Mercenaries & Private Military Contractors Feed

Why is an alleged engagement in foreign military operations called terrorism one moment and business the next?

George Monbiot has a really good piece in the Guadian:

Pedigree dogs of war

What is the legal difference between hiring a helicopter for use in a coup against a west African government and sending supplies to the Chechen rebels? If there isn't one, why isn't Mark Thatcher in Belmarsh? Conversely, why aren't the "foreign terrorist suspects" in Belmarsh prison free and, like Thatcher, at large in London? Why is an alleged engagement in foreign military operations called terrorism one moment and business the next?

The question is an important one, for mercenaries are becoming respectable again. On Thursday Tim Spicer, Britain's most notorious soldier of fortune, will speak at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Last month he addressed a conference at the Royal United Services Institute. Last year one of the companies he runs won a $300m contract from the US government for security work in Iraq. He moves through the establishment like the boss of any other corporation. 

I want to write more about it later, but now I have to get the kids off to school,

Moto Would Have Been a President in a Bottle

We did manage to get home yesterday despite the blizzard. I didn't really belive it was going to work until Northwest atually put us on a plane. (David's son Geoff, who was supposed to fly home from California yesterday, is geting in tonight.) There were a few difficult moments in the airport, mostly having to do with Elizabeth being two. For example, just as we were trying to board the plane, Elzabeth threw her body to the ground in typical toddler fashion and said "No, mamma! Don't make me get on the plane!" I struggled with her all the way down the jetway. But once we entered the plane, she realized she had an audience. She smiled and waved and said hi to each passanger in first class as we walked  past, charming them all.
Further to the subject of Mark Thatcher, London's Sunday Times has an article providing further details on the plans for the Equatorial Guinea coup:

Coup plotters wanted colony of their own

THE FAILED coup attempt involving Sir Mark Thatcher was to have made Equatorial Guinea a private colony run for the benefit of the British plotters, leaked documents reveal.

The papers, passed to The Sunday Times by South African intelligence sources, reveal that the plotters had created a trading company to control the oil-rich West African state.

The Bight of Benin Company (BBC), named after the bay on the state’s coastline, was to have grabbed control of the country’s economy, its oil reserves, army and police.

The company would have controlled the country as a private fiefdom, modelled on the British East India Company, which ran vast swathes of India before it formally became part of the empire.

After executing the coup, the company planned to make Severo Moto, the exiled opposition leader, its own frontman, bound by contract to cede power to BBC.

The plotters then planned to use the state’s intelligence services to gather “damaging information” on Moto and his family in case he stepped out of line. 

All this I more or less expected, not because I knew about any documentation, but because this seemed to be the obvious way for the coup plotters to proceed. But the specifics are really interesting:

The documents reveal the scale of the plotters’ greed and the lengths they were prepared to go to to ensure Moto remained beholden to them.

They reveal how BBC was to have “sole right to have physical or other access” to Moto once he became president. It would be the only company that could “make agreements or contracts” with the new regime. It would in effect be the government, controlling the armed forces, intelligence services, palace guard and customs.

Crucially, it would also take over the state oil company, and Moto would hand over economic planning to the plotters. They would use their military muscle to seize the country’s wealth, although they acknowledged the need to create jobs and welfare programmes to silence possible opposition. 

[This is the same article as the one in The Australian which Jan links to in the comments on the  previous post.]

(This guy has comically misread the article.)

The BBC to Air a Show on Thatcher and the Failed Coup

Tonight on BBC3, Thatcher and the Failed Coup

For the last 10 months, detail after detail about the disastrous attempt to mount a coup in Equatorial Guinea has been leaking into the public arena.

But this film blows the lid off the coup, meeting the key players and dishing the dirt that no-one else knows. It tells the inside story of international power play, oil-fuelled greed, men with guns and the son of the former British Prime Minister.

Fronted by Alex Millar, this film puts together the jigsaw of what happened, why, and who knew about it. During the process, the team met intelligence officers, top ranking US senators, diplomats, men who were approached to take part in the coup and more.

(Thanks A.!)

UPDATE: In the comments, Jan points out that the Guardian gives us a preview:

A senior former state department official in Washington, Joseph Sala, has disclosed he was hired by the plotters to gain US support for the coup. Mr Sala tells a BBC3 TV programme tonight that he was offered $40,000 (£21,351) to promote the plotters' cause there. Records for Sir Mark's mobile phone show that he was among those placing calls to a London businessman accused of masterminding the Washington plot.

Eli Calil, a millionaire middleman in African oil deals and a friend of the Labour politician Peter Mandelson, was allegedly at the centre of a group of London businessmen and mercenaries trying to promote their own candidate to take over the tiny but oil-rich state of Equatorial Guinea.

Its ruler, President Teodoro Obiang, was believed to be dying of cancer, and valuable oil concessions were hoped to be up for grabs. Much of the country's mushrooming oil industry is controlled by US companies.

Sir Mark is in limbo, staying at his mother's house in London while he attempts to renew his visa to gain entry to the US. The US authorities are deciding whether to grant him admission, despite his having a criminal conviction.

The former prime minister's son fled South Africa following his conviction and £270,000 fine there for financing a helicopter gunship to be used in the coup. In a plea bargain, Sir Mark admitted investing in the mercenaries' scheme, despite realising the helicopter "might" be used for mercenary activity. He and his friends have tried to present his role as unwitting and peripheral.

But the new evidence appears to place him at the centre of events. Phone records which the Guardian has seen show him placing two international calls from his home in South Africa to the mobile phone of Eli Calil, then based in his London mansion in Chelsea.

The calls were made within half an hour on February 2 last year, when planning for the coup was at its height. A fortnight earlier, Sir Mark had invested $275,000 during meetings in South Africa. Other alleged plotters had travelled to Spain to brief their candidate for president, the exiled African politician Severo Moto. In a third key leg of the alleged plan, a British businessman, Greg Wales, went to the US and hired a lobbyist who had influence in Washington.

Joseph Sala, who now runs the lobbying firm the ANN Group, says in tonight's programme: "The arrangement that we struck with Wales and the friends of Moto [unidentified] in February was that we would be paid $40,000 to put together a four-day programme for Moto in Washington, access to the Congress, think-tanks, media". He tells the programme, Thatcher and the Coup that Failed, that "the assumption in Washington would be that Calil wanted access to Equatorial Guinea's oil and that he, Calil, was prepared to do whatever was necessary to bring Moto to power on the assumption that Moto would return the favour.

"It's callous, it's crude, but it's the way of the world."

