campaign will have paid over $1.5 million to a firm known for high-tech security and surveillance and low-tech picket line thuggery.

Since September 15th, Bush-Cheney Inc. has made 15 payments totaling $626,727.90 to Vance International for "equipment/personnel services." Ý(Citations can be found below.) ÝPrior to that, between July 11th, 2003 and August 26th, 2003, the campaign made 7 payments totaling $122,421.78 to Vance Uniformed Protection, a subsidiary of Vance International. ÝThe Bush HQ in Arlington VA occupies several floors of an office building, and upscale office buildings such as this one typically provide security for their tenants. ÝIt's not unreasonable to accept that the Bush campaign would want to have additional security of its own on the floors it occupies, but that requires a far smaller presence than securing an entire building, parking lots, and the surrounding area. ÝSo again, it's hard to imagine that the campaign has standard office security needs that cost $1,500,000.00 per year.

MEANWHILE, Amnesty International expresses concern for the Rent-a-Coup mercenaries hend in Equatorial Guinea, one of whom, a German citizen, Gerhard Eugen Nershz, has died in custody, allegedly from complications of malaria.

Dodson: a Clearer Picture

I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of Dodson, the company that sold the plane N4610 to the mercenary firm Logo Logistics. Here's a bit on them from a trip report by a fellow who toured their factory:

As promised Chase and Bruce returned at 7.30am and immediately contacted Wendell Barker who turned out to be a true gent. He opened up the Dakotas for a tour and photos. These aircraft are a legend and these particular two were newly purchased as a part lot of 19 by Wendell's employers Dodson International, the one I examined and pretended to fly was used to fly the South Africa President Mandela around.

. . . Back at the airfield Chase handed me over to Wendell who had invited me to look over Dodson's huge facility a few miles away. Dodson's are an unusual company, they are aircraft breakers and buy old and wrecked airplanes of any type from all over the world. The ones that cannot be repaired and sold on are pulled apart and the parts refurbished and sold as secondhand. At the plant Wendell handed me over to Russ who gave me the grand tour, it was very impressive, acres of parts from instruments to wheel axles of every type of aircraft imaginable [except mine] he took me to the "Bone Yard" outside, row after row of aircraft shells including John Wayne's and John Travolta's old personal jets. Some were whole, minus the engines some were stripped down and some had been crashed beyond recognition . On one wrecked jet I noticed splashes of dried blood in the destroyed cockpit and said nothing, I learned later that the two pilots had survived but were badly injured.

On arriving back at Wendell's office he made the tea and it turned out he was the company lawyer apparently there is a lot of red tape involved in buying and selling scrap aircraft across international boundaries.

Dodson seems to get sued a lot. Here's another lawsuit Dodson lost: Ameristar Jet Charter, Inc. v. Dodson International Parts, Inc. This one makes Dodson sound like a combination used car dealer and bad body shop. This ruling involved a $1.4 million judgement against Dodson.

And here's another one: Aerotech v. Dodson, in which it sounds like they didn't have the right to sell the plane they were offering, or something like that. This judgement against them was only a couple of hundred thousand.

Sandline Says They're Not Defunct

Here is a fun write-up of the whole N4610 situation from plus some great corrections at the bottom:



Sandline International have objected to the text of a the above article. Mr Michael Grunberg, speaking for the company, says:

1. "Sandline is not a "defunct" company. It is very much in operation."

2. "The company is not gtied toh Mr Mann. Mr Mann has had no involvement with Sandline since its inception in 1997."

The New York Times have published the following correction:

"An article yesterday about a foiled coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea misstated the status of a company tied to one of the mercenaries accused in the plot. Sandline International, a private military contractor cited for its activity in Africa in the 1990fs, is still functioning; it is not defunct".

One wonders what business the non-defunct company is  doing. Michael Grunberg is the Sandline accountant who helped the company, allegedly, appropriate tens of millions of dollars from the government of Papua New Guinea for unneccessay mercenary service that if carried out could have resulted in a slaughter of the native people.

Spanish SF Editor Nearly Sent Home by the INS

Spanish science fiction editor Marcial Souto was nearly turned away by US Immigration in Ft. Lauderdale night before last. He was flying in to appear as Guest Scholar at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts when he was detained by US Immigration and Naturalization Service for 2 1/2 hours. The INS database incorrectly lists his departure date for a business trip in 1997, triggering his detention. After several hours, Souto realized he had with him an anthology containing one of his stories. In the headnote to the story, it mentions that Souto lives in Barcelona. He presented this to the immigration official who said, "I guess you really do live in Barcelona," and released him.

I had heard stories of legitimate German and French travelers being turned back by the INS, seemingly in retaliation for their countries lack of support for the Iraq war. I wonder if Spain is being punished for its recent election results and the proposed withdrawal of Spanish troops.

Luckily, Souto did ultimately make it through, so we will be able to enjoy his company at the conference.

Dodson in Financial Difficulties

Dodson Aviation, former owner of N4610 the rent-a-coup plane, was apparently having financial difficulties, according to Lender Liability News:

"2 Million Cap Doesn't Apply"
Lender Liability News (10/31/03) Vol. 16, No. 12,
U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil has ruled that Dodson Aviation is liable for the full amount of its loan from GE Capital. GE Capital sued Dodson Aviation and its owners for breach of contract after Dodson failed to make three consecutive monthly payments on its loan for a $2 million Hawker aircraft. The lender asked to recover $2.75 million from the owners of Dodson Aviation, which filed for bankruptcy shortly after the suit was filed, and argued that the owners of the company were personally liable for the amount of the loan's outstanding balance. Dodson Aviation's owners argued that they were liable for only $2 million, or the credit cap in the initial loan agreement. The judge ruled against Dodson Aviation's owners, saying they must pay the full $2.75 million owed to GE Capital as laid out in the guaranty and security agreement the company had with the lender.

(Via reconpresseusa.)

MEANWHILE, Shameless Agitator has named me the week's Shameless Agitator fo my coverage of N4610.

Executive Outcomes => Northbridge Services Group?

The weblog 911 Skeptics Unite  points out that, the domain of Executive Outcomes, is still registered and forwards into, the website of Northbridge Services Group, Ltd:

Northbridge Services Group founders have       identified through their cumulative experiences in various first world       armed forces, government agencies, and the private sector, a growing       demand for a highly discrete, totally reliable yet cost effective service       provider.

       The Company's personnel consist of highly decorated individuals who have,       in aggregate, more than 200 years of operational service predominantly in       Special Forces therefore can guarantee a truly international blend of       experience, pedigree and speciality.��

The creepiest bit of their website is Our Services: Humanitarian Operations

One of Northbridge Services Group's most important roles is participating alongside                   Governments                    and Aid Organisations in Humanitarian Support                   Operations.� Depending on the situation Northbridge                   Services Group has the expertise to assist in:                                       � Securing strategic assets - water, food, electricity, key installations                    � Convoy escorts                    � Humanitarian and disaster  relief command and co-ordination                    � Mine clearance                    � Protection of   Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) personnel                    � Medical support at all levels                    � Air support                    � Peacekeeping

Translation: They can infest humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts with trained mercenaries. Yuk.

Could Northbridge have some connection to N4610, the mystery plane?

(See also: Liberia: Northbridge Services Group Under Investigation, October 1, 2003, and Parapundit last July.)

I think I now understand more about these huge bounties offered for various terrorists. They are not set that high so that your average person who just happens to know the fugitive is can collect. We do not see coverage of an Ed McMahon-like character out there handing out big checks to lucky Iraqis. Rather, those bounties are an announced market price for the fugitive, set to engage the attentions of private military companies. To me, this gives more creedence to the idea that Saddam was precaptured (Gary Farber thinks I'm paranoid for entertaining that idea in the first place), and that a shrink-wrapped  bin Laden may be in storage elsewhere. (Northbridge publically acknowledges that snatching fugitive leaders is one of the services it would like to provide.)

