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May 16, 2011

Onward Christian Soldiers

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

The New York Times has been taken to task on the military and security blog of Eeben Barlow, founder of Executive Outcomes, for its potentially libelous statements characterizing  EO as a company engaged in fomenting coups throughout the world, particularly in Africa, where they contracted to help "African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime."

In a letter to the New York Times editor, he wrote:

Pretoria, South Africa
15th May 2011
Dear Editor,
It was with interest that I read your article headlined Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder dated 14 May 2011 by your journalists Mark Mazzetti and Emily B Hager.

As the founder and chairman of the now defunct Executive Outcomes, I found it of even greater interest that they state in their article as fact that Executive Outcomes was “a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts...in Africa”.

Indeed, the only fact in their reference to Executive Outcomes is that it was a South African company. Had your journalists done even the most basic of research, they would have discovered that:
1. Executive Outcomes was intimately involved in drafting the South African government’s legislation on foreign military companies
2. Executive Outcomes had a licence from the South African government to conduct its business
3. Executive Outcomes only accepted contracts from legitimate, internationally recognised governments. This included South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Indonesia to name a few
4. The South African media apologised to me for allowing themselves to be used to perpetuate disinformation on both myself and my company.
The book Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds, was written by myself and published in 2007 by Galago Publishing, detailing the company’s origins, contracts and activities. To date, no information I gave in the book has been refuted by any party.

I personally remain opposed to coups and I also run a blog where I have written, warned against and prevented coups in Africa  (http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/warning-against-joining-planned-coup.html)
However, as your paper accepted and published a factually incorrect comment on Executive Outcomes, despite it being libellous, I reserve the right to take legal action. Meanwhile I demand that your journalists furnish me with proof of any coup attempts planned or staged by the defunct Executive Outcomes. Should your journalists argue that the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea is an example of such an action, may I point out that Executive Outcomes closed its doors in January 1998. It therefore cannot, in any way, be linked to a coup attempt several years later. If any ex-Executive Outcomes men were recruited by the planners of such a coup, Executive Outcomes can still not be linked to the attempt.

I look forward to your comments.
Sincerely,
EEBEN BARLOW
 The text of the NYT article was quoted previously in this blog, the exact wording as follows:
"To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops."
The story actually was describing a new company --Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC (a/k/a R2) -- recently set up by Erik Prince to fulfill a contract with the GHQ Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates for a battalion of non-Muslim mercenary soldiers from all parts of the world, but predominantly from South America. R2 executed the contract by Michael Roumi.

The term of the contract is five years, beginning last June and running through May 2015 with an amount payable to the contractor of $529,166,754.13--more than half a billion dollars.

Another blogger has taken excerpts from the contract, along with speculation of the authors of the Times piece -- Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager -- to conclude as follows:

If Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC or R2 can deliver on this first test battalion, it sounds like the UAE is prepared to expand on the thing. The contract goes up to May of 2015, so a lot can happen between now and then.

Now as far as what they will be used for, who knows?  The article below says that this legion could be used to take a few islands off the coast and keep them out of Iranian hands? That this force could also be a deterrent to deal with Iran, which I think that is the real reason why the US would be ok with such a set up. Here is a quote on some of the possible tasks of this force:

Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”
One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”
The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

Here is the part of the article that talks specifically about Iran. Pretty wild, and this kind of operation is certainly offensive in nature if they do it:

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.
Finally there is the future of this project, and more importantly, what Prince envisions. This is where the Foreign Legion turns into a hybrid type force.  It would be like Secopex training and providing logistics for the FFL, and offering the training facility to other private or government forces. Here is the quote:

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C.

So will R2 be opening its doors for training to the world, much like how BW operated in the US?   If true, I could see something like this becoming a multi-billion dollar project for Prince and company. Just because it would be located in the middle east and cater to all the OPEC nations.  That is a pretty wealthy neighborhood to cater too, and this will be one to watch in the coming years.

 When American corporations treat government contracting as just another way to get rich, offering their services to the highest bidder without considerations of anything other than promoting business of multi-nationals, we have to ask "Have they sold their souls to the devil?" Or could it be that they truly believe they have the Christian God on their side as they wage a new Templar Crusade?

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