the G8 meeting in Scotland and the Make Poverty History campaign

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FROM IRAQ TO THE G8: THE POLITE CRUSHING OF DISSENT AND TRUTH John Pilger

Over the past two weeks, the contrast between two related "global" events has been salutary. The first was the World Tribunal on Iraq held in Istanbul; the second the G8 meeting in Scotland and the Make Poverty History campaign. Reading the papers and watching television in Britain, you would know nothing about the Istanbul meetings, which produced the most searing evidence to date of the greatest political scandal of modern times: the attack on a defenceless Iraq by America and Britain.

The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. "We are here," said the author Arundathi Roy in Istanbul, "to examine a vast spectrum of evidence (about the war) that has been deliberately marginalised and suppressed, its legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in the occupation, the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as depleted uranium munitions, napalm, and cluster bombs, the use and legitimising of torture . . . This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record: to document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily anguished."

"Temporarily anguished" implies that, even faced with such rampant power, the Iraqi people will recover. You certainly need this sense of hope when reading the eyewitness testimonies which demonstrate, as Roy pointed out, "that even those of us who have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq."

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The most shocking testimony was given by Dahr Jamail. Unless you read the internet, you will not know who Dhar Jamail is. He is not an amusing Baghdad blogger. For me, he is the finest reporter working in Iraq. With the exception of Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and several others, mostly freelancers, he shames the flak-jacketed, cliché crunching camp followers known as "embeds". A Lebanese with American citizenship, Jamail has been almost everywhere the camp followers have not. He has reported from the besieged city of Fallujah, whose destruction and atrocities have been suppressed by western broadcasters, notably by the BBC. (See www.medialens. org/ alerts).

In Istanbul, Jamail bore his independent reporter's witness to the thousands of Iraqis tortured in Abu Ghraib and other American prisons. His account of what happened to a civil servant in Baghdad was typical. This man, Ali Abbas, had gone to a US base to inquire about his missing neighbours. On his third visit, he was arrested without charge, stripped naked, hooded and forced to simulate sex with other prisoners . This was standard procedure. He was beaten on his genitals, electrocuted in the anus, denied water and forced to watch as his food was thrown away. A loaded gun was held to his head to prevent him from screaming in pain as his wrists were bound so tightly that the blood drained from his hands. He was doused in cold water while a fan was held to his body.

"They put on a loud speaker," he told Jamail, "put the speakers on my ears and said, 'Shut up, fuck, fuck, fuck!' He was refused sleep. Shit was wiped on him and dogs were used on him. "Sometimes at night when he read his Koran," said Jamail, "(he) had to hold it in the hallway for light. Soldiers would come by and kick the Holy Koran, and sometimes they would try to piss on it or wipe shit on it." A female soldier told him, "Our aim is to put you in hell . . . These are the orders from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell."

Jamail described how Fallujah's hospitals have been subjected to an American tactic of collective punishment, with US marines assaulting staff and stopping the wounded entering, and American snipers firing at the doors and windows, and medicines and emergency blood prevented from reaching the hospitals. Children were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood.

The two men responsible for this, George Bush and Tony Blair, attended the G8 meeting at Gleneagles. Unlike the Iraq Tribunal, there was saturation coverage, yet no one in the "mainstream" - from the embedded media to the Make Poverty History organisers and the accredited, acceptable celebrities - made the obvious connection of Bush's and Blair's enduring crime in Iraq. No one stood and said that Blair's smoke-and-mirrors "debt cancellation" at best amounted to less than the money the government spent in a week brutalising Iraq, where British and American violence was the cause of the doubling of child poverty and malnutrition since Saddam Hussein was overthrown (Unicef).

In Edinburgh, a shameless invitation-only meeting of Christian Aid supporters and church leaders was addressed by Britain's treasurer, Gordon Brown, the paymaster of this carnage. Only one person asked him, "When will you stop the rape of the poor's resources? Why are there so many conditions on aid?" This lone protestor was not referring specifically to Iraq, but to most of the world. He was thrown out, to cheers from among the assembled Christians.

