Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, March 12, 2004

This is from, a newspaper in Barbados. I am posting the entire text here as fair use since their site seems to be overloaded at the moment. This is big, if it's true.

Plane Did Stop At Grantley Adams - Thursday 11, March-2004
A UNITED STATES registered plane at the centre of controversy after being detained on Monday with 64 suspected mercenaries aboard by the Zimbabwean government did stop at Grantley Adams International Airport last Saturday morning.
Informed sources told the DAILY NATION yesterday that the aircraft, a Boeing 727 (100 series), with registration number N4610, landed in Barbados shortly after midnight for refuelling before leaving around 6:30 a.m.

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I'm forcing myself to stay off this story for most of the day. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, here is the latest.

Seems it's all just a big misunderstanding! The "senior executive" quoted in the piece is probably the same one from other articles, Charles Burrows. I'm not sure who Burrows is, which is probably why he's being used - if you google his name with "Sandline" you get nothing. Ditto for "Executive Outcomes," Heritage Oil," and "Branch Energy." In other words, Mr. Burrows is a ghost.

They wouldnt' want to use, say, Tony Buckingham. Or Simon Mann (whose name is already out, unfortunately for them, but it hasn't been widely disseminated in the Western press.) Or Michael Grunberg, who is the PR guy for both Branch Energy and Sandline.

I know all of these different organizations are confusing - they're meant to be. In fact, if you go to Sandline and check out the "Comment" section, it's pretty much all devoted to trying to obscure the fact that Sandline, Executive Outcomes, Branch Energy, Heritage Oil, and a slew of other African mining companies are basically the same entity.

Here's a good description of the whole mess, unfortunately somewhat outdated (it was written while EO was still incorporated in South Africa, so at least 5 years ago.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Here's a name that keeps coming up. I expect it to be significant once I figure out what the hell is going on here. Sandline International. Check it out.

OK, now it's getting weird. For some reason, the Sierra Leone People's Democratic League issued a call for Aristide's ouster on February 20th. One of the key reasons they cite for ousting Aristide is that he's hired Executive Outcomes to terrorize people. That's strange for two reasons. One, as I mentioned, EO was disbanded in 1999. Two, EO basically split into several companies at that point, Saracen, based out of Angola, and LifeGuard, based out of, you guessed it, Sierra Leone.

Here's what's weird, though. The PDL is supposedly a radical leftist organization, super anti-Zionist, etc. So how did they come to be on the cutting edge of the anti-Aristide propaganda machine? I wish I could give you a theory on that one but it's a total mystery to me.

I'm officially obsessed at this point. Here's the latest.

The story is still very incomplete, evident in the fact that so many of the facts even in this latest report are contradictory. We have a new company name, however - Military Technical Services Incorporated. I'm off to see what I can find on these folks.

Now we're getting closer to the story. The latest from South Africa is that the big cheese on board the seized plane was a guy names Simon Witherspoon, who is listed in the article as being an employee of Executive Outcomes.

That's a little misleading - EO doesn't exist anymore. Much more likely is that the mercenaries are employees of Saracen, an EO subsidiary that is very active in Angola, where several of the mercs are apparently from, including the ones who have been arrested in Equatorial Guinea. So that casts some doubt on the MPRI connection, which in turn suggests the U.S. government isn't involved at all. Which is good, I guess, though it makes it a less interesting story.

I hate to do this, but I feel I have to point this out - in my research, I have discovered that firms like MPRI and Saracen have a reputation among White Supremacists as a good place to sign up if you are interested in killing black people. Chilling.

Here's something interesting. This is a Pentagon document that basically says that even though the State Department stopped MPRI from conducting much training in EG because of human rights concerns, since oil was discovered there they were much more open to allowing other things, sort of under the table. Hmmm....

My cursory research confirms that in Africa, "mining equipment" is a euphemism for weapons. That's enough for me; from here I'm taking their word for it. This is going to get interesting.