Continue reading "Executive Outcomes => Northbridge Services Group?" »

N4610 Has a Name: Clipper Pathfinder

It's still snowing and the kids are asleep. Poking around, I found a charming bit on N4610, the Rent-a-Coup plane, that I had previously missed. In its first incarnation as a commercial aircraft, the plane had a name: Clipper Pathfinder:

83-4610 . . . Ex-commercial 727-100 operated by ANG 4610 (c/n 18811) was formerly B-727-035 N4610 of National Airlines.  National merged with Pan American and aircraft named 'Clipper Pathfinder'.   Purchased by USAF Aug 21, 1984. Sold Jan 11, 2002 to Dodson International Parts, inc and then to Dodson Aviation Jan 14, 2002. Registered to Dodson Aviation as N4610.  Seized by Zimbawean authorities for carrying suspected mercenaries and military equipment.  Dodson supposedly had sold  the plane to a South African company, Logo Ltd.

Those of us who work primarily in fiction care about such things.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, I wanted to return for a moment to the subject of that awful Lucasarts game, Mercenaries, I blogged this morning: Mercenaries will give gamers the opportunity to live out their action movie fantasies with its explosive combat and non-linear gameplay set in massive interactive environments. If you can see it -- you can steal it, use it or blow it up. says the press release. Calixte, on African Oil Politics has noted the misplaced sympathy the Western media are giving the captive mercenaries. And I, meanwhile, have been patiently waiting for some competent coverage of the whole mess from the US media.

I'm beginning to worry that they're too caught up in whether Spain is giving in to terrorism  (oh, please!), or whether the misquoted John Kerry can be badgered into claiming foreign governments among his supporters. But I worry, on further meditation, that the problem is not these distractions at all, but rather that Americans assume that oil politics take place only in the Middle East and that, worse still, Americans as a group really do think the way the Lucasarts copy suggests; that the very idea of  mercenaries poses us serious point-of-view problems, that in our hearts we believe that the world needs mercenaries so we can have the opportunity to vicariously live out our action movie fantasies.

I have been thinking about this point-of-view problem -- that the Western public is more prone to identify with the mercenaries than those they are hired to shoot at -- and it seems to me that we need to understand that in many ways, mercenaries are not that different from al-Qaida's terrorists except that they lack a strong religious and moral framework. (We may disagree vehemently with the nature of that framework, but it undeniably is present in those choosing to die for their cause.)

I have seen it argued in a variety of places, from al-Jazeera to conservative think-tank documents, that al-Quaida tends to concentrate in places where there is oil. Could it be that they are the mirror-image of these mercenaries, funded and deployed by the Saudi faction that would prefer to see the world's oil supply under the control of Islam (as opposed to under the control of Texans)?

This failed coup is a scandal, a big scandal with a broad reach. The press needs to stop romanticizing (when not ignoring) the captive mercenaries, and get on with the business of actually covering the story.

Trackback: The Gutless Pacifist.

Some Belated Trackbacks

As the storm moves in, we are preparing to be snowed in. I went out for more firewood and some last-minute groceries this morning. Now we're all home. Two inches of snow have fallen, and it's supposed to snow for another six hours. We have a very satsifying fire going in the woodstore, a strawberry and rhubarb pie, and a pot of Earl Grey tea. Elizabeth is watching The Wiggles; Peter is playing in his room and listening to a tape of a Bruce Coville book, David is answering his email, and here I am.

I've been getting some nice trackbacks on my recent pieces involving N4610 and Africa. For some reason, my trackback thing never works. (Perhaps it will start working the next time I upgrade Movable Type.) Some come from my usual intelligent readers, but several come from terrific blogs I've never seen before. Here they are:

also thanks to THE MUMPSIMUS for the trackback on our Year's Best tables of contents.

(One day this will all happen automaticly here too!)

I had more to say, but david has been loitering in the background with urgent tasks for me, so I'll stop for now.

The Political Unconscious

MEANWHILE, Lucasearts to Deploy Mercenaries: Third-person action game for the PS2 and Xbox.

March 15, 2004 - LucasArts officially announced today that it will deploy Mercenaries, an open-ended third person combat-action game this fall for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox video game system from Microsoft. Set in North Korea where a coup has plunged the troubled nation into chaos, an elite private military company has dispatched a lone mercenary to track down 52 fugitive members of the old hardliner regime --- before they can launch a nuclear attack.

Mercenaries will give gamers the opportunity to live out their action movie fantasies with its explosive combat and non-linear gameplay set in massive interactive environments. If you can see it -- you can steal it, use it or blow it up. Players can demonstrate their creativity in the hunt for enemy combatants using more than 30 real-world military weapons. Gamers will be able to assume the role of one of three different mercenaries and will have the opportunity to call in air strikes and pilot more than 20 authentic ground and air vehicles including helicopters, trucks and tanks. Players can attract attention from embedded journalists in the game as they work with (and against) sparring international factions to secure all 52 targets, represented by a deck of playing cards. Mercenaries will be able to purchase additional weapons and vehicles with the money earned from each capture.

Did they get Simon Mann to model for it?

Report in Barbados: N4610 Departed U.S. from Air Force Base in North Carolina

This just in from the Daily Nation in Barbados [Extremely slow server. Give the link time]:

A UNITED STATES registered plane at the centre of controversy after being detained on Monday with 64 suspected mercenaries aboard by the Zimbabwean government did stop at Grantley Adams International Airport last Saturday morning.

Informed sources told the DAILY NATION yesterday that the aircraft, a Boeing 727 (100 series), with registration number N4610, landed in Barbados shortly after midnight for refuelling before leaving around 6:30 a.m.

Sources also indicated that the aircraft, which Zimbabwean officials alleged also carried military equipment, had arrived from the Hope Air Force Base in North Carolina, United States, before its stop-over in Barbados.

Further reports stated that the plane, originally a commercial PanAm Airways aircraft up until a week ago, was being operated by the American Air Force, but international Press reports stated it had been sold to a South African company.

The plane was detained by Zimbabwean security officials after its owners made a false declaration of its cargo and crew at Harare's main airport.

I think they probably mean Pope Air Force Base.

We'll discount their discussion of the plane's provenance, which is a bit garbled, and presume their information about its itinerary comes from local records.

Another question for the next White House Press conference: Did flight N4610 depart the U.S. from Hope Air Force Base in North Carolina?

ONE MINOR FUSSY POINT: If you've been following my attempts to track down all the Boeing C-22Bs, you know that I have had a little bit of a hard time tracking down exactly how many there were. I thought I'd cut it down to four, but this photo of a C-22B, on the web site of the U. S. Air Force, clearly shows a plane with a number just beyond the sequence I was researching: the 34618 indicates a serial number 83-4618 associated with an original tail number N4618. Interesting.

(On an extremely speculative note, an anonymous commentor apparently on the scene at Wonderboom Airport in South Africa claims that there is a second 727 at Wonderboom. He implies that it is also of U.S. military provenance.)

A Question for Dick Cheney

After thinking overnight about the materials from the conservative think tanks I blogged yesterday concerning African oil, it seems to me that Vice President Cheney needs to be asked directly whether the desirability of a regime change in Equatorial Guinea and the means by which such thing could be accomplished were ever discussed in the closed-door meetings of his National Energy Policy Development Group; if so what means were discussed; and who was party to the discussion.

The White House would, of course, refuse to answer such questions, but the nature of that refusal might be very illuminating. This question should also be asked since the NEPD is the obvious source of the formulation of the American Enterprise Institute's panel topic formulation and also the sentiments coming from the Heritage Foundation.