That set the theme for the G8 week: the silencing and pacifying and co-option of real dissent and truth. It was Frantz Fanon, the great intellectual-activist of Africa, who exposed colonial greed and violence dressed up as polite do-goodery, and nothing has changed, in Africa, as in Iraq. The mawkish images on giant screens behind the pop stars in Hyde Park beckoned a wilful, self-satisfied ignorance. There was none of the images that television refuses to show: of murdered Iraqi doctors with the blood streaming from their heads, cut down by Bush's snipers.

On the front page of the Guardian, the Age of Irony was celebrated as real life became more satirical than satire could ever be. There was Bob Geldoff resting his smiling face on smiling Blair's shoulder, the war criminal and his jester. Elsewhere, there was an heroically silhouetted Bono, who celebrates men like Jeffrey Sachs as saviours of the world's poor while lauding "compassionate" George Bush's "war on terror" as one of his generation's greatest achievements; and there again was Brown, the enforcer of unfair rules of trade, saying incredibly that "unfair rules of trade shackle poor people"; and Paul Wolfowitz, beaming next to the Archbishop of Canterbury: this is the man who, before he was handed control of the World Bank, devised much of Bush's so-called neo-conservative putsch, the mendacious justification for the bloodfest in Iraq and the notion of "endless war".

And if you missed all that, there is a downloadable PDF kit from a "one Campaign" e-mail to "help you organise your very own ongoing Live8 party". The suppression of African singers and bands, parked where Geldoff decreed, in an environmental theme park in Cornwall, in front of an audience of less than 50 people, was described correctly by Andy Kershaw as "musical apartheid".

Has there ever been a censorship as complete and insidious and ingenious as this? Even when Stalin airbrushed his purged comrades from the annual photograph on top of Lenin's mausoleum, the Russian people could fill in the gaps. Media and cultural hype provide infinitely more powerful propaganda weapons in the age of Blair. With Diana, there was grief by media. With Iraq, there was war by media. Now there is mass distraction by media, a normalising of the unmentionable that "the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people", wrote the playwright Arthur Miller, "and so the evidence has to be internally denied."

Deploying the unction of Bono, Madonna, Paul McCartney and of course Geldoff, whose Live Aid 21 years ago achieved nothing for the people of Africa, the contemporary plunderers and pawnbrokers of that continent have pulled off an unprecedented scam: the antithesis of 15 February 2003 when two million people brought both their hearts and brains to the streets of London.

"(Ours) is not a march in the sense of a demonstration, but more of a walk, " said Make Poverty History's Bruce Whitehead. "The emphasis is on fun in the sun. The intention is to welcome the G8 leaders to Scotland and ask them to deliver trade justice, debt cancellation and increased aid to developing countries."

Really?

In Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter to show her the way out of wonderland. They did, over and again, this way, that way, until she lost her temper and brought down her dream world, waking her up. The people killed and maimed in Iraq and the people wilfully impoverished in Africa by our governments and our institutions in our name, demand that we wake up.

Executive Outcomes:
Tony Blair's Pet Bulldog?
The Curious Case of Colonel Tim Spicer

By William Bowles
Tim Spicer is an ex-soldier from the Scots Guards, an elite unit of the British Army, a veteran of Northern Ireland (where he got his OBE) and the Falklands, and he also served in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. Spicer's (defunct) company, Sandline International took over from Executive Outcomes (EO) which was disbanded after South Africa made it illegal for South African nationals to engage in mercenary activities. Spicer has close connections to the government of Tony Blair who hired Spicer's Sandline to illegally supply weapons to restore the Kabbah government in Sierra Leone.

The successor to Spicer's Sandline is Aegis Defence Services and just awarded a $239 million contract by the US DoD to supply “75 close protection bodyguard teams to coalition and Iraqi officials” as well as “co-ordinate intelligence gathering for other private security firms in Iraq, including the multi-billion dollar US Dyncorp”, it became clear that there is much, much more to Colonel Tim than meets the eye.

Could this connection have something to do with Aegis Defence Services winning the DoD contract (more payback for supporting Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq)?

The contract has been contested by Dyncorp and there are currently three separate US government investigations into the awarding of the contract to Aegis.

Aegis, formed less than two years ago, is small potatoes by PMC standards, In fact in 2003, the company made a loss of £378,000. Investors in Aegis include Frederick Forsyth, author of “The Dogs of War”.

