Mbeki says UK to blame for crisis in
By Basildon Peta
Dec. 13 President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has sprung to the
defense of Robert Mugabe and blamed Britain for the crisis in Zimbabwe.
In his weekly letter to the ruling African National Congress, Mbeki
said President Mugabes seizures of white farms had become inevitable
because Britain had not honored its commitment to fund land reform.
Mbeki also criticized the Commonwealth, saying it did not have the interests
of Zimbabwes people at heart when it decided to renew the countrys
suspension from the organization. Mugabe pulled his country out of the
Commonwealth on Sunday night in protest at the decision.
President Mbeki dismissed Commonwealth concerns about human rights abuses
in Zimbabwe, saying it had lost sight of the land issue, which he described
as the core of the problems in Zimbabwe.
His remarks are certain to further disappoint those who are already
angered by his defense of Mugabe at the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria
and his attempts to oust its secretary general Don McKinnon, who has
been a vocal critic of Mugabe.
Lovemore Madhuku, a prominent Zimbabwean academic, said: The point
is that Mbeki is now looking a bit silly by his campaign to defend the
I think he has made it clear that his African Renaissance and
Nepad [New Partnership for Africas Development] pet projects,
which are predicated on good governance, are not worth the paper on
which they are written. Rich countries must take note and not waste
time on these things. In his defense of Mugabes government,
Mbeki quoted the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiongo: Africa actually
enriches Europe but Africa is made to believe that it needs Europe to
rescue it from poverty. Mbeki said those who fought for a democratic
Zimbabwe with thousands paying the supreme price during the struggle,
and forgave their oppressors and torturers in a spirit of national reconciliation,
have been turned into repugnant enemies of democracy. In a direct
reference to Britain, he said: Those who, in the interest of their
[white] kith and kin, did what they could to deny the people
of Zimbabwe their liberty, for as long as they could, have become the
eminent defenders of the democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe.
Mbeki asked why the land issue had disappeared from the global agenda
when it was at the core of the problems in Zimbabwe. Whenever
the land issue was mentioned, he said, it was only to highlight
the plight of the former white landowners, and to attribute food shortages
in Zimbabwe to the land redistribution program.
He accused Britain, the United Nations and European Union of not honoring
commitments to help finance land redistribution in Zimbabwe after colonial
rule left most productive farms in the hands of the white minority.
A forcible process of land redistribution perhaps became inevitable,
Mbeki said. He accused some within Zimbabwe and elsewhere
of treating human rights as a tool to overthrow the Zimbabwe government.
While acknowledging that many things have gone wrong in Zimbabwe,
Mbeki attributed the crisis to machinations by British governments which
were meant to protect the interests of their white kith and kin.
Source: Independent (UK)
The privatization of war
By Ian Traynor
Dec. 10 Private corporations have penetrated western warfare
so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition
forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.
While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest
contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by
the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground. The investigation
has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel
in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war.
In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen
and women; now there are 10.
The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping
duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the
US military would struggle to wage war without it. While reliable figures
are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of
the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the
$87 billion earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including
central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30 billion, will
be spent on contracts to private companies. The myriad military and security
companies thriving on this largess are at the sharp end of a revolution
in military affairs that is taking us into unknown territory the
partial privatization of war. This is a trend that is growing and
Iraq is the high point of the trend, said Peter Singer, a security
analyst at Washingtons Brookings Institution. This is a sea
change in the way we prosecute warfare. There are historical parallels,
but we havent seen them for 250 years. When America launched
its invasion in March, the battleships in the Gulf were manned by US navy
personnel. But alongside them sat civilians from four companies operating
some of the worlds most sophisticated weapons systems.
When the unmanned Predator drones, the Global Hawks, and the B-2 stealth
bombers went into action, their weapons systems, too, were operated and
maintained by non-military personnel working for private companies. The
private sector is even more deeply involved in the wars aftermath.
A US company has the lucrative contracts to train the new Iraqi army,
another to recruit and train an Iraqi police force.
But this is a field in which British companies dominate, with nearly half
of the dozen or so private firms in Iraq coming from the UK. The big British
player in Iraq is Global Risk International, based in Hampton, Middlesex.