There's a nice piece in Foreign Policy Focus on the Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, entitled Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World's Oil by Michael Klare:

The Cheney report is very guarded about the amount of foreign oil that will be required. The only clue provided by the report is a chart of net U.S. oil consumption and production over time. According to this illustration, domestic oil field production will decline from about 8.5 million barrels per day (mbd) in 2002 to 7.0 mbd in 2020, while consumption will jump from 19.5 mbd to 25.5 mbd (2). That suggests imports or other sources of petroleum, such as natural gas liquids, will have to rise from 11 mbd to 18.5 mbd. Most of the recommendations in Chapter 8 of the NEP are aimed at procuring this 7.5 mbd increment, equivalent to the total oil consumed by China and India.

One-third of all the recommendations in the report are for ways to obtain access to petroleum sources abroad. Many of the 35 proposals are region- or country-specific, with emphasis on removing political, economic, legal, and logistical obstacles.

For example, the NEP calls on the secretaries of Energy, Commerce, and State "to deepen their commercial dialogue with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other Caspian states to provide a strong, transparent, and stable business climate for energy and related infrastructure projects."

The Cheney report will have a profound impact on future U.S. foreign and military policy. Officials will have to negotiate for these overseas supplies and arrange for investments that will increase production and exports. They must also take steps to ensure that wars, revolutions or civil disorder do not impede foreign deliveries to the United States. These imperatives will be especially significant for policy toward the Persian Gulf area, the Caspian Sea basin, Africa, and Latin America.

Applying the Cheney energy plan will have major implications for U.S. security and military policy. Countries expected to supply petroleum in the years ahead are torn by internal conflicts, harbor strong anti-American sentiments, or both. Efforts to procure additional oil from foreign sources are almost certain to lead to violent disorder and resistance in many key producing areas. While U.S. officials might prefer to avoid the use of force in such situations, they may conclude that the only way to guarantee the continued flow of energy is to guard the oil fields and pipelines with soldiers.

To add to Washington's dilemma, troop deployments in the oil-producing areas are likely to cause resentment from inhabitants who fear the revival of colonialism or who object to particular U.S. political positions, such as U.S. support for Israel. Efforts to safeguard the flow of oil could be counter-productive, intensifying rather than diminishing local disorder and violence.
. . .
Another area the Bush administration views as a promising source of oil is West Africa. Although African states accounted for only about 10% of global oil production in 2000, the Department of Energy predicts that their share will rise to 25% by 2020. That will add 8.3 mbd to global supplies, welcome news in Washington. "West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market," the Cheney report observes.

The administration expects to concentrate its efforts in Nigeria, its neighboring states in the Gulf of Guinea, and Angola. As in the Caspian region, however, U.S. hopes to obtain additional oil from Africa could be frustrated by political unrest and ethnic warfare. Indeed, much of Nigeria's production was shut down during the spring of 2003 because of ethnic violence in the Delta region, the site of much of Nigeria's onshore oil. Local activists have occupied offshore oil facilities to bargain for community project funding. Crime and vandalism have also hampered Nigeria's efforts to increase oil production.

The United States is not likely to respond to these challenges by deploying troops. That undoubtedly would conjure up images of colonialism, provoking strong opposition at home and abroad. But Washington is willing to step up military aid to friendly regimes in the region. Total U.S. assistance to Angola and Nigeria amounted to some $300 million in fiscal years 2002 through 2004, a significant increase over the previous three-year period. In fiscal 2004, Angola and Nigeria also became eligible to receive surplus arms under the Pentagon's Excess Defense Articles program. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has begun to secure rights for the establishment of naval bases in the region, most notably in Nigeria and the islands of Sao Tom e Principe.

And The Progressive ran a piece on Cheney by Wayne Madsen in 2000, Cheney at the Helm with some newly relevant discussion of Cheney's involvement in Africa:

Cheney's links to defense contractors and the intelligence community have made him suspect among human rights activists. Halliburton and Brown & Root have played a role in some of the world's most volatile trouble spots. These include Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Burma, Croatia, Haiti, Kuwait, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, and Somalia.

In 1998, while I was in Rwanda conducting research for my book, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999 (Edwin Mellen, 1999), a number of U.S. military personnel assigned to that country raised questions about Brown & Root's activities. "Brown & Root is into some real bad shit," one told me. The U.S. Army Materiel Command has confirmed that Brown & Root was in Rwanda under contract with the Pentagon. One U.S. Navy de-mining expert told me that Brown & Root helped Rwanda's U.S.-backed government fight a guerrilla war. Brown & Root's official task was to help clear mines. However, my research showed it was more involved in providing covert military support to the Tutsi-led Rwanda Patriotic Army in putting down a Hutu insurgency and assisting its invasion of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (Cheney and Halliburton declined numerous opportunities to comment on this story.)

Cheney was no stranger to covert activities in Rwanda. In 1990, during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, Rwandan strongman Major General Paul Kagame, then a colonel in the Ugandan People's Democratic Force, attended the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Kagame, with the likely knowledge of the U.S. Army and Cheney, suddenly dropped out of the school to assume command of the nascent Rwanda Patriotic Army, which later that year launched a full-scale invasion of Rwanda from rear bases inside Uganda. U.S. military advisers were present in Uganda at the time of the invasion, another fact that would have been known to Cheney and his Pentagon advisers.

While three separate commissions appointed by Belgium, France, and the Organization of African Unity have charged their own officials with complicity in central Africa's turmoil, no American panel has ever probed the involvement of the U.S. government, military, and defense contractors in central Africa's woes. If there were such a panel, Dick Cheney, the man in charge of both the Pentagon and Halliburton during various invasions of Rwanda and the Congo, would certainly have to be called and asked, "What did you know about covert U.S. military operations in central Africa and when did you know about them?"

But that's not all of Halliburton's questionable involvements. The other most serious charge against Halliburton comes from a group called Environmental Rights Action based in Harcourt, Nigeria. "In September of 1997, eighteen Mobile Police officers . . . shot and killed one Gidikumo Sule at the Opuama flow station at Egbema in Warri. . . . [elipses in original] Several other youths were injured during a protest," said the group in a report dated October 16, 1998. It implicated Halliburton in this repression, saying that the company was in collaboration with the police. Cheney was at the helm of Halliburton at the time.

Halliburton has worked with Chevron and Shell in Nigeria, which have been implicated in gross human rights violations and environmental devastation there.

Leaders like Equatorial Guinea's Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Congo (Brazzaville) President Denis Sassou-Nguesso also use the revenues generated from Halliburton-built offshore oil platforms to enrich themselves and their families while ruthlessly suppressing ethnic and political opposition.


All this is, of course, old news, but it is old news with a new relevance. We have already been told by the Bush administration that sanctions and other peaceful means do not work to force out undesirable heads of state who rule countries that swim on a sea of oil. Yet there is this persistent magical thinking in conservative discussions of how Africa will help meet our rising energy needs. What options were discussed in meetings of the National Energy Policy Development Group? I think we're owed an answer.      

UPDATE: New Zealand's Sunday Independent reports that Eli Cahlil [also spelled Ely Calil elsewhere], the London-based Lebanese businessman accused of helping to organize and finance the coup attempt, is "close to " Halliburton:

Sources think the money for the coup attempt came from rival members of the ruling family, money that is stashed in the Canary Islands. Logo Logistics, the company that owns the aircraft on which Mann and his associates were arrested, has been linked by Africa Confidential to a Lebanese businessman, Eli Cahlil, who is also close to the United States oil company, Halliburton. Halliburton has an oil concession in Equatorial Guinea.


How close is he? What is meant by "close"?

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting it , too, though a bit more tactfully.