Ely Calil, Gregory Wales, and David Tremain May Be Prosecuted in the UK

The London Sunday Times reports that some post-9/11 legislation may allow three of the remaining Equatorial Guinea coup plotters to be prosecuted in the UK:

THREE London-based alleged conspirators in the failed plot to overthrow the dictator of Equatorial Guinea are facing an investigation by British police.

Detectives believe the alleged plotters — including Ely Calil, the Lebanese businessman linked to Peter Mandelson — could be charged under the anti-terrorism act.

An agreement has been struck between Scotland Yard and South Africa’s “Scorpion” police unit, whose investigations led to the conviction last week of Sir Mark Thatcher for his role in the coup attempt.

It has emerged that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Yard’s anti-terrorism branch, met Scorpions in Pretoria five weeks ago.

They agreed to share evidence and co-ordinate inquiries. One of their key informants will be Thatcher, who has agreed to betray those who organised the plot.

It is alleged that Calil conspired with Greg Wales, a London businessman, and David Tremain, a mining tycoon, to plan and finance the overthrow of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, last March. All three men deny the claims.

If a case is made against them, they could stand trial in Britain. Under the 2001 anti-terror act it is an offence to encourage a crime from Britain regardless of whether it is committed abroad. 

What this whole story sorely needs is the name of an oil company that was to pay off all those who invested in the coup plot as a reward for liberating all that oil; and perhaps also the names of the US officials who thought it was a good idea, should such exist. So really interesting facts may drip out if Scotland Yard squeezes Calil, Wales, and Tremain. Perhaps their prosecution might even provide a picture window into the goings on in meetings of Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group.

Continue reading "Ely Calil, Gregory Wales, and David Tremain May Be Prosecuted in the UK" »

Mark Thatcher's Return to Dallas Delayed by the US INS

The Dallas Morning News [irritating registration procedure required] reports that Mark Thatcher's return to Dallas has been delayed "indefinitely" because of an "immigration snag" in Germany:

An acquaintance in Britain said Friday, however, that Mr. Thatcher's        return will be delayed indefinitely because of immigration problems he        encountered in Frankfurt, Germany, where he stopped en route to Dallas.

His passport was seized upon his arrest, and in the meantime, the        acquaintance said, Mr. Thatcher's U.S. visa expired. So he will remain        in Frankfurt while his attorneys negotiate with U.S. authorities. The        source said such negotiations could take days, weeks or even months.

The acquaintance said the plea bargain was for the equivalent of a        misdemeanor – not a felony – and they expected no problem in his        eventually returning to the United States.

However, Marie Sebrechts, an official with U.S. Citizenship and        Immigration Services in Southern California, said Mr. Thatcher's fate        rests with the U.S. State Department, the only agency that can issue him        a visa.

"In the way things are being evaluated right now," said Ms. Sebrechts,        "his connections or position shouldn't have any impact – it's pretty        much a blind system at this point. Whatever he did or was charged with        is all that will be considered. The question becomes, does it make him        admissible or not admissible?"    

MEANWHILE, Gregory Wales denies that he is to be extradited to South Africa. From the Guardian:

The last remaining unconvicted Englishman of those accused of plotting an African coup last night denied that he was to be extradited.

Greg Wales, who remains at liberty in west London following the conviction of Sir Mark Thatcher and mercenary Simon Mann, said through his lawyers that those who had pleaded guilty "obviously had their own reasons for entering into arrangements with the South African authorities".

South Africa says it will continue its investigations thanks to Sir Mark's full cooperation, and sources there have reported that Mr Wales may be a target for extradition attempts. 

Recall that Wales is the fellow who met with Theresa Whelan, US  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, in February and advised her of the coming coup.

. . . no price too high . . .

Now here's an interesting paragraph from the Scotsman by Fred Bridgland in Johannesburg:

SPECULATION mounted yesterday over who Sir Mark Thatcher was set to sell down the river after striking a plea bargain and walking to freedom from a South African court.

The article goes on:

But his release, after nearly six months of virtual house arrest, will send chills through the veins of several prominent men who have been named as backers of the plan to topple President Obiang in court documents lodged in London by lawyers for the Equatorial Guinean leader.

Many will fear he has agreed to expose them and will have taken no comfort from his short statement on the steps of the Cape High Court after yesterdays hearing.

"There is no price too high for me to pay to be reunited with my family, and I am sure all of you who are husbands and fathers would agree with that," he said.

On the other hand, it could be that he agreed to nothing of the kind and that the cork is being put firmly in the bottle and this is the end of it unless the slackers in the US press follow Thatcher's new life in Dallas.

(Note to the US press: You should have been crawling all over Dallas in March and April hunting for the US origins of this attempt at privatizing regime change. This is your second chance. Don't blow it.)

PS: Further to the state of the US news media, don't miss Frank Rich's All the President's Newsmen.

UPDATE: Maybe things are looking up for further revelations: From Johannesburg's Business Day:

Thatcher to Help SA Nail Coup Mates

The Scorpions said the plea bargain was entered into "in order to make use of Thatcher's help in the investigation".

(The Scorpions the South African equivalent of the FBI.)

I occasionally get letters from friends or acquaiatances of those in jail for the coup plot. At this juncture I do want to say that there is a lot more reason for those whom Thatcher might implicate to be in rotten third-word jails than for the hired help to be there. Unfortunately, I expect that even if implicated, they will get off with sentences at least as light as Thatcher's. It is good to be King.

Mark Thatcher, Unwit

Reading the news coverage of Mark Thatcher's guilty plea in the Equatorial Guinea coup scandal, it seems that we have a new euphemism. Now, we all know that Mark Thatcher is no rocket scientist; that seems to be the primary explanation for why his mother, Lady Thatcher, can't possibly have been involved in this mess: Lady Thatcher is smart. But now I am pleased to say we have a new turn of phrase to bring this all into sharper focus:

The Fool

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) - Sir Mark Thatcher pleaded guilty Thursday to unwittingly helping to finance a foiled coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in exchange for a $506,000 fine and suspended jail sentence.

Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, admitted in the Cape High Court that he paid to charter a helicopter, which mercenaries planned to use in their attempted takeover. But he maintains he believed it was to be used for humanitarian purposes, according to his lawyers and a person close to the family.

Really? Unwittingly as in without knowledge or intention? So, um, how were Thatcher's investors going to be repaid? It might have been fun to have some South African Perry Mason break Thatcher on the stand, but realistically, that wasn't going to happen. So I'm pleased to hear of the guilty plea, even though it rules out the possibility of a trial. While some interesting stuff came out of the Zimbabwe trial, the Equatorial Guinea trial was disappointing on that count.