OK, here we go. This one is actually from Zimbabwe and makes more sense than any other single article I've read. This is definitely an MPRI/Vinnell deal. I'd place a bet at anything longer than 5-1 that MPRI is the "unnamed 3rd party" in the deal. I'll keep you posted.

The story has changed again - now the pilot claims the plane was on the way to the Congo. Clearly there's something fishy going on here. I still like the Equatorial Guinea thing, but who the hell knows? Obviously we need some more information. In the meantime it seems this article in the Scotsman has the latest incarnation of this strange tale.

A bit more on the Mystery Plane - seems to raise even more interesting questions.

1) State says it's all Africans, no U.S. nationals. I believe that. But that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't working for us.

2) This part strikes me as an evasion - "Dodson director Robert Dodson said new owners were entitled to use old registration numbers for six month after sale." That may be, but what he's implying - that a plane doesn't have to be registered under a new owner before the new owner gets to fly it all around creation - seems like a major hole in international security. So he's saying if I'm CEO of Terrorist Bad Guy Incorporated, and I buy a plane from the Little Sisters of Humility and Meekness, I can fly the plane around for six months pretending it's still full of nuns? That doesn't seem right. If that really is the case, I'm writing John Kerry a letter about that so he can fix it once he's President, since I know this President doesn't give a shit about protecting the country unless he can find a way for it to make his friends rich. Right now I'm remaining skeptical about this explanation.

3) It's strange that more reports aren't mentioning what seems to be the central issue here - this plane took off from a non-international airport and crossed an international border. That's a really serious violation of aviation law, much worse than making a false declaration to customs, which seems to be the operative charge in the U.S. media.

4) I wish my country had city names like Wonderboom.

5) I like this angle on the coup in Equatorial Guinea. It begs the question, though; is it realistic that South Africa would be involved in something like that? Seems more likely that it would be South African nationals in the employ of some multinational with an interest in EG's newly discovered oil reserves. Some multinational like, oh I don't know, Vinnell.

No evidence for this as of now, of course. But it adds up. More to come.

This is a weird story.

A plane from Kansas, bought by a South African company nobody can find, filled with mercenary soldiers no one will claim. Meanwhile State says we have "no indication" that it's connected with the U.S. Government. That's a little different than saying that it definitely isn't connected to the U.S. Government, now isn't it?

Did the CIA send a NOC Death Squad to Africa? Regardless of who sent them, I feel bad for these guys, even if they are a Death Squad. Nothing like being in the custody of a foreign government and having the people who sent you disavow your existence. That sounds Romantic when they say it at the beginning of Mission Impossible, but I bet when it actually happens, it sucks ass.

Monday, March 08, 2004

For anyone who can't come to terms with the idea that the corporate media in the U.S. is no longer (if it ever was) a "watchdog" and in fact functions more as a mouthpiece for power politicians, please follow the Haiti coverage as closely as you can.

I had personally begun to think that things weren't that bad, since the press has started to go after Bush a little more, but the Haiti story has opened my eyes. The press is turning on Bush because he looks weak, not for any other reason.

Anyway, here's the article that pissed me off today.

To understand, why, you'll need the background from this article, published yesterday:

OK, hang on, because I'm about to go way out there. Let me state first of all that I am just about as close to a total pacifist as you can get. I've never considered owning a gun (though I have no love for so-called "gun control") and I happen to take seriously the ancient teaching that the proper response to being struck is to turn the other cheek. Just as Aristide has, I call upon all people to use nonviolent means to achieve their ends.

However, there's a few things in these articles I want to take issue with. I'll number them to avoid a rambling, rant sort of feel.

1) NOTE TO JOURNALISTS - If you ever find yourself writing a phrase like "opposition supporters," ask yourself "What the fuck am I talking about?" You've gone way down the rabbit hole when you write something like that. The "opposition" in Haiti has overthrown the government and is now running things at the point of a gun. They don't get to be the opposition anymore. Which is why now they are "supporters," but what are they supporting, exactly? Might be a good topic for a news article. But don't hold your breath.