It is supplying hired Gurkhas, Fijian paramilitaries and, it is believed,
ex-SAS veterans, to guard the Baghdad headquarters of Paul Bremer, the
US overlord, according to analysts. It is a trend that has been growing
worldwide since the end of the Cold War, a booming business which entails
replacing soldiers wherever possible with highly paid civilians and hired
guns not subject to standard military disciplinary procedures.
The biggest US military base built since Vietnam, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo,
was constructed and continues to be serviced by private contractors. At
Tuzla in northern Bosnia, headquarters for US peacekeepers, everything
that can be farmed out to private businesses has been. The bill so far
runs to more than $5 billion. The contracts include those to the US company
ITT, which supplies the armed guards, overwhelmingly US private citizens,
at US installations.
In Israel, a US company supplies the security for American diplomats,
a very risky business. In Colombia, a US company flies the planes destroying
the coca plantations and the helicopter gunships protecting them, in what
some would characterize as a small undeclared war. In Kabul, a US company
provides the bodyguards to try to save President Hamid Karzai from assassination,
raising questions over whether they are combatants in a deepening conflict
with emboldened Taliban insurgents. And in the small town of Hadzici west
of Sarajevo, a military compound houses the latest computer technology,
the war games simulations challenging the Bosnian armys brightest
young officers. Crucial to transforming what was an improvised militia
desperately fighting for survival into a modern army fit eventually to
join NATO the army computer center was established by US officers who
structured, trained, and armed the Bosnian military. The Americans accomplished
a similar mission in Croatia and are carrying out the same job in Macedonia.
The input from the US military has been so important that the US experts
can credibly claim to have tipped the military balance in a region ravaged
by four wars in a decade. But the American officers, including several
four-star generals, are retired, not serving. They work, at least directly,
not for the US government, but for a private company, Military Professional
In the Balkans MPRI are playing an incredibly critical role. The
balance of power in the region was altered by a private company. Thats
one measure of the sea change, said Singer, the author of a recent
book on the subject, Corporate Warriors.
The surge in the use of private companies should not be confused with
the traditional use of mercenaries in armed conflicts. The use of mercenaries
is outlawed by the Geneva conventions, but no one is accusing the Pentagon,
while awarding more than 3,000 contracts to private companies over the
past decade, of violating the laws of war.
The Pentagon will pursue additional opportunities to outsource and
privatize, the US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, pledged last
year and military analysts expect him to try to cut a further 200,000
jobs in the armed forces.
It is this kind of downsizing that has fed the growth of the
military private sector.
Since the end of the Cold War it is reckoned that six million servicemen
have been thrown on to the employment market with little to peddle but
their fighting and military skills. The US military is 60 percent the
size of a decade ago, the Soviet collapse wrecked the colossal Red Army,
the East German military melted away, the end of Apartheid destroyed the
white officer class in South Africa. The British armed forces, notes Singer,
are at their smallest since the Napoleonic wars.
The booming private sector has soaked up much of this manpower and expertise.
It also enables the Americans, in particular, to wage wars by proxy and
without the kind of Congressional and media oversight to which conventional
deployments are subject.
From the level of the street or the trenches to the rarefied corridors
of strategic analysis and policy-making, however, the problems surfacing
are immense and complex.
One senior British officer complains that his driver was recently approached
and offered a fortune to move to a rather dodgy outfit. Ex-SAS
veterans in Iraq can charge up to $1,000 a day.
Theres an explosion of these companies attracting our servicemen
financially, said Rear Admiral Hugh Edleston, a Royal Navy officer
who is just completing three years as chief military adviser to the international
administration running Bosnia.
He said that outside agencies were sometimes better placed to provide
training and resources. But you should never mix serving military
with security operations. You need to be absolutely clear on the division
between the military and the paramilitary.
If these things werent privatized, uniformed men would have
to do it and that draws down your strength, said another senior
retired officer engaged in the private sector. But he warned: There
is a slight risk that things can get out of hand and these companies become
small armies themselves. And in Baghdad or Bogota, Kabul or Tuzla,
there are armed company employees effectively licensed to kill. On the
job, say guarding a peacekeepers compound in Tuzla, the civilian
employees are subject to the same rules of engagement as foreign troops.
But if an American GI draws and uses his weapon in an off-duty bar brawl,
he will be subject to the US judicial military code. If an American guard
employed by the US company ITT in Tuzla does the same, he answers to Bosnian
law. By definition these companies are frequently operating in failed
states where national law is notional. The risk is the employees
can literally get away with murder.