I'm curious whether the word "unwittingly" occurred in court, or if it was formulated by the AP reporter. I was trying to track it down, but a number of online news stories seems to have been revised to remove that word, probably because it made Thatcher look like, well, an unwit.

Karyn Maughan of Cape Argus sheds some light on the origins of the phrasing:

Holding worry beads as he sat in the dock, Thatcher pleaded guilty to contravening sections of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act according to the legal principle of dolus eventualis.

This means Thatcher admitted that his actions may have recklessly, but unwittingly, contributed to the financing of the coup plot.

She also reports:

A sign hung on a building opposite the High Court read "Save me, Mummy".

Apparently, Thatcher will shortly depart for the US, presumably to return to his lavish home in Dallas and the sympathetic embrace of the oil industry.

(To the uninitiated: I've written a fair amount about Mark Thatcher's role in the coup plot in the past. The link will take you to the Goggle results for this site.)

A Few Distractions

Elizabeth, in a rambunctious mood, put her head through the door of one of our glass-doored bookcases. She is OK, except for a very small cut on the back of her head. I have a few small cuts on my left hand from reaching into the glass to pull her out. (Typical of that kind of mother injury, I didn't feel a thing. Carl pointed out that there was blood on my fingers.) Even the books on the other side of he glass are fine.

Having cleaned up the broken glass, I am calming down at the computer  with a cup of chamomile tea  and am finding much on the web to distract me from the rush of adrelin and maternal hormones:

Now back to my regularly scheduled workload.

A Helicopter & a Plane

The Equatorial Guinea coup scandal is heating up again. I was a bit disappointed with the outcome of the EQ trial because so little new information resulted. And also, even if those guys are as guilty as I think they are, I take no pleasure in watching them be sentenced to a very likely death by disease and poor prison conditions; in less than a year in jail there has already been some attrition.

But back to the fun stuff! From News 24:

'Thatcher tested helicopter'

Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, who is suspected of having been involved in the failed coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea, apparently undertook a test flight himself with a helicopter that the participants in the coup had hoped to use in the planned coup.

The British daily, The Guardian, reported on Monday that Thatcher had later also deposited $275 000 in the bank account of Crause Steyl, the South African pilot who was found guilty last month on charges of contravening the South African legislation regarding mercenaries by being involved in the failed coup.

Steyl who, according to the newspaper's information, had offered to testify against Thatcher in an effort to escape a long jail sentence, allegedly told investigating officials that the former prime minister's son had been instrumental in selecting and financing the hire helicopter.

Thanks Adrian!

MEANWHILE, the Yorkshire Ranter notes that wildcat armsdealer Victor Bout has found an area with rich natural resources in which to do disaster relief:

Viktor Bout's Ilyushin 76 UN-76002, photographed loading tsunami relief supplies in Cologne on the 2nd January....

Alex has got a nice clear photo.

A Juxtaposition I Just Can't Resist

I've got a lot of things to do today and Elizabeth has been home sick with a cold and has been helping me not to do them, but I just can't resist juxtaposing these two articles:

• The Washington Post: Changes Behind the Barbed Wire: New Standards Are in Place for the Oversight of Contract Workers at Abu Ghraib Prison A very long article (pointed out to me by Thomas Nephew) which remarks:

Employees of two government contractors, CACI International Inc. of Arlington and Titan Corp. of San Diego, were implicated in some of the abuses, according to two reports produced by Army generals. Both companies faced a barrage of critical news reports and questions about how they handled their contracting responsibilities.

The allegations rocked CACI, sending shares of the company down 18 percent the month after the first report implicating one of its employees was leaked, although the stock has since recovered. Executives at the company said they received hate-filled e-mails and demonstrators picketed outside their headquarters.

But in the months since, the evidence that has been detailed so far in military reviews indicates that contractor employees played a more limited role in abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib than initially suggested. . A panel of generals, led by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, assigned blame for committing abuse or failing to report it to 42 military personnel and six civilian contractor employees.

(All of you wanting the opportunity to invest in this sort of thing, this is the PR all clear signal to call your broker.)


• The New York Times: Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena

The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.

Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations.

Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.

The efforts under consideration risk blurring the traditional lines between public affairs programs in the Pentagon and military branches - whose charters call for giving truthful information to the media and the public - and the world of combat information campaigns or psychological operations.

The question is whether the Pentagon and military should undertake an official program that uses disinformation to shape perceptions abroad. But in a modern world wired by satellite television and the Internet, any misleading information and falsehoods could easily be repeated by American news outlets.

Once when I was 17, I was in the Dallas Airport waiting for a plane with several other teenagers. The Hare Krisnas were out in force and we found an abandoned Hare Krisna hardcover book. We were bored and tried defacing pictures in the book to entertain ourselves. But the guys in the book really didn't look much different with Martian horns and crossed eyes. It was frustrating.

Having learned from the experience, I won't even try to make sarcastic remarks about these juxtaposed news stories. There's just nothing I can add.

Mercenaries Turn State's Evidence

It looks like three mercenaries who have returned to South Africa have turned State's Evidence on Mark Thatcher. The Scotsman reports:

Three men who admitted violating South Africa’s anti-mercenary laws for their role in an failed coup in Equatorial Guinea were ordered to pay fines or go to prison today.

The three said they were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Guinean President Teodoro Obiang that was foiled in March when scores of suspected mercenaries were arrested in the oil-rich west African nation and in Zimbabwe.

Crause Steyl, Lourens Horn and Harry Carlse pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Military Assistance Act as part of a plea bargain under which they agreed to give evidence in court against other alleged coup participants.

Cape Town Magistrate Adriaan Bekker ordered them to pay fines of up to £18,000 or face prison terms of up to 10 years.

Officials in Equatorial Guinea said yesterday they intend to seek the extradition from South Africa of Sir Mark Thatcher, the 51-year-old son of the former British prime minister, in connection with the plot.

Equatorial Guinea has charged Thatcher with bankrolling the plot, defence lawyer Fabian Nsue Nguema said.

Australia's ABC Online remarks:

Several South African mercenaries have agreed to testify against the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sir Mark Thatcher.

MEANWHILE, the Equatorial Guinea mercenary trial has resumed, but I haven't had a chance to read up on it yet. IOL in South Africa reports:

The fate of the alleged mercenaries involved in the attempted coup against the Equatorial Guinea government appears to hinge on the detailed confession of Nick du Toit, their alleged ringleader. He claims it was extracted by torture, but local law makes no provision for dismissing confessions extracted by torture.

Their prospects look grim as they face conviction and sentencing this  Friday. Du Toit faces the death sentence, although Equatorial Guinea has apparently promised the SA government that he will not die. The others face long terms in jail, so the tension among them is rising.