2) I read the article published yesterday yesterday, and it struck me as a little weird. First, that they are still calling the anti-Aristide people the "opposition." That seems to admit that Aristide is still the real President. But we've already covered that. Second, the foreign troops are only protecting the opposition protesters. The pro-Aristide folks don't seem to get a detachment of Marines and a bunch of machine-gun mounted Humvees. How come? Two possibilities I can see - one, we are blatantly choosing sides, or two, the pro-Aristide demo is way, way, way, way more people than the "opposition" march. Of course, the article doesn't tell us which it is.

3) Now, on to the problems that arise between the two articles. First, the article published today says that the foreign troops "quickly sent" a reaction force to the scene of the shooting. According to the article published yesterday, weren't they already there? I don't think there's anything sinister in that, but it seems like something the second article would mention - a quick sentence about why there was no escort at this particular march. Just shows the general sloppiness of the reporting on this Haiti crisis.

4) You gotta love Guy Phillippe. If it weren't such a fucking tragedy you'd be tempted to envision him in a late-night sketch, using everything that happens during the day as a reason why the rebels can't disarm. Sun goes down? It's dark! We need our guns. Can someone in the U.S. media please take a position on this guy, by the way? Practically every pundit in the U.S. has called Aristide a "thug," usually citing no evidence, sometimes referring to actions of security forces only nominally under his control. Meanwhile Guy Phillippe, an actual bona fide mass murderer, is rolling around town with a machine gun, and no one feels the need to call him a thug. The Marines don't tell him he's gotta resign.

5) Here's the shocker. I thought I'd butter you up a little first. I'm not 100% sure this shooting really has anything to do with pro-Aristide vs. anti-Aristide. I think you've just got a civil war brewing, and we happen to have backed the side with the most money, which is like 3% of the population. So it's going to get ugly. That said, I got an image for anybody who thinks that these shootings are evidence of, well, evidence of anything. Try this experiment. Get together a big army of foreign terrorists and, say, Russian special ops people. Invade the United States, depose the President, and then organize a big demonstration where all the people in country who helped you overthrow the U.S. government march around with all the Russian jeeps and Russian weapons they used in the coup. Do you think if you did that maybe, oh, I don't know, you might get SHOT AT if you did that? Again, I'm not condoning it. I'm just saying.

BTW, since I've blasted John Kerry a few times, here and on DU, I should say I think it's really a very good, brave thing John Kerry is sticking up for Aristide. I once was feeling ambivalent about voting for the guy, but not anymore. Give me John Kerry any day.

Also, to be really cynical about it for a moment, JFK's backing of Aristide is really going to help black turnout at the polls. Black people are more pissed than I am about this shit, and if the decline in the quality of my writing is any indication, I am very, very pissed.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Sometimes when I watch the Bush administration I catch myself channeling the PGA's PR department - These Guys are Good.

The Busistas know just how to play the press. If you want a good laugh, compare Aristide's charges of a coup and kidnapping with the official account from Colin Powell that he was escorted out of the country for his own protection. Notice something? Yeah. It's the same story.

Aristide says the U.S. troops showed up, told him there were people outside waiting to kill Aristide, and that they wouldn't protect him unless he resigned and left the country.

Powell says U.S. troops showed up, told him there were people outside waiting to kill Aristide, and that they wouldn't protect him unless he resigned and left the country.

Yet somehow, we have this perception in the press that this is some kind of "he said, she said" situation. Well, he and she are saying the same shit. It's just that Aristide says "I was kidnapped" and the U.S. says "He was taken into protective custody."

There's a problem with the U.S. story. If Aristide was being taken into protective custody to prevent him from being killed, there was no need for him to resign. He could have just left the country with the intention of returning to his post once the situation was sorted out.

I'll give 15-1 to anyone willing to bet an editorial writer at the NYT or WaPost points this out in the next 7 days.