And there is some other interesting material in the CSM article on the situation of mercenaries in Africa:

Equatorial Guinea, nestled in the crook of Africa's west coast, is the region's third-biggest oil producer. In 1995, the year a big oil field was discovered, the country's per capita annual income was $370. By 2002, it had jumped to $5,000. But as in most of West Africa, much of the wealth is held by the ruling elite. This can spark envy - and coup attempts, thus boosting a government's desire to protect itself by hiring military muscle.

But oil is just one reason for West Africa's growing demand for guns for hire. The US, for instance, is now more engaged in West Africa. But with troops tied down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, it's increasingly hiring private security firms to represent it.

In a recent speech, Theresa Whelan, a top official for Africa at the US Department of Defense, put it this way: "The use of contractors in Africa ... means that the US can be supportive in trying to ameliorate regional crises without necessarily having to put US troops on the ground, which is often times a very difficult political decision."

So, in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere, private firms are training militaries to become more professional, courtesy of the US government.

These firms are also key to supporting peacekeeping efforts. The US has paid them to provide logistics support - transportation, fuel, and other supplies - to African-led peacekeeping units in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast.

"If you didn't have private companies doing what they're doing in West Africa, things would fall apart," says Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group based near Washington. He argues that private firms should be allowed to run full-blown peacekeeping operations, saying they could do it better and cheaper than the United Nations and regional peacekeepers. He once calculated that private firms could stop all Africa's wars for just $1.1 billion.

But many people worry private firms can be roguish and unaccountable.

Jan Breytenbach, founder of South Africa's infamous apartheid-era Battalion 32, a mercenary group, warns that today's seemingly upstanding private-security firms will employ ex-soldiers "under false pretenses" in order to get them involved in clandestine operations. "You can think you're being hired to protect a diamond mine," he says, "but then you end up fighting other people" - or participating in a coup. He cautions ex-military men: "It's better to stay out of this stuff all together; otherwise you'll get caught with your pants down."

(And for desert, read  Theresa Whelan's speech at the International Peace Operations Association dinner (pdf), speaking as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, November 19th 2003, Washington, DC.)

Trackback: Chrononautic Log

Year's Best Tables of Contents

Here are the tables of contents for both our Year's Best volumes.
Year's Best SF 9, ed. David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer

Octavia Butler "Amnesty" (Sci Fiction 1/22/03; novelette)
Geoff Ryman "Birth Days" (Interzone 4/03; short story)
Tony Ballantyne "The Waters of Meribah" (Interzone, May-June 03; 9 pp.)
Nancy Kress "EJ-ES" (Stars; short story)
Joe Haldeman "Four Short Novels" (F&SF 10-11/03); short story)
Charles Stross "Rogue Farm" (Live Without a Net; short story)
Anglica Gorodischer "The Violet's Embryos" (Cosmos Latinos; not eligible for the Hugo; originally published in Spanish in 1973)
Michael Swanwick "Coyote at the End of History" (AsimovÅfs Oct/Nov 03)
John Varley "In Fading Suns and Dying Moons" (Stars; short story)
Gene Wolfe "Castaway" (Sci Fiction 2/5/03; short story)
Gregory Benford "The Hydrogen Wall" (AsimovÅfs 10-11/03; novelette)
Ricard de la Casa & Pedro Jorge Romero "The Day We Went Through the Transition" (Cosmos Latinos; not eligible for the Hugo; originally published in Spanish in 1998)
Cory Doctorow "Nimby and the Dimension Hoppers" (AsimovÅfs 6/03; short story)
Robert Reed "Night of Time" (The Silver Gryphon; short story)
Kage Baker "A Night on the Barbary Coast" (The Silver Gryphon; short story)
Nigel Brown "Annuity Clinic" (Interzone April 03; 6 pp.)
Allen M. Steele "The Madwoman of Shuttlefield" (AsimovÅfs May 03; 22 pp.)
M. Rickert "Bread and Bombs " (F&SF 4/03; short story)
Stephen Baxter "The Great Game" (AsimovÅfs March 03; 14 pp.)
Rick Moody "The Albertine Notes" (McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, novella)

Years Best Fantasy 4, ed. David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer

Michael Swanwick "King Dragon" (The Dragon Quintet, novelette)
Gahan Wilson "The Big Green Grin" (Gathering the Bones, short story)
Octavia Butler "The Book of Martha" (
Charles Coleman Finley "Wild Thing" (F&SF 7/03; short story)
Neil Gaiman "Closing Time" (McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales; short story)
Kelly Link "Catskin" (McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, novelette)
Pat Murphy "Dragon's Gate" (F&SF 8/03; novelette)
Terry Dowling "One Thing About the Night" (The Dark; short story)
M. Rickert "Peace on Suburbia" (F&SF, Dec 03)
Tanith Lee "Moonblind" (Realms of Fantasy April 03)
Theodora Goss "Professor Berkowitz Stands on the Threshold" (Polyphony 2, short story )
Brendan Duffy "Louder Echo" (Agog! Terrific Tales)
Rosaleen Love "Raptures of the Deep" (Gathering the Bones; short story)
Tim Pratt "A Fable from a Cage" (Realms of Fantasy 2/03, novelette)
Arthur Porges "Four" (F&SF Feb 03; short story)
Lucius Shepard "Senor Volto" (, 2/03; novelette?)
Mary Soon Lee "Shen's Daughter" (Sword & Sorceress XX)
Ellen Klages "Basement Magic" (F&SF 5/03, novelette)
Robert Sheckley "The Tales of Zanthias" (Weird Tales July-August 03)
Gene Wolfe "Of Soil & Climate" (Realms of Fantasy, Dec 03)
Terry Bisson "Almost Home"(F&SF 10-11/03)

(Hugo nominations must be received by the Noreascon 4 committee by March 25th, 2004, so this might be a good moment to consider your short fiction ballot. I have provided award categories where I had them, checking our list against the LOCUS Recommended Reading List.)

N4610: More Names, a Face, & Some Conservative Thoughts

Here, from SABA News in South Africa, are more names of those arrested on board N4610 in Zimbabwe: Newspaper says these 13 were on plane

March 14, 2004, 11:09

A Johannesburg Sunday newspaper has published the names of 13 men it says are the South Africans being held in Harare on charges of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea. Rapport says it obtained the names from diplomatic and intelligence sources.

It named the sole British subject being held as Simon Mann and the only Zimbabwean as Malani Moyo.

Zimbabwe detained 70 suspects, the majority of them being South Africans, Namibians and Angolans.

The 13 names are: Johannes Muyongo, Avelino Dala, Errol Harris, Never Matias, Raymond Archer, Maitre Raukuluka, Louis du Preez, Harmanus Carlse, Simon Witherspoon, Kenneth Pain, pilot Neil Steyl,  Hendrik Hamman and Lawrence Horn.

Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Friday the charges on which the accused were being held were "quite clear, they were bent on actually destabilising an independent country, a sovereign country and we are bound by the AU (African Union) charter and the UN charter to protect other states from any aggression." - Sapa

And here is a lovely picture of Simon Mann in his role as Colonel Wilford in the movie Bloody Sunday. (I'm not kidding.) He's the guy in the middle.

Simon Mann

I owe this piece of infomation to calixte of the blog african oil politics. He also has a nice  writeup of journalistic attempts to turn our sympathies toward the poor mercenaries. Mann  comes across to me as a parody of the celebrity executive, a dynamic movie-star-like character unafraid to take risks to pursue an opportunity. If the celebrity executive thing were in need of any more debunking, he provides the broadest possible satire.

The Sunday Herald has a generally good piece with a bit more detail about him:

Only days before the main team of mercenaries arrived in Harare aboard the plane, a group of their advance guard, led by former British SAS man Simon Mann, met with one Colonel Tshinga Dube, Director of Zimbabwe Defence Industries, to finalise the arms deal worth $180,000.