Aegis is also bidding on a 12-month contract offered by the British government's Department of International Development (DFID) to “provide intelligence and security advice” to the government of Sierra Leone. An irony considering Spicer's prior involvement with Sierra Leone when his company broke a UN embargo on arms to Sierra Leone on behalf of Tony Blair's government.

“It's The Wild West”

“The United States government, the American army, and the private security or intelligence companies are today completely interdependent,” says a European expert. “And, from a military point of view, this is on the increase. Just one example: after the attacks on the Blackwater convoys in Fallujah and Baghdad, the Pentagon proposed providing to the coordinating agency, PMO – Program Management Office – and so today to Spicer, air support for all the private companies officially registered with the PMO. The program's code name is 'Quarterback.' It's incredible. It's the Wild West. Apache helicopters and ground attack fighters are going to henceforth be able to “clear” the roads for private companies.”” (Correspondent)

It's estimated that there are at least 20,000 mercenaries operating in Iraq (some put it as high as 30,000), earning between five and twenty times as much as their state-employed 'comrades-in-arms'.

So why all the fuss over PMCs? After all, there was a time when most wars were conducted by mercenaries until the time of large-scale state-enforced conscription at the beginning of the 20th century when mechanised warfare demanded millions of young men to fight and die for capital.

What started out as a fairly 'straightforward' investigation of Aegis Defence Services, a small PMC with connections, tailspinned into a global spider's web of corporate and government connections that (so far) spans countries from South/North America, Africa, the Middle and Far East, with a multitude of players including government leaders from Burma to Uganda with stopovers in South Africa, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, then on to Venezuela, Guyana, Colombia and the United States.

This article can only scratch the surface of the intricacies of the global network of mercenary armies and the connected oil, gas, precious metal mining companies as well as the lucrative arms trading that the companies named here are or have been involved in.

Various and sundry companies owned by a host of connected players as far apart as Canada, Burma and Uganda, with one company leading to another via 'fronts', shared directors and shareholders, cross-ownership, tax shelters, in a word, all the devices of corporate capitalism designed to obscure who really owns (and hence is responsible for) what.

In addition, one of the hidden players, 'Toxic' Bob Friedland, a power behind the throne of Tony Buckingham's Heritage Oil & Gas, and also a sidekick of Colonel Tim Spicer, has left a trail toxic waste behind him as he dug his way across Burma, the United States, Canada and Venezuela in search of gold. A search that thus far has left cleanup costs (not his to pay) of hundreds of millions of dollars of the cyanide and heavy metal-polluted landscapes.

The sordid doings of these 'Soldiers of Misfortune' is therefore, not restricted to doing the dirty work of imperialism, but leads them wherever they see a fast buck to be made. This is the side of PMCs that the media doesn't report on when it reports the glib comments of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw when he talks of engaging the “reputable private military sector”.

Executive Outcomes
The starting point is Executive Outcomes (EO) (now defunct but not before morphing into Sandline International and then ending up as Aegis Defence Services, with a few stopovers inbetween). EO was one of the first of the Private Military Contractors, set up around 1989, after it became clear that Apartheid South Africa was all washed up. The man credited with creating EO is Eeban Barlow. In addition to Barlow, the other major players in EO/Sandline were Simon Mann (currently languishing in a Zimbabwean jail having been arrested for participating in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea in exchange for oil concessions after the coup was over[8]), Tim Spicer, Michael Grunberg, Tony Buckingham and Nic van der Berg, who later took over from Barlow as head of EO. The military network was controlled by shadowy holding companies, called Plaza 107 in the UK (controlled by Grunberg) and the Strategic Resources Corporation in South Africa.

“EO was registered in the UK in September 1993 by Simon Mann, a former troop commander in 22 SAS specializing in intelligence and South African director of Ibis Air, and Tony Buckingham, an SAS veteran and chief executive of Heritage Oil and Gas. The Heritage Oil and Gas board of directors includes former Liberal Party leader David Steel, and Andrew Gifford of GJW Government Relations, an influential parliamentary lobbyist. The company, originally British, now registered in the Bahamas, is associated with a Canadian oil corporation, Ranger Oil. Both companies had drilling interests in Angola, a country that since the mid 1970s was torn by civil war between the Marxist MPLA government and UNITA rebels who were covertly assisted by the South African special forces.