Gubble. Gubble.

I'm trying not to blog, because there's something else I want and need to be working on. But this is too good to pass up. While I have been slacking off, Alex at the Yorkshire Ranter has written several excellent posts over the past few days on the weird specifics of military privatization.

But here's my favorite, for the sheer paranoid aesthetics: A news story detailing how, in one particular situation, real policemen in Iraq were told to stay home from work so that Americans would know that any policeman on the street was a fake (and presumably could be shot at). This is very deep into Philip K. Dick territory. Now, of course, the Iraq situation is dire. But it is not improved by Americans suffering from a massive lithium deficiency.

Making Headway in the Culture Wars

I have been trying really hard to tear myself away from engagement with the ugent here and now to work on fiction writing, because a lot of the things I really want to talk about and write about might better be worked out in fiction. In blogging, you are tied down to what you know personally actually happened or what was reported by the media. But fiction allows you to speculate. And there are some hypotheses I have about military privatization that fiction would give me the room to play with.

This morning, I woke up to this news story:

Leonardo DiCaprio will produce and star in an untitled action thriller focusing on the growing global phenomenon of mercenaries used by governments and companies to wage war, reports Variety. Scott Burns has been set to write the script.

Having grown increasingly involved on the political front, DiCaprio sparked to the idea of mixing a thriller element with the cautionary theme of outsourcing war. The trade says the concept was hatched by Peter Landesman, a foreign correspondent and senior reporter of the New York Times Magazine, and Appian Way president Brad Simpson.

I am so pleased they are doing this. This is great.

Terrorists Experiencing Funding Problems in the Post-Beslan Environment

A couple of Turkish mercenaries -- Aidyn Kai and Burkhan Tchelebi -- in Chechnya were "eliminated" by federal commandos. One of them had on his person a very interesting letter summarized in some detail by the Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti:

The letter contains the information that the militant crossed the Russian-Georgian border having paid $70 to a guide sent by Mukhretdir's agents.

Speaking about his plans to return to Turkey, the mercenary asked to help him get a Georgian visa and to contact "our friend Erkhan-bei" for this purpose. According to the data of the regional operative staff, this man whose real name is presumable Erkhan Eszai, is a Turkish intelligence officer involved in financing and material provision of Chechen gangs

As appears from the letter, Chechen militants lack money promised by their foreign sponsors. Speaking about his meetings with many warlords, Aidyn Kai says that "they were very indignant at the reduction of Turkish and Arab financing".

"Chechens are very offended and resentful. They accuse us of misappropriating their money. They said they received no money for several months. Shamil-Pasha [Shamil Basayev] gave nothing either. They hoped for new financing after Beslan [the terrorist attack on this North Ossetian town was performed on September 1 to 3] but in vain. They added that we would have problems if it continued," RIA Novosti's interlocutor quoted the militant's letter.

The mercenary also called on Mukhretdir to contact a number of public organizations in Turkey, which back Chechen militants, to prepare some terrorist attack with the use of chemicals.

"Send chemists here as soon as possible. This area is not piped for water yet. But there are other place where the Silver Fog plan can be implemented," Aidyn Kai wrote.

According to the regional operative staff, the organizations Caucasian Fund establish with the support of the Turkish intelligence service, the Mazlum (Oppressed) society and the Society of Solidarity with Chechnya recruiting mercenaries were mentioned in the letter.

From this letter it emerges that foreign mercenaries are in a tight situation in Chechnya.

"On the whole, the situation here is nasty. There are many servicemen everywhere. We are moving only at night and leave [live? ed.] in vaults. Threats and arsons are no help already. Commanders do not trust each other. Arabs do not believe Chechens and flee abroad. There are no medicines, as well," the letter reads.

I don't draw any grand conclusions about this, but I find the operational details described quite fascinating. Although the political situations are radically different, I am reminded of Simon Mann's infamous letter from jail which also ended up in the hands of the media.

MEANWHILE, the Air National Guard takes up the slack on school attacks.

The War on Terror & How We Feel

A lot of the rightwing blogs are linking to John Leo's column Democrats and terror which can be summarized as Even that pinko Andrew Sullivan admits that the Democrats can't be trusted to run the War on Terror. Why not? Apparently ecause Democrats aren't sufficiently terrified. This argument, that only the right Truly Understands terrorism, is in itself is a familiar trope of the Bush campaign. But the details of Leo's argument made me feel as though I was reading an op-ed piece from an alternate universe in which Bush had actually concentrated on the War on Terror, instead of settling old family scores and fighting a war more closely related to securing access to a certain natural resource; not to mention creating any number of "friendly" private militias who will be back to haunt us later when their contracts run out. There is a certain kind of blathering punditry that I am sheltered from because we don't have TV access. Last weekend, when we were at a convention, the TV was on in the hotel bar. When Bob Novak came on, my first astonished thought was That man still has a job? I mean, yes, intellectually, I knew Novak was still employed. I even linked to a remark of his a few weeks ago. But it is one thing to notice his comments on the web, and quite another to witness him showing his face in public. Returning to John Leo's column, he barely mentions Iraq -- which is why it seems to come from an alternate universe. And when he does, the view that underpins is the unreconstructed Cheney position, that Saddam was the source of the 9/11 attack. What has Glenn Reynolds -- who led the charge to link to this flight of fancy -- to say about it? Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to exist in another alternate universe, one in which our military never had a chance to capture Osama bin Laden, and therefore has made no mistakes that want admitting, and cannot be held accountable for the fact that bin Laden is still at large. Josh Marshall has been following this remanufacturing of history with a certain predatory fascination that I really admire. William Gibson, who has also been watching Marshall track this down, remarks yesterday:

posted 7:07 PM
How strangely fragile, these days, is our communal grasp of even the most recent history. Josh Marshall links to this Christian Science Monitor account of bin Laden's escape here.

posted 9:18 AM
It never ceases to amaze me, how Josh Marshall can keep this administration's lies sorted, handily enough to cite and refute them, crisply and authoritatively, day after day. This must amount by now to knowing two entirely different versions of history off by heart, the one genuine, the other an endlessly (and indeed artlessly) exfoliating "tissue of sheerest horseshit*"

Here, today, he does it again, skewering the sort of shameless (not to say surreal, grotesque) revisionism that no long even causes our jaws to drop. Myself, were I to daily and directly subject myself to the full blast of ill-crafted lies issuing from the White House, I would quickly grow punchdrunk and confused. I simply wouldn't have the stomach for it. Not so Josh Marshall. Long may he wave.