For much of his life, old Etonian Simon Mann has been part dog of war and part modern-day businessman. Son of the late England cricket captain George Mann, he has been described as a "maverick and bon viveur". After leaving the SAS in 1985 he and an associate, Tony Buckingham, established the mercenary group Executive Outcomes, which had offices in South Africa and in Chelsea, West London. One of Simon Mann's "co-conspirators" in his present adventure, Simon Witherspoon, is another old Executive Outcomes hand.

EO shot to fame during the 1990s when it assisted the Angolan government in fighting the rebel movement UNITA and helped the Sierra Leone authorities deal with the Revolutionary United Front. The firm, like Simon Mann's latest planeload of mercenaries, included many former personnel of the notorious 32 Buffalo Battalion of the South African special forces and Civil Cooperation Bureau, which was responsible for the deaths of several anti-apartheid activists.

But despite Mann's previous shadowy exploits, associates, and gift of the gab, it didn't prevent him and his band being arrested and imprisoned in Chikurubi maximum-security prison by the Zimbabwean authorities last week.

Also via calixte, is a bit more elaboration of the Equatorial Guinea end of things from The Scotsman:

Documents obtained by Scotland on Sunday suggest that Obiang's own brother is linked with the South African mercenary who has admitted his part in the putative coup plot.

Obiang, who came to power in a military coup by overthrowing his uncle, has ruled with an iron fist for 25 years by stuffing the government with his relatives and blatantly rigging elections.

But in recent months tensions have risen within his family over an apparent desire to hand power to his son Teodorin, a rap music entrepreneur and international playboy.

The 30-something has been seen at parties in Hollywood, Rio de Janerio and Paris, where he stays at five-star hotels and travels in Bentley and Lamborghini cars. He has his own rap label, TNO Productions, and has reportedly had a relationship with a female American gangster rapper.

Now company documents link Nick du Toit, the 48-year-old South African arrested as leader of an alleged "advance team" of mercenaries, with Armengol Ondo Nguema, the national security chief and brother of Obiang.

Both men are shareholders in Triple Options, a joint venture company established last October to provide "security services" to Obiang, but which the government now says is implicated in the plot to topple him.

One of the things I find quite striking in this whole mess is the extent to which "security" is a euphemism for something very like (if not indistinguishable from) organized crime. This is something that those of  us in the post-9/11 security-conscious U.S. should take to heart.

In the context of all of this, I'm not sure what to make of the AP story from late February, U.S. Military Shows Interest In Africa:

An increased focus on Africa comes amid a push by some in the United States - conservative think tanks in particular - to do more to secure alternatives to oil from the volatile Middle East.

West Africa supplies the United States with 15 percent of its oil. The U.S. National Intelligence Council has projected the figure will grow to 25 percent by 2015.

Western security officials also are concerned about terror along Saharan routes linking Arab nations and north and west Africa.

U.S. security think tanks and others have listed Nigeria and Mauritania as being among nations that have al-Qaida cells.

The Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat, a group alleged to have links with al-Qaida, is believed to have spread across borders into Niger and Mali.

A U.S. State Department program drawing on members of the European Command is helping train and equip security forces of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad to better guard their borders against incursions by terror groups and others.

Military proposals on overall reconfiguration of forces are awaiting a decision from Washington. 

Which conservative think tanks, I wonder. The Heritage Foundation seems to be among those meant, judging by the section on Africa on their web site. In particular, the article U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution caught my eye:

Today's geostrategic realities suggest that Africa shares interests with the countries in the Middle and Near East that are aligned with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). In matters of transnational threats and economic issues like energy (specifically oil) and trade, not to mention the significant Islamic populations in Africa, there are good reasons to view Africa and the Middle East as an appropriate grouping for U.S. security interests.

Hmm. And there's also this piece, A New Vision for Africa

Since the end of the colonial era, much of sub-Saharan Africa has been a playground for spoilt despots wreaking havoc on their fiefdoms. In this trip to Africa President Bush must declare an end to the era of dictatorships. At the dawn of the 21st Century it should not be acceptable for tyrants to terrorize millions of their own citizens in the Middle East, Europe, Asia or Africa. The Bush Administration should operate a zero tolerance policy towards African dictatorships, imposing strict economic and political sanctions against those regimes that tyrannize their populations. In certain circumstances, particularly where the US national interest is involved, the credible threat of military force should be exercised. . . .

While Washington should remain wary of the perils of nation-building, the US must not be afraid to intervene militarily when vital national interests are threatened, or when military force can be effectively used to prevent genocide or other gross violations of human rights. The West's failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda must never be repeated. The US must work closely with its key ally Great Britain and with other European nations in intervening where necessary and feasible to stop genocide from taking place. The highly successful British military operation in Sierra Leone should serve as a role model for future intervention in Africa.

There's a couple of ways to read that last bit, I think.

I'm certainly agaist dictatorships and genocide, but the Heritage Foudation's formulation implies an efficacy to U.S. desires for regime change that I can't quite parse.

UPDATE: There is an interesting piece in London's Sunday Times [by subscription], Bungled trail of an SAS veteran's coup

The Equatorial Guinea authorities have claimed that Moto is backed by Ely Calil, a London-based Lebanese businessman with substantial oil interests in the Gulf of Benin. He denies any involvement.

In addition they have mentioned a London-based accountant said to be close to powerful interest groups in the region. It has also been speculated that a top oil company could be involved. 

I wonder which "top oil company" they could mean. The name ExxonMobil looms large on the U.S. Department of Energy's page on Equatorial Guinea.

REGARDING THINK TANKS: The American Enterprise Institute sponsored a panel, entitled Into Africa: Policy Implications of President Bush's Trip to a Forgotten Continent, on July 8, 2003. The panelists were Anthony Carroll, Manchester Trade, Thomas Donnelly, AEI, Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI, and Robert Shapiro, The Brookings Institution. The description of the panel reads:

This month, George W. Bush will travel to Africa for the first time in his presidency. Plagued by vicious civil wars and crushing poverty, Africa has long been written off as a geopolitical and economic sinkhole. But with evidence of al Qaeda's growing presence there and increased concern about the confluence of failed states, Islamic fundamentalism, and oil wealth, it may no longer be possible to ignore Africa's problems.

What role will Africa play in the post-Iraq strategic order? What is the significance of the Bush administration's decision to establish America's first semipermanent sub-Saharan military base last year? Will the Pentagon dispatch troops to Liberia? How might African oil reserves impact U.S. national security and the U.S. economy? Will the spread of HIV/AIDS threaten regional stability, and what can the United States do to address this crisis? Are European and American agricultural subsidies contributing to the continent's misery? A panel of experts will address these and other questions.

This is Anthony Carroll in his opening remarks:

Now let's talk a little bit about why Africa has been so attractive to the energy industry, to the American industry particularly.

Firstly, let me say that major deepwater reserves are being found. That is in part because of the increases in technological capacity to drill off deepwater. We are now being able to raise oil from the depths of as much as 10,000 feet, and that, of course, has opened up a whole new horizon of off-Continental Shelf reserves, and Africa will certainly be the great beneficiary of that.

The reserves that are being explored and the wells being found are massive in size. Average well size is about 35 million barrels per wildcat well. This is about--compared to about 22 million barrels, which is a Gulf-of-Mexico average. So the reserves are large.

It's in the early stage of exploration and development. Clearly the environment right now is open. The opportunities for companies are very malleable. You are not dealing with very ensconced institutional type of negotiating environments. I think there is a lot of flexibility.

West African oil has a very high discovery ratio. Most discovery ratios, technology has certainly increased discovery ratios from about 20 to about 35 percent on global average, but in Africa about 50 percent of the discovery ratio, so you are pulling a lot of oil when you are finding it in Africa compared to elsewhere.

West Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea, has benign weather conditions. If you look at the conditions compared to the North Sea, where you have a lot of requirements and technical support and turrets and other support mechanisms, in Africa you can drill and you can drill offshore or you can drill on vessels as opposed to platforms. Because of the benign weather conditions you are able to have more time drilling as opposed to off-drilling because of weather.

Sweet crude, Africa's sweet crude is sort of the global standard. It requires less refining and is a preferred crude than other sources.

We are also looking at a location of 50 percent closer to the U.S. market than the Middle East. There are no canals or precarious sailing passages that are required. The oil can come directly in from West Africa to Houston and, you know, some are viewing Africa as a safe alternative to the Middle East. Clearly the Middle East, which has 65 percent of the known reserves, is clearly going to be the standard-setter for many, many years to come, but Africa is also willing to produce a lot more, ramp up their production, in part because they need it, in part they want to curry favor with the United States, and they need foreign direct investment in whatever form. Oil is not a large employer, unfortunately. It's a very capital-intensive industry, but nonetheless there are downstream and upstream opportunities that can flow from oil investment, and the Africans are working and trying to find out how that can be best done.

Sweet crude has such a nice ring to it, so sensual, so emblamatic of desire.

Reader's Indigestion or There Goes the Neighborhood

I thought I'd share this item from our school district newsletter. Apparently, Reader's Digest wants a $3.5 million refund from our school district:

Reader's Digest, the largest taxpayer in the school district, has filed a tax certiorari petition to reduce the assessed value of its property and to seek a refund of taxes paid in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Based on the school tax rates for each year, the reduction would result in refunds owed by the School District to Reader's Digest totalling $3.5 million. The District is working with the Town of New Castle on these proceedings.

What could have happened in RD's neck of the woods around that time? Well, the Clintons bought the house on Old House Lane, a couple of blocks away, and moved in. There goes the neighborhood? (My impression is that Chappaqua real estate values have been steadily climbing.)

Who Rented the Rent-a-Coup?

African Confidential digs into the question of who hired the mercenaries: South African mercenaries are detained in Bioko and Zimbabwe en route to Malabo to oust President Obiang  but at whose instigation?"

But when the main team of mercenaries flew into Harare on 7 March in a Boeing 727-100, registered to US-based Dodson Aviation Inc., they were all arrested and the plane was seized. Dodson say that the plane had recently been sold to Logo Logistics, a private security company, based in the British Virgin Islands.Ý Africa Confidential has obtained copies of an 'investor agreement' between Logo Logistics and the Lebanon-based Asian Trade and Investment Group SAL, whichÝ was alleged to have commissioned the overthrow of President Obiang, according to military sources in South Africa.

Equatorial Guinea Information Minister Agustin Nze Nfumu has accused London-based businessman Ely Calil of helping to organise and finance the coup attempt.Ý Nze Nfumu called Calil the 'Godfather of Severo Moto'. But Calil told Africa Confidential that he had no links to Asian Trade and Investment Group  and no connection to the coup plot.Ý However, Calil did concede that he was a friend of opposition leader Severo Moto, the supposed beneficiary of the plot, and had given 'modest' financial support in recent years.

The unmasking of the coupÝplot may also embarrassÝSpanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who has had several meetings with Moto recently, and was said by military sources to have been aware of the plot.Ý Aznar is due to stand down ahead of national elections in the next few weeks.

More on N4610

Here is a further refinement of my researches on the history of N4610.

There is a good piece from the Zimbabwe independent on the provenance of N4610 which answers some questions about inconsistencies in the database info I was looking at.

The plane impounded by government on Sunday carrying suspected mercenaries on their way to Equatorial Guinea to stage a coup has been in service under different owners since 1964, information at hand indicates. The aircraft, whose registration number in the United States was N4610, made its first flight on October 15, 1964. The ex-commercial 727-100 was formerly N4610 of National Airlines in the United States. Records show that it was previously owned by NAL (National Airlines)/PAA (Pan American Airlines). PAA bought NAL.

It also operated as ANG (Air National Guard) 4610 (c/n 18811). Its previous engine number is given as PWJT8D-7B, while the past registration number is supposed to be 83-4610. ANG is a vital part of the US Air Force. . . .

The plane was then sold by US Air Force on January 11, 2002 to Dodson International Parts, and then to Dodson Aviation on January 14, 2002. Dodson International Parts Inc, which belongs to the same group as Dodson Aviation, has a subsidiary, Dodson International Parts SA (Pty) Ltd, which is based at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, South Africa, from where the seized plane took off on its way to Zimbabwe.

This makes sense to me. lists planes with serial numbers 83-4610, 83-4611, 83-4612, 83-4613, 83-4614, 83-4615, and  83-4617 as being C-22Bs. The site describes C-22Bs as being Boeing 727-100 "modified for air national guard support missions."

This implies that they were all custom built for the U. S. Airforce. However, I don't think this is the case. Rather, I think the planes acquired by the USAF were bought used and were customized in 1985. My mother, a retired Boeing engineer and the source of the information that the original tail number is associated with a specific set of drawings in Boeing's archives, also tells me that the plane has a relationship with Boeing throughout it's lifetime, in that Boeing provides modifications and maintainance during the life of the plane, and the drawings associated with these services also must be tracked and associated with the original tail number. lists dates in the early 60s as the maiden flights for 83-4610 - 83-4617, but lists a date of Halloween 1985 as Boeing's delivery date on all the C-22Bs also listed as operated by the U. S. Air Force. Putting together the history of N4610 as described in the Zimbabwe newspaper above with some of the more cryptic acronyms on the page, what I think is that National Airlines ordered the whole sequence of 727-100 model 35 planes from Boeing and took delivery in the early 60s. Then in the 80s, when Pan Am bought National and drove them into the ground, the planes were sold, and only four of them -- 83-4610, 83-4612, 83-4615, 83-4616 -- were sold to the USAF. (This in contradiction to the serial number list on So only four of the planes on the sequence became C-22Bs.

In the comments, someone who wishes to be known as "A" points out:

I found photos of this suspect plane on one from 2001 and the other from 1987. 83-4610.

This turns out to be a really useful link. is a searchable database of photos of airplanes. Searching on Boeing C-22B pulls up photos of all the planes I now think were modified to become C-22Bs and none of the rest from the sequence. (Whee! Confirmation of my new hypothesis.)

The site includes two pictures of N4610 while in use as a US military plane. Here's a nice big one of the plane in use as a US Air National Guard plane at Cottesmore (Oakham) (OKH / EGXJ) the UK on July 30, 2001 taken by photographer Robert Flinzner.

And regarding the N4610 Official Action Figure set, there's a really entertaining piece on (you might have to pay to read it) from the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian: Rent-a-Coup: Who's Who

The men behind the alleged Equatorial Guinea coup plot represent a who's who of South Africa's mercenary market - but key players also have links to the American and British security establishments. ...

Mann, a former British special forces soldier who has been resident in Cape Town and who is known for his association with disbanded South African mercenary company Executive Outcomes, was earlier a senior member of Sandline International, a private military firm which has been regarded as close to the UK security establishment.

Du Toit was arrested with 14 cohorts earlier on Sunday in Equatorial Guinea. On Wednesday he "confessed" on national television that the plan had been to remove the West African country's President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, from power to make way for exiled opposition leader Severo Moto Nsa. The latter has denied his involvement.

Du Toit is a director of Miltary Technical Services (MTS), a Pretoria company whose founder, Tai Minnaar, worked for the CIA in the 1970s and seems to have retained contact with the organisation until his mysterious death in 2001.

Military Privatization and the Mystery of N4610

I'm really fascinated with the story of the planeload of mercenaries detained in Zimbabwe. First of all, the details read like the opening of a good solid commercial thriller, which is to say in it an interesting story in its own right regardless of its relative political import -- there's a book in this for someone -- and also because this is a story better covered in the blogs than in the mainstream media.