“Most of EO's approximately one thousand soldiers (70 per cent of whom are black) are veterans of South Africa's four elite apartheid-era counterinsurgency special forces: 32 'Buffalo' Battalion; the Reconnaissance Commandos ('Reccies'); the Parachute Brigade ('Parabats'); and the paramilitary 'Koevoet' ('Crowbar'). Their assignment was the destabilization of the apartheid regime's southern African enemies.

“The 32 Battalion, comprised mainly of Portuguese-speaking Angolans, became South Africa's most highly decorated combat unit since the Second World War. Eeben Barlow, the director of EO until July this year, was second-in-command of the 32 Battalion. He chose the paladin, the chessboard knight once featured in the old television series Have Gun, Will Travel, as the company logo when he set up EO in 1989.”

EO's first known major operation was Angola in 1993 where it traded on its 32 Battalion experience defending oil drilling sites and ironically being hired by the Angolan government to fight UNITA, the force Barlow had been working with to destroy the MPLA government during the Apartheid era. In reality, the oil drilling site it recovered from UNITA in Angola at Soyo, was in fact owned by Heritage Oil (which in turn has shares owned by Toxic Bob Friedland's Branch Energy) and at the time, EO was also part-owned by Branch Energy. Heritage Oil has operations in Angola, Congo-Brazaville, DR Congo, Oman, and Uganda. Executive Outcomes was involved in Sierra Leone, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Canada.

“Angola seems to be where EO head Barlow met former SAS officer [Tony] Buckingham, now believed to have ultimate control over EO and the complex web of some 80 companies involved in businesses ranging from landmine removal to water purification. Buckingham was representing Heritage Oil at the time of their meeting and had requested that Barlow recruit soldiers to recapture Heritage's assets in Soyo that had been taken by UNITA during the renewed conflict of the Second Civil War. The success of EO's special forces operation in Soyo had inspired the Angolan government to hire EO to direct frontline operations against UNITA.

“Payments for EO's services were made substantially in partial ownership in Branch Energy, were then transferred through a subsidiary, Carson Gold, and were finally exchanged for shares in DiamondWorks. Capture of vital diamond mining territory was part of the subtext of EO's operations in Angola.”

Also involved in EO's Angolan 'adventures' was Simon Mann, an ex-Royal Scots Guards officer and troop commander with the 'elite' British Special Air Services (SAS). Mann, together with Tony Buckingham, another prominent player in the private army business, awarded Eeben Barlow, the founder of EO, his first contract in Angola.

Led by Lafras Luitingh, a former 5 Reconnaissance Regiment officer, and like Barlow, also an ex-Civil Cooperation Bureau operative, less than 100 EO fighters seized the town in three months and handed it back to the Angolan government. They got huge rewards, including a US$30 million mining contract.

Eeban Barlow
Barlow, joined the SADF in 1974 and went to become a commander of South Africa's notorious 32 Battalion's Reconnaissance (Recce) Wing where he 'assisted' the anti-MPLA UNITA, (the Union for the Total Independence of Angola) guerrilla army. Later, Barlow went on to become a high-ranking employee of the South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) formed in the last years of the Apartheid regime. Barlow it seems, was based in London during the 1980s and it was his job to disseminate disinformation about the ANC but one can speculate on what other activities he and the other CCB operatives got up to whilst stationed in Europe including their involvement in the assassination of the ANC representative in France, Dulcie September in 1987. The CCB was definately involved in assassinations elsewhere, including the assassination of Anton Lubowski, a leading member of Namibia's SWAPO (South West African Peoples' Organisation) in 1989. The manufacture and distribution of drugs, involvement with the so-called Third Force, utilised to destabilise South Africa during the pre-1994 election period. Dr Wouter Basson (so-called Dr. Death) was also part of the CCB operation and behind a CBW programme code-named Project Coast.