*Wm. S. Burroughs, 1914-1997

The crux of the story of the Bush administration's failure to capture seems to me the extent to which they subcontracted the capture. Here is my favorite passage from the 3/4/02 Christian Science Monitor piece:

The battle was joined, but anything approaching a "siege" of Tora Bora never materialized. Ghamsharik says today that he offered the US military the use his forces in a "siege of Tora Bora," but that the US opted in favor of his rival, Hazret Ali.

Indeed, Mr. Ali paid a lieutenant named Ilyas Khel to block the main escape routes into Pakistan. Mr. Khel had come to him three weeks earlier from the ranks of Taliban commander Awol Gul.

"I paid him 300,000 Pakistani rupees [$5,000] and gave him a satellite phone to keep us informed," says Mohammed Musa, an Ali deputy, who says Ali had firmly "trusted" Khel.

"Our problem was that the Arabs had paid him more, and so Ilyas Khel just showed the Arabs the way out of the country into Pakistan," Mr. Musa adds.

So of course the Bush administration learned from its mistakes and didn't subcontract so much in Iraq -- no wait, they didn't learn anything. They took a failed policy and ran with it.

It seems to me very peculiar that at this late date Leo is arguing that the success or failure of the War on Terror hinges on How We Feel. John Leo and his ilk are welcome to watch the twin towers fall on their VCRs every night before bed time and to maintain themselves in whatever state of deep anxiety that they like. But the Bush administration feels like pushing military privatization at all costs even in the most inappropriate contexts and lying about it afterwards because Bush doesn't feel like admitting mistakes. I feel we shouldn't have to put up with this.

Oh, Those Wild and Woolly Privateers!

I love this one. Apparently Halliburton was selling, rather than destroying, warheads -- and assuring the purchasers that the transactions were perfectly legal. David Hudak, a Canadian who bought some for his at his counterterrorism training school, spent 17 months in jail awaiting trial before being acquitted of illegally stockpiling warheads. He's out of jail, and he's mad as hell. He's suing Halliburton:

David Hudak's federal lawsuit, filed October 13 in Albuquerque, also claims that Halliburton, its former Jet Research Center subsidiary and another military contractor, Tennessee-based Accurate Arms Co., sold thousands more of the warheads to others in similar transactions.

The companies should have paid to have the warheads destroyed, as required by their military contracts, the lawsuit contends.

So Halliburton was pirating warheads. But because they're in good, judging by the outcome of other PMF transgressions, nothing will happen to them so long as Bush stays in office.

(In fact, many of those mercenaries were black Africans.)

WorldNetDaily is running a peculiarly sympathetic series on "white mercenaries in black Africa" by Anthony C. LoBaido, author of the self-published Christian fantasy Our Name is Legion which the author says "takes up where the popular 'Left Behind' series left off."

The first two parts of the series begin with a flattering introduction to  LoBaido's protagonist:

The  Part 1 begins:

"Mercenaries have always been misunderstood," says Bert Sachse. He knows from whence he speaks. Mr. Sachse is a 34-year veteran of the old Rhodesian and South African special forces. Moreover, Sachse commanded the world's most recent mercenary war during the mid-1990s in the troubled West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Sachse is a part of an ancient legacy of mercenaries, such as the white, Christian Serbs who served the Ottoman Sultan over the course of several centuries, the Swiss Guards who have and still guard the pope, the men who expanded Napoleon's Empire, the myriad of faces who forged the French Foreign Legion and the Gurkhas of Nepal, who still serve in the Indian and British armies. Of course, there exists the latest and most special breed of mercenary soldier  the white African. 

And here's the opening to Part 2:

When it comes to mercenaries, it could be fairly said that South African Bert Sachse is "the real thing." Sachse is an elite special forces soldier who can handle everything from logistics to intelligence gathering to diplomacy, air-to-ground special forces tactics and even the close up "hard killings."

A charming and wiry man with bright eyes, this writer remarked upon meeting him: "I "had been expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Sachse simply smiled and flexed as though in a bodybuilding pageant. Clearly, being a special forces soldier involved far more than muscles.

Sachse's story is a long and amazing road that sheds a great deal of light on the exploits and motivations of the modern mercenary. 

There are certain literary tropes I begin to recognize in non-fiction favorable to mercenaries, and among them are comments about how charming these fellows are and what amazing lives they've lead, as though they were movie stars. (When stuff like that is published or broadcast, I sometimes get notes from impressionable young men asking how they can join up.) Judging from his earlier stories, LoBaido has been a mercenary groupie for a while.

I'm almost tempted to read his novel to see what role mercenaries play in the rightwing Christian imagination. His novel was published by 1stBooks Library, now known as AuthorHouse, "the leading self-publishing company in the world." (For a full discussion of this kind of publisher, I direct you to the fine archives of Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light. See, for example, her most recent post in her popular series on self-publishing and the self-published: Motivation and doubt.) There are many good reasons to self-publish-- surely on a self-published blog I would not condemn self-publishing. Judging from the excerpts of his books available online from his publisher, were these books commercially published, Dave Langford would find much to appreciate in them for the Thog's Master Class column: He dove headlong into Lake Baykal, the deepest fresh water lake in the world, reaching a depth of some sixteen hundred meters. My, what long arms!

I note from checking out his publisher's web site that he has has three books out from 1st Place Libarary. The first is The Third Boer War:

American journalist Trooper Grace is recruited into the shadowy Boer Republican Army, South Africa’s extreme right-wing paramilitary organization, to assassinate the RSA’s newest president–the man they claim to be the "Antichrist"–who will soon rise to the position of global Fuhrer with the blessing of the United Nations.

The second is Our Name is Legion:

Petra England is no ordinary British tourist. In fact, the pristine southern islands of Thailand have never seen the likes of this British Intelligence MI-6 agent before. When Petra’s grandfather Lord Wellington is assassinated in Burma while trying to help the persecuted hill tribes of Southeast Asia, she is stripped of her intelligence access, protection and even her vast fortune.  Petra then journeys to the island paradise of Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand, where she meets Jean-Claude, a handsome and mysterious soldier, who has gone AWOL from the French Foreign Legion. Jean-Claude is harboring a terrible secret – a secret generated by the CIA's supposedly defunct MK-Ultra program. But MK-Ultra continues and is directed by Legion, the powerful demon mentioned in the Gospel of Mark. The same demon Christ was forced to confront.  Jean-Claude’s secret will send Petra on her most dangerous mission yet, into the Killing Fields of Cambodia, where the hell unleashed only a generation ago is merely an appetizer for Legion’s plans for all of mankind in the near future.

Our Name is Legion is a novel for everyone who ever felt alone, abandoned, betrayed and helpless, only to realize that the Lord was about to grant them an incredible victory they could never have imagined.