Monday, March 01, 2004

What follows is a post I made on DU today - I usually avoid the message board, but I was looking for info on Haiti and felt the need to contribute. I repeat some things I've said on here, but you can forgive me, I'm sure. My thinking on the current Haiti situation:


As some others have done, I would lustily recommend Stan Goff's Hideous Dream for a really excellent treatment of Clinton's countercoup and its failings, which laid the groundwork for the current crisis. Loonman is a RW shill, but a lot of what he says is true. It's just he's omitting the context that you will have if you read Goff's book, which is a rollicking good read besides being of critical importance in understanding the Haitian coup.

This isn't something that can be explained well in a post or even a long feature-length article. This is "great game" stuff and we all need to spend some time looking into the situation in the Caribbean theatre; it's complex and volatile, and one it's coming to a head right now.

That said, here's my current understanding of the situation (subject to revision, of course, once I have more facts.)

American dominance of the region has been almost complete since World War II, but in the last decade or so a lot of countries have started to slip through our fingers. Most of the countries are small and not that significant, but all together the problem is starting to loom very large.

The big keystone is of course Venezuela, with Cuba acting as a sort of "university nation" turning out skilled people who have experience working within a socialist structure and exporting them to Venezuela to help build the Bolivarian system, which is emerging as a big threat to basically take over South America in the wake of the failure of the industrial export capitalist system that we had been trying to impose via IMF/WB/WTO.

The U.S. planners obviously feel they have to stop this. Unfortunately for them, since Reagan's Iran/Contra adventure it has become much harder for us to exercise control over the region with our old methods - basically, train and arm a mercenary force and send them in to overthrow the government, a la the Nicaraguan contras, who were recruited and trained mostly in Guatemala and El Salvador (which had already gotten this treatment decades before.)

The other choice is to finance opposition groups in country and get them to do it; the problem is that these types of groups don't generally bring the proper brutality to bear on the population. That's why the Venezuelan coup failed - before you attempt something like what the Venezuelan opposition tried, you have to have a sustained terrorist campaign against the local population so that they will be too weak and frightened to resist.

In Haiti, so close to the U.S. mainland, we were able to pull off the old model and thus had a successful coup. Now we'll install a military dictatorship with some sort of pseudodemocratic fig leaf on top of it, and we can then use Haiti as a recruiting ground for whatever the next invasion is going to be, probably Cuba.

So "cheap labor" is kind of correct. But the "labor" is in fact warmaking - we need dark faces to send to war in the region, and Haiti, completely poverty-stricken, is a perfect place to recruit mercenary terrorists.

It's not so much that Haiti itself is important, but think of it like a game of Risk. You can't take on the big battles until you've attended to the small problems in your position. So you take over Kamchatka or whatever which has one enemy army on it that could never be a threat to you - you do it as a strategic preparation for a larger conflict.

We're merely starting in the places where we feel we'll be most likely to succeed. You don't engage your enemy on his turf unless you have to. You engage him where you have the advantage. Thus we're going to lock down all the easy targets in Central America and the Caribbean while doing our best to destabilize the hostile Bolivarian democracies to the south. Then we take out Cuba, cutting Venezuela off from its source of skilled labor and intellectuals, and then go for the big prize - a U.S.-backed puppet government in Venezuela, with the rest of the region falling into line after that.

This may seem too grand and strategic, but this is how these PNAC folks think. Sort of Sun Tsu meets Charles Manson. Scary stuff, but big-time power politics is not nursery school.

This is why you see all the saber-rattling from Chavez right now. He sees the situation for what it is - I think Hugo may be the sharpest political leader on the planet since the retirement of Bill Clinton. He may actually be smarter than Clinton, but it's hard for me to compare because I don't speak Spanish (yet.) Chavez is trying to make Bush angry enough to make some sort of move before the table is really set, because he thinks (correctly) that Venezuela would have a better chance defending itself today than it will in 2 years with bands of Central American and Caribbean terrorists roaming the streets and killing people.

So that's it in a nutshell. Haiti is just a jumping-off point. Cuba is the immediate goal, with Venezuela the ultimate target.