Or lesser, but appalling crimes. Dyncorp, for example, a Pentagon favorite,
has the contract worth tens of millions of dollars to train an Iraqi police
force. It also won the contracts to train the Bosnian police and was implicated
in a grim sex slavery scandal, with its employees accused of rape and
the buying and selling of girls as young as 12 - years - old. A number
of employees were fired, but never prosecuted. The only court cases to
result involved the two whistleblowers who exposed the episode and were
Dyncorp should never have been awarded the Iraqi police contract,
said Madeleine Rees, the chief United Nations human rights officer in
Sarajevo. Of the two court cases, one US police officer working for Dyncorp
in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, won her suit for wrongful dismissal. The
other involving a mechanic, Ben Johnston, was settled out of court. Johnstons
suit against Dyncorp charged that he witnessed co-workers and supervisors
literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and
employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual
slaves they had purchased.
There are other formidable problems surfacing in what is uncharted territory
issues of loyalty, accountability, ideology, and national interest.
By definition, a private military company is in Iraq or Bosnia not to
pursue US, UN, or EU policy, but to make money. The growing clout of the
military services corporations raises questions about an insidious, longer-term
impact on governments planning, strategy and decision-taking.
Singer argues that for the first time in the history of the modern nation
state, governments are surrendering one of the essential and defining
attributes of statehood, the states monopoly on the legitimate use
But for those on the receiving end, there seems scant alternative. I
had some problems with some of the American generals, said Enes
Becirbasic, a Bosnian military official who managed the Bosnian side of
the MPRI projects to build and arm a Bosnian army. Its a conflict
of interest. I represent our national interest, but theyre businessmen.
I would have preferred direct cooperation with state organizations like
NATO or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. But we
had no choice. We had to use MPRI.
Source: Guardian (UK)
Karzai accused of attempting a dictatorship
By Hamida Ghafour
Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 15 President Hamid Karzai of
Afghanistan stood accused yesterday of weaving a dangerous
path between democracy and tyranny as he sought a powerful new presidency
unchecked by parliament.
Karzai opened a loya jirga, or grand assembly, in Kabul amid considerable
acrimony as he sought agreement from the 500 delegates on the shape
of a new constitution.
As the ceremony began amid tight security in a great white tent in the
grounds of the old Kabul polytechnic, he soon came under verbal fire.
Opponents in the gathering of tribal and ethnic representatives accused
him of trying to establish a dictatorship, sidelining them by seeking
to deny parliamentary checks on the powers of the president.
Karzai wants a presidential system, claiming that a country torn apart
by years of war and factional fighting needs a strong centralized authority
to unite the nation.
But he encountered strong opposition from almost half of the delegates,
a strange alliance of former jihad fighters, democrats, Islamic fundamentalists,
and monarchists who favor a parliamentary system with even distribution
The constitution is going to give our society the opportunity
to choose the future, Karzai said. It is the first time
in the history of Afghanistan that public opinion is given due value.
But his comments drew immediate protests. He wants to control
the government, said Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, a fundamentalist and
former mujahideen fighter who has emerged as one of Karzais most
There is tension now between democracy and tyranny. Power in the
hands of one man is dangerous.
The ceremony began with children singing traditional songs and the touching
scene of the solemn youngsters wearing national costumes reduced many
tribal chiefs to tears.
But they did not forget why they were there and a petition demanding
that Karzai hold a referendum on the presidential system was circulating
with 210 signatories.
He may have to make concessions, perhaps appoint more than one vice-president
to appease the dissenters. That was the view of Masood Khalili, a delegate
and once the closest adviser to Ahmad Shah Masood, the Northern Alliance
leader assassinated before the coalition campaign to unseat the Taliban
He will have to make small changes to please the ones who want
a parliament, said Khalili. But most of those here have
their own political agendas. Its about personalities and personal
The opposition group says the 50 delegates Karzai appointed to the loya
jirga should not vote on the constitution. They want the current loya
jirga established as a permanent council, equivalent to a parliament.
The constitution calls for a moderate Islamic republic with a directly
elected executive president, no prime minister and two legislative chambers.
Mohammed Amin Ahmedi, a member of the constitutional review commission,
said it was a delicate balance between secularism and religious law
and delegates must not allow special interests to hijack it.