His third book is his autobiography.

I presume WoldNetDaily cleans up LoBaido's prose when they publish his articles, though perhaps not quite as well as they should. (Recall the line, A charming and wiry man with bright eyes, this writer remarked upon meeting him: "I "had been expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger.")

Part 3 of the series invokes one of the standard tropes of the white makes right argument: cannibalism. Sachse is back to tell it like it is:

"There is a lot of cannibalism in Sierra Leone," said Bert Sachse, a 34-year veteran of the South African special forces and commander of the mercenary war during the mid-1990s in the troubled West African nation.

"If you capture the enemy, you want to interrogate them. For the Sierra Leone army, they wanted to eat the heart and or other vital organs of their enemies. We would have to fly out the prisoners we wanted to interrogate on the helicopters back to Freetown so they wouldn't be eaten. The MI-17 would fly over and the Sierra Leone soldiers would look up and say, 'There goes dinner.' They would look upset. In certain parts of Sierra Leone cannibalism is rife." 

This is not to say that LoBaido's articles aren't full of facts. He often includes them even when they get in the way of his argument. Consider the second paragraph in this passage:

Sandline/EO became a political wrangle in the UK as previously mentioned, and this problem festered throughout the operation in Sierra Leone. The whole issue of legalizing PMCs probably got a good boost from the whole affair. After all, who is against stopping limb-hacking rebels?

Consider that in 2000, British troops returned to Sierra Leone after United Nations troops were overrun by the same RUF troops Sandline/EO had only recently vanquished. The British army retook the country again, and some 45,000 rebels were disarmed. It was like a cul-de-sac of sorts. Rebels attack. Mercenaries sort them. Mercenaries leave. Rebels take the country again. British army comes in to the former colony and disarms rebels. Rebels capture soldiers. SAS comes in and sorts rebels. There was a certain rhythm to it all, an ebb and flow. Yes, a cul-de-sac of violence. As Plato said, "Only the dead are the end of war."

Says Sachse, "People could see a private military company operating in a theater could be a good thing and beneficial, and be sanctioned by the government. There is the question of why the idea did not catch on. If you use PMCs, you don't need to send in British troops. If the troops are killed, the families are naturally very upset. The government sending in troops could lose votes and support in operations the citizens were not in support of." 

Interestingly,  in a parenthetical remark, he notes, "(In fact, many of those mercenaries were black Africans.)", though only in the second-to-last paragraph of the third part of three. I was wondering when he'd mention that. He concludes the series with the line "It is hoped this report will help to bring out more of the truth about the embattled history of Sierra Leone."

I am left with many questions, mostly about LoBaido's audience. Does he have an audience? Do they, too, connect mercenaries with Christian fantasies about Africa? Are mercenaries in any way central to fundamentalist Christian thought about how the world ought to be run, or is this LoBaido's own obsession?

Mercenaries' Attorney Dies of Malaria

The attorney for the mercenaries on trial in Equatorial Guinea has died of malaria:

Malabo - The lawyer for eight South Africans implicated in a coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea died here on Tuesday of malaria, his family  said.

Fernando Mico Nsue, who also suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, died in Malabo at the age of 62, his eldest son, Alberto Nguema said.

"He had not been feeling well over the past few days. He was suffering from malaria and when he had a relapse this morning, we decided to take him to the hospital. He died while he was being driven to the hospital," the son added.

A mercenary in jail in Zimbabwe for his part in the plot died of meningitis earlier this month. And a German member of the Equatorial Guinea group died of malaria in March. I imagine that the mercenaries sitting in jail all feel there is a strong chance they'll die there whether they receive a death sentence of not.

MEANWHILE, CACI's lawyers try to initmidate The New Standard when they report on the lawsuit against CACI filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights over the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. The New Standard responded Clint Eastwood style. The CACI fig leaf consists of the claim that the government's unwllingness to prosecute civilan contractors over Abu G clears CACI of all wrong-doing. Why hasn't John Ashcroft been fired yet? Let's all sing a round of "You're So Vain" for the CACI executives.

(Via Daily Kos.)

Finally, though I'm having a rough couple of weeks there is a lot more to tell. I hope to follow with my rollicking adventures stalking a flu shot AND the continuing saga of my sister and her lead-contaminated plumbing. But for now, I must sign off.

Tax Evasion and a Self-Proclaimed State

Alex at The Yorkshire Ranter directs our attention to this weird little news story, about which he says:

A curious tale reaches the Ranter from darkest Papua New Guinea, that nation the size of Germany but without roads and with betel nut, rugby league, over 700 mutually incomprehensible languages and a lot of pigs. It all started when a Cessna Citation business jet landed without telling anybody at the airstrip on Bougainville, home to the world's biggest nickel mine and a long-running rebellion. Due to rebels, neither the mine nor the airfield have worked since 1989. But that didn't put them off. Two men left the aircraft and headed for rebel country.

Later, the PNG government got wind of this. The pilots were arrested and the plane impounded. Investigations linked the whole thing to a curious tax-evasion scheme involving a self-proclaimed state, whose website can be found here: link Apparently, the passengers were on their way to visit a rebel who calls himself King of Bougainville, and is possibly the same man as a fraudster who was involved in various political scandals in PNG.

It gets weirder. Read the whole post.

Robert Alonso at Starbucks

A while back, Hobson's Choice had a lot of interesting stuff about the attempts to recall Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. So this little item on Robert Alonso, brother of actress Maria Conchita Alonso, caught my eye.

He is alleged to have allowed anti-Chávez mercenaries to use his Venezuela ranch as a training camp. And now he's in Miami and gave an interview to the Miami Herald to let us all know he wants political asylum in the US. Venezuela wants him extradited. Why give an interview in a Miami Starbucks? Why not just hire an immigration lawyer?

It occurs to me to wonder whether his merry band was part of Wolfowitz's network of friendly militias; yet another attempt to privatize the business of regime change. So why does a wanted man give an interview? Bush's poll numbers aren't looking so good. And a new regime in the US might feel differently about Mr. Alonso.

N4610 Mercenary Died of Meningitis

One of the mercenaries serving time in Zimbabwe for a conviction related to the Equatorial Guinea coup plot has died, apparently of meningitis (IOL):

Harare - The Zimbabwe government said on Wednesday that a South African man serving a prison sentence in connection with a coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea died in a Harare hospital after a bout of meningitis.

Ngave Jarukemo Muharukua, 35, who was serving a one-year sentence, was admitted to the intensive care unit at a Harare hospital on Sunday suffering from meningitis and died the following day, said Zimbabwe's information department.