Here's the Reuters version from two days ago:

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has seized a U.S.-registered cargo plane which the government says carried 64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities and a cargo of military gear but no weapons.

The Boeing 727-100 aircraft was impounded on Sunday evening at Harare International Airport "after its owners had made a false declaration of its cargo and crew," said Home Affairs (Interior) Minister Kembo Mohadi in a statement.

"The plane was actually carrying 64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities," Mohadi said on Monday, adding an investigation had also found military material.

Authorities said no formal charges had been made.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters: "We have no indication this aircraft is connected to the U.S. government."

The Pentagon also denied a connection with the aircraft. "It isn't one of our planes and not any of our people," said Pentagon spokesman Army Major Paul Swiergosz.

Mohadi said investigations were under way to establish the identities of the passengers, who Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. said were mostly white, and the nature of their trip.

There was no word on where the airplane arrived from, or whether Zimbabwe was its destination.

Mohadi said a fuller statement would be released later.

Reporters were taken aboard the plane to examine the cargo, which included a rubber dinghy, military uniforms, wire cutters, armour, compasses and other military hardware, said chief police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena.

"There was a false declaration by the captain and also investigations are leading in that direction that these are possible mercenaries," Bvudzijena said.

Footage on state television showed a white plane with the figure N4610 printed on the body. Several army personnel were shown sifting through equipment including what appeared to be army boots, communication radios and sleeping bags.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records show N4610 to be a 727 plane registered to Dodson Aviation based in Ottawa, Kansas. Dodson Aviation said it sold the plane in question about a week ago to an African company called Logo.

Atrios picked up the story and it didn't take long for his commentors (me included) to Google out a fair amount of hard information about the plane, information that it may be assumed that the State Department and Pentagon folks are aware of:

First of all, N4610 isn't just any random former US cargo plane. Rather it is a specific military plane with a specific history which is relatively easy to find out on the web.  As is widely reported, the plane was registered to Dodson Aviation, Inc. of Ottawa, Kansas. lists the plane as operated by the U. S. Air Force. It also gives additional information: that the plane is a specific type of Boeing cargo plane, a C-22B, and it gives an additional identification number 83-4610. Airlink has a nice factsheet with a picture of the type of plane, a Boeing 727-100 modified for air national guard support missions. There are only eight, with serial numbers 83-4610 (tail # N4610, the plane in question), 83-4611 (N290AT, orig. tail # N4611, destroyed 1993), 83-4612  (orig. tail # N4612, currently in use by the US Air National Guard 201st), 83-4613 (orig. tail # N4613, registered to Cargo Aircraft Leasing Corp., Coral Springs, FL), 83-4614 (C-GOFA, orig. tail # N4614,registered in Canada), 83-4615  (orig. tail # N4615, currently in use by the US Air National Guard 201st), 83-4616 (currently in use by the US Air National Guard 201st), and 83-4617 (OB-1465 , orig. tail #N4617, registered outside the US) [See corrections and refinements in my 3/13/04 post]:

The C-22B, a Boeing 727-100, is the primary medium-range aircraft used by the Air National Guard and National Guard Bureau to airlift personnel.

The C-22B's unique arrangement of leading-edge devices and trailing-edge flaps permit lower approach speeds, thus allowing operation from runways never intended for a 600-mph (Mach 0.82) aircraft.

The aircraft has heated and pressurized baggage compartments - one on the right side forward and the second just aft of the wheel well. The two compartments provide 425 cubic feet (12.75 cubic meters) of cargo space. The fuselage also incorporates a forward entry door and hydraulically opened integral aft stairs in the tail cone.

The flight controls consist of a hydraulically powered dual-elevator control system with control tab to assist during manual operation. Hydraulically powered rudders use two main systems with a standby system for the lower rudder. The ailerons also are powered by dual-hydraulic systems. They have balance tabs on the outboard and control tabs on the inboard, which assures adequate maneuverability in the event of a total hydraulic failure. The flight spoiler systems assist ailerons and also function as speed brakes.The aircraft's tricycle landing gear consists of a dual-wheel nose gear, left and right dual-wheel main gear, and a retractable tail skid which prevents damaging the aircraft in case of overrotation. Nose wheel steering is hydraulically powered and controlled by a steering wheel to approximately 78 degrees in either direction. Fuel is contained in three main tanks inside the wing center section. Rapid pressure fueling and defueling is accomplished at the fueling station on the right wing. The total fuel capacity is approximately 50,000 pounds (22,500 kilograms) of JP-4. Fuel may be dumped down to 35,000 pounds (15,750 kilograms) from all tanks.

The C-22B requires four crew members and three or four in-flight passenger specialists for passenger service and safety. The avionics package includes one UHF and two VHF radio altimeters, variable instrument switching and two Collins FD-108 flight directors. A third vertical gyro and an additional VHF transceiver are available in case of failure of the primary systems.

The C-22B was introduced by the airline industry in 1963. It proved to be a major innovative design with its three Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofan engines, one on each side of the rear fuselage and the third in the tail cone.  Currently, there are three C-22B's in use, all assigned to the 201st Airlift Squadron, District of Columbia Air National Guard.

General Characteristics
Primary Function:  Passenger transportation
Builder:  Boeing Co.
Power Plant:  Three JT8D-7 turbofan engines
Thrust:  14,000 pounds each engine
Length:  133 feet, 2 inches (40.3 meters)
Height:  34 feet, (10.3 meters)
Wingspan:  108 feet (32.7 meters)
Maximum Take-off Weight:  170,000 pounds (76,500 kilograms)
Maximum Payload:  20,000 pounds (9,000 kilograms)
Maximum Speed:  619 mph (Mach 0.82)
Range:  2,000 miles (1,739 nautical miles)
Endurance:  5.5 hours
Crew:  Pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, flight mechanic, and three or four in-flight passenger specialists
Unit Cost:  No longer available.
Date Deployed:  1963.
Inventory:   Active force, 0; ANG, 3; Reserve, 0.

Point of Contact
National Guard Bureau, Public Affairs Office; 2500 Pentagon, Washington DC 20310-2500; DSN 225-3454 or (703) 694-3454.

March 2003

The plane in question was on display at the Andrews AFB, Department of Defense Open House  on May 15, 1999. The records of the airshow suggest that it was also assigned to the 201st Airlift Squadron, District of Columbia Air National Guard.

The State Department disingenuous claim -- endlessly repeated in news stories around the globe -- is that they have " no indication this aircraft is connected to the U.S. government." After a nearly forty-year relationship with the US government, you would think the poor old plane would deserve better! [Actually, it seems to have been a nearly 20 year relationship. See corrections and refinements in my 3/13/04 post] Peculiarly, of the eight planes of its type, it is the only one not currently in use  by the Air National Guard, listed with the site I consulted as operated by the U. S. Air Force.

I give you more than you really wanted to know about the plane, (some of which, prized from unfamiliar databases, is bound to have a mistake somewhere) since it is most definitely "connected" with the U. S. Government. Why couldn't the State Department just come out and say, "It used to be ours, but we sold it"? Why lie when the truth would do?

And why didn't reporters check out the tail number in more detail rather than just endlessly repeating the government line?

This morning, Josh Marshall remarked on something that has also been raised by Atrios's commentors: that the head of the South African branch of Dodson seems to be something of a shady character with a history of arms trading:

Dodson Aviation of Kansas has a South African subsidiary, Dodson International Parts SA Ltd (According to their website, "Dodson International Parts SA (Pty) Ltd is the African division of United States based companies Dodson International Parts Inc. and Dodson Aviation. The company was established in 1998 and is based at Wonderboom Airport, Pretoria.") And it was from this subsidiary's hangar at an airport just north of Pretoria that the aforementioned mercenaries boarded the plane.