It is a rational relationship between Islam and democracy,
he said. It is not fundamentalist, nor secularist. It is based
on the rights of minorities, national unity, and stability. I hope the
fundamentalists dont change it.
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Iraq contracts expose Washingtons
true aims - critics
By Emad Mekay
Washington, DC, Dec. 12 (IPS) The George W. Bush administrations
decision to exclude countries that opposed the US-led war on Iraq from
multi-billion-dollar reconstruction deals contradicts its position both
on free trade and its self-described mission in Iraq, analysts here say.
US allies like Canada, France and Germany, and its old foe Russia, will
lose lucrative contracts because they opposed the US-led war. The countries
have objected, especially since the United States is simultaneously asking
them to forgive Iraqs enormous foreign debts.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder challenged the move Dec. 11, saying
international law must apply here.
Washington defended the policy, first revealed in a memo by Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, as appropriate and reasonable since
the US is committing troops and taxpayers money.
The directive signed by Wolfowitz states that it is necessary for
the protection of the essential security interests of the United States
to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to
companies from the United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing
The restrictions apply to 18.6 billion dollars in reconstruction contracts.
However, some analysts here say the move raises doubts about whether the
reconstruction of Iraq is the administrations main goal at all.
Wolfowitzs decree forces us all to ask the question again:
are these reconstruction contracts for the benefit of Iraq, or are they
political rewards, handed out to friends? said Rania Masri
of the US-based Institute for Southern Studies.
Masri said the decision shows that transforming the Iraqi economy
for foreign ownership and foreign plunder is the main goal.
Masri referred to the quick move to privatize the Iraqi economy. Weeks
into the occupation, while the Iraqi infrastructure was still in ruins,
the US civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, removed all tariffs
and trade restrictions. This devastated the Iraqi textile and poultry
industries, she said.
Bremer has also imposed a 15 percent flat tax, and allowed 100 percent
foreign ownership of almost all Iraqi industries, as well as the resulting
removal of profits from the country.
Other experts say this is not what the United States, as the occupying
power, should be doing.
The reconstruction of Iraq should be for the benefit of Iraqis,
not a reward for any corporations, said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow
at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. Reconstruction
funds from the US should be used to build up the devastated Iraqi economy
meaning that Iraqi firms and workers should be hired to rebuild
the country, not US or international firms.
William Hartung of the World Policy Institute said the decision could
hurt both Iraqis and US taxpayers.
Keeping qualified French, German, Canadian and Russian firms out
of the bidding on the next round of reconstruction contracts, worth 18.6
billion dollars, will make it that much harder to eliminate rampant price
gouging by companies like Halliburton, he said.
On Friday, senior defense officials said a Pentagon audit found that Vice
Pres. Dick Cheneys former company, Halliburton, one of the administrations
favored corporate partners in Iraq, may have overcharged the US Army by
1.09 dollars per gallon on a total of nearly 57 million gallons of gasoline
that were delivered to Iraqi citizens under a no-bid contract.
The economic repercussions of the decision extend to other areas, analysts
say. By excluding countries that have prior experience constructing Iraqi
factories, electrical grids, hospitals and water pumping stations, Washington
will likely end up rebuilding those facilities rather than simply repairing
them a much more expensive endeavor.
The decision also strongly undermines US rhetoric on free trade, according
to Gayle Smith of the Washington-based Center for American Progress. By
ensuring that the Iraqi market is only accessible to Coalition members,
the United States is restricting the space for Iraqs future trade
ties, she said.
The White House decision has legitimized political interference in government
procurement operations, setting the stage for future contracts to be subject
to the whims of individual government agencies, Smith said.
It has upended trade relations by using its status as occupying
authority to monopolize a single market, she said. And it
has certainly lent credence to the view held by some that one of its aims
is to secure the spoils of victory.
The exclusion policy even drew fire from some of the staunchest backers
of the administration. Neo-conservative analysts William Kristol and Robert
Kagan wrote in the right-wing Weekly Standard that the policy was heavy-handed,
stupid and counter-productive.
One thing that almost all analysts agree on is that the decision will
certainly hinder attempts to increase international involvement in Iraq.
The Bush administration has poured another bucket of cold water
on efforts to internationalize the stabilization of Iraq, Smith
said. The Pentagon has increased the cost to Americans, weakened
the traditional alliances America needs to defeat terrorism, and undermined
Iraqs long-term future.