The prisoner had first complained of nose bleeds and dizziness on September 9 and was examined by a prison medical officer before being taken to a hospital ward in the top security Chikurubi prison.

"His condition worsened on October 2, 2004 and he was referred to Harare Central Hospital," said the statement.

"He was admitted at Harare Central Hospital Intensive Care Unit on October 3, 2004 suffering from clinical meningitis" and died the following day, the statement said.

Meningitis is an infectious disease that causes inflammation around the brain and spinal cord.

A post mortem is to be carried out to establish the exact cause of death, the statement added.

MEANWHILE, in Equatorial Guinea, the trial of the other group of mercenaries alleged to have been involved in the coup plot remains stalled, awaiting a deposition by Mark Thatcher.

Libreville - The trial in Equatorial Guinea of 19 people including 14 suspected mercenaries accused of plotting to overthrow President Teodoro Obian Nguema will not resume on Monday as previously announced, sources there said.

Eight South Africans, six Armenians and five Equato-Guineans, including a former deputy minister, went on trial in Malabo in August for allegedly plotting to oust Obiang, who has ruled the small central African country since 1979.

The case was adjourned on August 31 at the request of the state's attorney general, Jose Olo Obono, to get "further information" after the arrest of Mark Thatcher in South Africa.

Mark Thatcher has been fighting a South African court order that he give a deposition to EQ authorities.

AND the President of Uganda ventures his own solution to the mercenary problem (News24):

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday suggested that the easiest way to deal with mercenaries in Africa was to shoot them.

"Mercenaries, you just shoot them. This is a simple matter, it's not a big problem," he said in response to a question at a news conference.

From London to Beslan

There are two news stories concerning a man named Kamel Rabat Bouralha and the Beslan attack. The Sofia News Agency's story, UK Suspect Arrested over Beslan Attack, reports that Bouralha has been arrested in connection with the attack:

A British citizen has been arrested on suspicions of involvement in Beslan school massacre in which 300 people, half of them children, died.

A member of the group responsible for the Beslan school massacre last month is a British citizen who attended the infamous Finsbury Park mosque in north London, The Observer reported.

Then there is the Guardian/Observer story -- London mosque link to Beslan -- that the Sofia News agency names as its source:

A member of the group responsible for the Beslan school massacre last month is a British citizen who attended the infamous Finsbury Park mosque in north London, The Observer can reveal.

Two other members of the group, loyal to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, are also believed to have been active in the UK until less than three years ago. They are suspected of taking part in the raid on the school in which 300 people, half of them children, died.

Russian security sources described Kamel Rabat Bouralha, 46 years old and the oldest of the three, as a 'key aide' of Basayev, who has a £5.5 million price on his head. Basayev has boasted of training the men who took control of the school and wired it with explosives. Investigators believe that the three men, all Algerian-born, travelled to Chechnya from London to take part in fighting there in 2001.

Russian investigators are thought to have now identified most of the 33 men who occupied the school in Beslan last month. They include two Algerians in their mid-30s called Osman Larussi and Yacine Benalia. Both are thought to have been based in London until recently. Like Bouralha, they too are believed to have attended Finsbury Park mosque and to have joined the network of groups loyal to Basayev on arrival in Chechnya.

General Ilya Shabalkin said that Bouralha had been detained while attempting to leave Russia for medical treatment in Azerbaijan. 'He says he is innocent, but there is strong evidence of his involvement in a grave crime,' Shabalkin said.

It is not clear to me what is being claimed. Is Bouralha thought to have been one of the attackers? Or just one of the organizers? Do I also gather that two of the dead attackers' bodies have been identified as Osman Larussi and Yacine Benalia? Is the Guardian story just poorly written? Or is it the situation (rather than the writing) that is murky?

It seems to me that this arrest and its surrounding narrative have to be regarded in the context of Putin's desire to portray the attack as al Qaeda-related rather than as a reaction ot his policies in Chechnya.

Aegis Contract Survives Protest by Dyncorp

Over the strong objections of the Irish community and a protest lodged by Dyncorp, Tim Spicer's company Aegis has managed to hold onto their huge contract to provide security in Iraq:

Spicer contract gets U.S. nod

A controversial contract between the Pentagon and a British-owned private defense company has been given the go-ahead by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Aegis Defense Services secured the $292.5 million contract for security work in Iraq.

The contract, awarded in May, is one of the largest for such work in Iraq and was given to Aegis in the face of six initial rival bids, including one by a U.S. company, Dyncorp.

It was a protest brought by Dyncorp that put the Aegis contract on hold and resulted in an investigation and legal determination by the GAO, the congressional and federal government financial and legal watchdog, which, until recently, was known as the General Accounting Office.

Aegis is headed by former British army Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who commanded the Scots Guards regiment in Belfast when teenager Peter McBride was shot dead in September 1992.

McBride was shot in the back and his death remains one of the most controversial of the troubles.

President Bush has been urged to cancel the Aegis contract because of the questions swirling around Spicer, not just in relation to his service in Northern Ireland, but as a result of later business ventures around the world involving so-called "private military companies," a term widely viewed as merely a sanitized way of describing mercenaries.

I expected this. Despite some suggestion that the awarding of the Aegis contract was the result of incompetence, it has seemed to me a result of deliberate policy. The Pentagon knows what it's getting: a certain style of military action behind a contractual cloak of deniability.

UPDATE: has more details:

GAO found that DynCorp's proposal was "marginal, and ineligible for award without significant revision" and therefore, the company had no standing in the protest. The contract was awarded on a "best value" basis, based on technical and management capability, past performance and cost. The request for proposals had advised contestants that technical and management capability would be rated slightly higher than past performance, and that the two factors together would rate higher than cost.

Private Military Rivalries

First, a little background about why this is so interesting: Executive Outcomes is considered the ur-private military firm; the new corporate model upon which many others are based: military services could be contracted from businessmen with databases, not from ragtag "dogs of war." When South Africa outlawed that sort of company, Executive Outcomes, located in South Africa, closed up shop. Though there was a network of companies thought to be affiliated with EO, the British PMF Sandline is widely considered the be EO reborn. Sandline closed up shop in April.  However, until recently, if you typed into your browser, you were automatically forwarded into the site of a US company, Northbridge Services Group. The original Executive Outcomes site was actually at (link via the WayBack Machine). So it is my impression that Northbridge has been trying to pass itself off as one of the EO spin-offs. There was some overlap in personnel between EO and both companies.

So here's the new story:

Federal prosecutors say Pasquale John DiPofi  -- described in court proceedings as a security contractor, mercenary and bodyguard for entertainers -- threatened a French businessman who was trying to collect a $23-million debt the government of Sierra Leone owed to a company that provided military assistance during the country's civil war in the 1990s.