The activities of EO, the clients it served, and the global transnational corporate elite that included the DeBeers diamond cartel, Texaco and Gulf-Chevron reveals the role of mercenary groups like EO, especially in Africa. Much of its income came from 'doing deals', that is, getting lucrative mining concessions as payment for providing protection or overthrowing governments that 'got in the way' of doing business such as those conducted in Sierra Leone, Angola and DR Congo. And here the connections between EO and companies such as Diamondworks, becomes important, for the close association between EO and the diamond and gold concessions reveals that EO not only got paid cash for supplying mercenary forces but also obtained lucrative mining concessions as well.

“In Sierra Leone, Branch Energy had a 60% stake in Branch Energy Sierra Leone, the government had 30% while a local businessman/investor held a small stake of 10%. The same pattern was repeated in Angola and in Uganda. Branch Energy's African assets were mainly concentrated in countries where civil wars and rebellions were raging, so was it just pure luck or coincidence that these countries were selected? In fact the selection appears to have been guided by very defined criteria: the potentials in minerals (diamonds, gold and oil), a bankrupt national economy and armed rebellion threatening the ruling strongman.”

Aside from the fact that the UN outlawed the practice, mercenary outfits are 'free agents' not covered by Geneva Conventions or indeed aside from countries like South Africa who have outlawed the practice, are not regulated by the leading exporters of war, the US and the UK.

“The American government has also been using these private companies and others, more discreet, for secret activities, as the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal revealed recently. Intelligence agencies subcontract their activities, notably for interrogations. Not only are these private “soldiers” not subject to military discipline or prosecution, but their companies are paid, or see their contracts renewed, on a pro rata basis, according to how much information is obtained. This would appear to have pushed some contractors to extract fantastical confessions from prisoners through torture.”

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the drive to privatise war is the fact that our political elite is busy producing rationales for it. Hence British foreign secretary Jack Straw had this to say on the subject,

“…[a] reputable private military sector might have a role in enabling the UN to respond more rapidly and effectively to crises”.

This followed the Sierra Leone affair, where the UK government had hired Sandline to smuggle weapons into the country in contravention of an UN arms embargo. Clearly Straw's statement (following the publication of a Green Paper that called for the hiring of PMCs to do the work of government) was part of the drive to circumvent all the 'inconvenient' laws that prohibit governments from acting without due process or being accountable to public oversight.

Straw's forward to the Green Paper went on to say,

“Today's world is a far cry from the 1960s when private military activity usually meant mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind involved in post-colonial or neo-colonial conflicts.”

Unsavoury seems an odd choice of word especially in the light of the subsequent events in Abu Ghraib and the involvement of CACI, the US PMC in the torture of Iraqi prisoners, for surely the point of privatising state activities is primarily to avoid taking responsibility for one's actions. The smokescreen being used by the likes of despicable individuals like Straw who seeks to justify privatising such activities under the guise circumventing 'bureaucracy', is the height of cynicism. It reveals that far from being the advocates of freedom and democracy, our rulers feel that they can write their own rules in this dog-eat-dog world that they have created.

But unlike the US government who have already made it quite plain that PMCs are above the law,

“If accepted by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, it would put the highly visible U.S. foreign contractors into a special legal category, not subject to military justice and beyond the reach of Iraq's justice system. … Two U.S. contract employees at Abu Ghraib prison who were accused in a Pentagon report of participating in illegal abuse of Iraqi prisoners … have not been charged with any crimes in Iraq or the United States. … Estimates of the total number of foreigners working here — from Americans to South Africans to Chileans — have ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.”

The British government hides its actions, embarrassed perhaps that its activities expose its hypocritical position? But this is nothing new for the Blair government whose activities ever since coming to power in 1997 have been exemplified by an endless trail of broken promises and lies about its true intentions as it attempts to resurrect the empire. So the fact that it rewards the dregs of its former colonial empire's military occupiers with crumbs off the US table should come as no surprise.

Article Source: Investigating Imperialism ** Contains excellent research notes at bottom of the page

Related News:
War Business Part 1: Corporate stormtroopers ravage Africa - The Scandal on the staged coup planned for Equatorial Guinea
War Business Part 2: South African soldiers deserting army for Iraq
WAR INC.: U.S. Corporations Orchestrate war And Profit From The Deaths Of U.S. Soliders

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