Now, here's where this gets a little murky.

I wanted to find out more about Dodson International Parts SA Ltd.  What I found something out about was a company that sounded very similar: a South African company called Dodson Aviation Maintenance and Spare Parts.

They're also in the airplane business.

Not exactly the same name.  But remember, the South African company is the subsidiary of two American companies, Dodson Aviation and Dodson International.  If these aren't the same company, or closely related companies, I'd figure they often get confused for one another.

In any case, here's what I found about Dodson Aviation Maintenance and Spare Parts.

Marshall quotes from Report Of The Panel Of Experts Appointed Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000), Paragraph 19 in Relation to Sierra Leone:

South Africans Providing Training in Liberia

187.  Fred Rindel a retired officer of the South African Defence Force and former Defence Attach to the United States, has played a key role in the training of a Liberian anti-terrorist unit, consisting of Liberian soldiers and groups of foreigners, including citizens of Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Niger and The Gambia.

188.  The panel interviewed Mr Rindel extensively. Rindel was contracted as a security consultant by President Charles Taylor in September 1998, and training started in November 1998. The contract included consultancy services and strategic advice to convert Charles Taylor's former rebel militia into a professional unit. The Anti-Terrorist Unit is used in Liberia to protect government buildings, the Executive Mansion and the international airport, and to provide VIP Security and the protection of foreign embassies. The numbers trained were approximately 1200. Because of negative media attention, Rindel cancelled his contract in Liberia in August 2000.

189.  In 1998, ECOMOG identified a plane, registration number N71RD, owned by a  South African company, Dodson Aviation Maintenance and Spare Parts, as having carried weapons to Robertsfield in September of that year. The plane is a Gulfstream 14-seater business jet that cannot be used for arms transport, but there are other relevant connections. Fred Rindel was the owner of Dodson. The company was closed on 31 December 1998, but during the period under investigation, the plane was leased to, and operated by, Greater Holdings (Liberia) Ltd., a company with gold and diamond concessions in Liberia. The plane was used for the transport of the Greater Holdings' staff to and from Liberia.

Are they the same company or sister companies? If so, how does a guy like Rindel come by a U. S. military surplus plane still listed in some places as being operated by the U. S. Air Force?

Dodson says they sold the plane to Logo Logistics, Ltd. (registered in Britain's Channel Islands), but Logo Logistics claims that they're leasing the plane from "an asset management  company" called "Systems Design." (Could these company names get any blander? They sound very slush-pile to me. Do either of these companies actually exist?)

In this morning's news, mostly coming out of papers in South Africa, there is much fuss about the race of the burly, alleged mercenaries and also about whether they are South African citizens. I don't know enough to care much about this. But the specifics, from, get more interesting:

Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi has told a South African radio station that all the men arrested aboard a Boeing 727-100 were carrying South African passports.

"We've confirmed there are 20 South Africans, 18 Namibians, 23 Angolans and two DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)... all these people even if they've confirmed their nationalities to be different, they all hold South African passports," Mohadi told Durban-based East Coast Radio

He has also identified the group's leader as Simon Mann. "(He) has actually two passports, a British passport and a South African passport."

Sinister motives

Mohadi went on to say there was still no confirmation of exactly  where the plane, detained on Sunday, was heading but, "they had sinister motives and were going to an African country".

The minister also told the radio station a map of their destination was found on board the former US Air Force transport.

He named KwaZulu-Natal  resident Simon Witherspoon as another key  member of the group

"Some of them are known to be mercenaries. Witherspoon is one of  them. And the company that they say they're working for, Executive Outcomes, is a company that's widely known as a company that is used by mercenaries to stage coups and mostly in Africa," said Mohadi.

Executive Outcomes disbanded - reports

However, it has been widely reported that Executive Outcomes, a mercenary outfit that assisted the Angolan government defeat the Unita rebel movement and the Sierra Leone authorities deal with the  barbaric Revolutionary United Front, disbanded in 1999 when South Africa's Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act, passed by Parliament the previous year, came into effect.

Claims that the company has continued since then under other names have never been proven, or disproved.

Meanwhile, the President of Equatorial believes that it was him the mercenaries were after. What does Equatorial Guinea have that others might covet?

Equatorial Guinea is situated on the oil rich Gulf of Guinea and comprises the Rio Muni coastal enclave, the island of Bioko and the islands of Annobon, Corisco, Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico.  The upstream oil industry is key to the economy of Equatorial Guinea and is growing rapidly with expanding foreign interest and investment.  Oil accounts for 60% of GDP and 90% of total exports.  Equatorial Guinea has proven oil reserves of 12 million barrels and gas reserves of 1.3 Tcf.  In the three years since 1996, oil production has risen from 17,000 bpd to 90,000 bpd in mid 1999.  At the end of 1999, the estimate for annual oil investment in Equatorial Guinea was over $2 billion.

The offshore area of Equatorial Guinea falls into two separate sections; the shelf around Bioko Island and the Shelf off Rio Muni, an enclave between Cameroon and Gabon.  Both have good hydrocarbon potential.

Although oil was first discovered in the 1960's, it was first produced offshore in 1991 from the Alba oilfied discovered by Mobil.  Production of liquified natural gas (LNG) began in 1997, using wet gas from Alba field.  In March 1995, Zafiro field was discovered in Block B with an eventual production rate of 100,000 bpd.  Zafiro oilfield is Equatorial Guinea's major oil producer.  Additional discoveries were made on Block B, including Jade, Topacio, Amatista, Rubi and Serpentina.  In 1999, a deepwater field, La Ceiba with estimated reserves as high as 300 to 500 million barrels was discovered by Triton Energy and Energy Africa in Block G of the Rio Muni Basin.  In mid 2000, Chevron and Vanco Energy have signed production sharing contracts for the deepwater Block L and Corisco Block respectively.

In other words, Equatorial Guinea swims on a sea of oil. Could Halliburton have anything to do with this mess? In my thriller they would. Speaking of Halliburton, what's going on with Cheney and the Nigerian bribery allegations?

UPDATE: The plot thickens as Nicholas du Toit appears on Equatorial Guinea TV to describe the mission to remove President Obiang Nguema; and Severo Moto Nsa, the accused would-be-EQ-head-of-state exiled in Spain, denies allegations but claims that Obiang wants to eat his testicles (now there's a political allegation we don't hear much in North America!):

Malabo - A plot to abduct the president of the small, oil-rich west African nation of Equatorial Guinea was unveiled on national television on Wednesday by the alleged leader of a group of mercenaries, apparently a 48-year-old South African.

"It wasn't a question of taking the life of the head of state, but of spiriting him away, taking him to Spain and forcing him into exile and then of immediately installing the government in exile of Severo Moto Nsa," said the man, introduced as Nick du Toit.

Malabo called on Wednesday for the extradition of Moto, who tried to mount a coup against Obiang in 1997 from Angola and recently set up a government in exile in Spain.

"The leader of this mercenary operation whose aim was to topple the current government had been recruited by the "escapee" from Equatorial Guinean justice Severo Moto Nsa for a sum of $10m," the state radio said.

But Moto denied any involvement in the alleged plot. Severo Moto "has at no time left Spain," said a statement issued by his government in exile.

Moto also went on the offensive, telling Spanish radio station Onda Cero that Obiang was an "authentic cannibal" who "systematically eats his political rivals".

"A while back he paid millions to those they call marabou (sorcerers) to tell him if his power base was safe. They told him that to keep his grip on power he had to kill people close to him.

Wants to eat my testicles

"Obiang wants me to go back to Guinea and eat my testicles. That's clear," he told Onda Cero.

Hot stuff!

AND MEANWHILE, a Zimbabwe paper alleges that "United States forces are reportedly carrying out military exercises around Equatorial Guinea." Interesting if true.