DiPofi was arrested at Detroit Metro Airport on Sept. 4 after returning from a 2 1/2 -month trip to Iraq. . . .

According to the criminal complaint, Executive Outcomes, a private military company in South Africa, contracted with the government of Sierra Leone in 1995-97 to provide military equipment, security and training during the African nation's civil war. The company was to receive $30 million.

DiPofi, a married father of two, was president of the U.S. arm of the now-defunct company. He also is a director of Northbridge Services Group Ltd., a British-based private military company.

When the government of Sierra Leone failed to pay Executive Outcomes, the complaint said, the company asked a sister firm, Executive Outcomes of Panama, to collect the debt. It hired Michael Grunberg of Paris  to try to negotiate with Sierra Leone.

In January 2001, Executive Outcomes sued the government in a Sierra Leone court. Although both sides agreed to settle the dispute for $23 million, the government didn't pay. Later, the Sierra Leone government produced documents from Executive Outcomes of Mt. Clemens and its president, DiPofi, which said he was the person to whom the debt was owed.

The criminal complaint said Grunberg and a London law firm later discovered that DiPofi and others had submitted fraudulent documents to the government of Sierra Leone to discredit Grunberg and bolster DiPofi's claim.

In August 2002, Grunberg received an anonymous fax at his home in Paris warning him that he had underestimated his adversaries and should be concerned.

A few days later, he received an envelope containing seven color photos of the interior and exterior of his  homes in England.

The same day, Grunberg received a phone call on his private line warning him to settle the differences with "the other party."

"Don't be greedy," the caller said. "If you have not made contact by Friday, then I will make my move. I have been with you for two months, and it will be swift and you won't know anything about it."

Grunberg contacted the police and hired bodyguards.

First of all, though the article doesn't mention Sandline. Grunberg was rather recently affiliated with Sandline. I would guess that Grunberg's attorney mentioned in the article is Richard Slowe of S. J. Berwin, through whom Grunberg threatened to sue me a while back. Slowe was also the attorney Sandline used to sue the Government of Papua New Guinea when they didn't pay their Sandline bill.

Though, in  my personal opinion, Grunberg is a vain, irritating man*, if  DiPofi operates as described in the allegations, he should be in jail now, not out on bail. It sounds like Grunberg was lucky not to wake up with a horsehead in his bed. I find it noteworthy that a Director of Northbridge is accused of using mafia tactics to intimidate a business rival.

See also the US Department of Justice.

UPDATE: Here is another (AP)version of the story, suggesting that DiPofi's Executive Outcomes had nothing in common with the South African comapny of that name except the same name:

Two Michigan men tried to defraud the government of Sierra Leone and a private military company of $23 million, according to a federal indictment.

Eastpointe police Officer Christopher Belan, 40, and New Baltimore security contractor Pasquale DiPofi, 33, were indicted Tuesday, the Detroit U.S. attorney's office said.

The men tried to trick Sierra Leone officials into believing that DiPofi's company was owed $23 million for providing military equipment, security and training during the west African nation's civil war in 1995-97, the indictment said.

DiPofi owned the now-defunct Executive Outcome Inc., based in Mount Clemens. His company had the same name as a South African company that did the work for Sierra Leone.

The indictment said Executive Outcomes of South Africa was to receive $30 million for its work in Sierra Leone.

A British company, Audax Trading Ltd., contacted the Mount Clemens company, mistakenly believing it to be the company that had done the work in Sierra Leone, and offered to help collect the payment, the indictment said.

DiPofi and Belan gave Audax and Sierra Leone's government fraudulent documents to justify their claim for payment, the indictment said.

That this Michigan company would just happen to have the EO name and that its owner would just happen to be a director of the PMF Northbridge seems to me far too mich of a coincidence. What I am curious about is whether Di Pofi's company had already been trying to give the impression of affiliation with Tony Buckingham's Executive Outcomes, or whether DiPofi's company was in fact an offshoot. Given the byzantine financial network surrounding such companies, this is a much more complex question than it appears. I wonder what DiPofi's legal defense will have to say about the matter.
* Check out Grunberg's letters of complaint linked to from this page and you'll see what I mean.

Gregory Wales - Theresa Whelan Meeting Was Scheduled for the Initial Date Set for the Equatorial Guinea Coup

The Guardian has more on the Gregory Wales - Theresa Whelan conversations including a fascinating bit on the timing of Wales's meeting with Whelan:

Equatorial Guinea official sources claim that last November, when the plot was in its early stages, an Old Etonian mercenary, Simon Mann, paid Mr Wales about $8,000. . . .

A few days after the alleged payment, Mr Wales went to Washington to a dinner and conference organised by an influential group of US "private military companies", the IPOA (International Peace Operations Association). . . .

IPOA's members include MPRI, a company formed by retired generals. MPRI had already been allowed to compile a survey of Equatorial Guinea's military weaknesses on President Obiang's behalf, overcoming initial objections by the Clinton administration that it would help prop up a dictator.

MPRI persuaded the Pentagon it would be in the US national interest to allow the survey to be done, although the company never went ahead with a planned contract to strengthen Mr Obiang's army.

Mr Wales made his first contact with Ms Whelan at the dinner. The following January his firm, the Sherbourne Foundation, was paid another $35,000 by the coup plotters, according to Equatorial Guinea.

Mr Wales then organised another meeting at the Pentagon with Ms Whelan. This came on the eve of the day originally planned for the coup, February 19. The Pentagon says the meeting in "mid-to-late February" ranged over many African topics, and that Mr Wales's hints were so general that they did not call for any action to be taken. . . .

The February 19 plan is said to have been aborted after a hired aircraft broke down. The plotters then acquired an old former US Air National Guard Boeing, built to a military specification, that was flown over from Kansas with a crew from Florida for a second coup attempt. But the seller, the US firm Dodson Aviation, says there was no US government involvement in the deal.

I wonder about time zones: Did Wales already know about the plane breaking down before he went into the meeting? That seems likely. But that is a detail I'd like to have nailed down.

IN AUGUST, British intelligence services allowed as how they knew about the coup plot in advance, but with a different spin:

British intelligence services helped to foil a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea which led to the arrest of the son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a newspaper reported here on Sunday.

"Britain co-operated with South Africa in gathering information about the planned coup and helped to put a stop to it, but its intelligence agencies are happy to let the South Africans take the credit," the Independent on Sunday quoted an unnamed source as saying.

This earlier piece aslo discusses the Wales-Whelan connection. (I missed this because I was out of travelling and Internet range when this came out.)