by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 8, Ramadan, 1425)
Three groups of people have always operated in tandem with the crusading policies of Western governments: Churches, so-called aid-workers, and soldiers of fortune, the last more aptly described as criminals and terrorists doing their governments’ dirty work. Not that their governments have any qualms about killing people. Sudan provides proof of evangelical churches and aid-workers collaborating to undermine refugees’ faith by enticing them with food and medicine and then offering them the Bible. Such activity is also widespread among Afghan refugees in Pakistan. It is, however, the mercenaries that have become much more active since the launch of the new crusade by the US.
The mercenaries’ operations are typical of the attitudes of Western governments: other people are considered less than human; their lives do not matter. In Iraq, no official death count of civilian casualties is kept; only American casualties are highlighted. The same applies to Palestine, where the zionists maim and kill Palestinians, and assassinate leading figures. Such crimes do not warrant attention. The Western media are equally guilty of this hypocrisy. In February 1991, when Colin Powell, then US chairman joint chiefs of staff, was asked about Iraqi casualties, he replied tersely: “That is one statistic I am not interested in.” Powell is the son of Jamaican immigrants, and simply reflects the mindset that pervades the US. The same mentality is seen in the terrorist operations of Western mercenaries.
Thus, when three American mercenaries were sentenced to prison terms of 8 to 10 years by a court in Kabul on September 15, it brought to light the criminal nature of their enterprise. Such government-sponsored terrorists are everywhere: in Afghanistan, Iraq and many parts of Africa. The three mercenaries in Kabul were unfortunate because their arrest last July followed the Abu Ghraib torture scandal that showed how US soldiers and hired mercenaries were torturing, raping and killing Iraqi detainees. The American mercenaries operating in Afghanistan –Jonathan (Jack) K. Idema, a former member of the US Special Forces, and Brent Bennett, an Army-trained forward air controller– were sentenced to 10 years each; Edward Caraballo, a journalist who filmed their exploits, was given eight years.
In court, their defence lawyers presented videos and telephone transcripts as evidence that the mercenaries were working for lieutenant general William G. Boykin, the deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence at the Pentagon, although the US military denied any links. Boykin works for Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, both staunch zionists and chief architects of America’s aggressive anti-Muslim policy. After the court verdict, Idema said that they had been abandoned by their American masters because they had become a political liability. “This can only have been staged by the US government — we were an embarrassment,” claimed Caraballo. There is some truth in this; general Boykin, a rightwing Christian fundamentalist, has been an unabashed critic of Islam. After complaints by Muslim groups, a Pentagon investigation in August determined that he had violated military regulations by giving speeches while in uniform: he cast the war on terrorism as a battle between Christianity and Islam, and claimed that Muslims worship an idol and not a “real God”. Boykin’s speeches came to light a year ago, yet despite the Pentagon’s confirmation of his guilt he was not removed from his job; nor is he likely to suffer any other consequence of his association with the mercenaries in Afghanistan.
Idema and his gang were arrested on July 5 after Afghan security forces raided a house in Kabulthat was being used as a private jail, and there found eight Afghans who said they had been detained and tortured by the Americans. Several victims testified in court that they had been beaten, burned with scalding water and deprived of food and sleep. Idema said the prisoners were subjected to ‘standard interrogation techniques”. This is what the Abu Ghraib torturers also said before photographs of torture and rape appeared on the internet. Unfortunately, in the Afghans’ case, no such photographs have come to light, but given Idema’s history–he has a previous fraud conviction and spent three years in jail in the 1980s for cheating 60 companies of more than $200,000– the torture charges are plausible. He was also charged with enteringAfghanistan illegally. Idema was also able to produce evidence in court that he had had dealings with general Boykin’s office through Jorge Shim, his aide. The US military even admitted receiving a prisoner from Idema and holding him for about two months; NATO forces have also cooperated with the mercenaries.
Such operations are not confined to Afghanistan or Iraq, where “private contractors” – former soldiers hired to fight America’s war–are active. In many parts of Africa, white mercenaries are actively involved in trying to overthrow governments. One rich source of recruitment is South Africa, where white ex-soldiers from the apartheid era are available for mercenary work in any part of the world. Their activities came to light in Iraq when it was revealed that some hired mercenaries had actually been part of apartheid South Africa’s death-squads, and had killed scores of fighters and leaders of the African National Congress during the anti-apartheid struggle. The case of Simon Mann, Eton-educated and Sandhurst-trained (Sandhurst is the British training academy for officers), came to light last March when his group of 80 mercenaries was arrested after their private Boeing 727 plane touched down at Harare, Zimbabwe. They were on their way to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, a tiny country that isAfrica’s third-largest oil-exporter, after picking up weapons from Harare. Mann and his gang were sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on September 10. The money for this enterprise was put up by British and South African investors, who hoped to cash in on Equatorial Guinea’s oil exports; Mann was to get the security contract for the new regime.
Most of the mercenaries in Mann’s enterprise were hired in South Africa because of their experience in overthrowing African governments during the apartheid era. Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was also apparently involved in the coup attempt. He was arrested by the South African police in early September before he could flee the country. South African intelligence had kept track of the mercenaries’ recruiting drive without intervening, but kept the governments in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea informed of the plot. Then, when the plane landed, the mercenaries were seized by the Zimbabwean police and locked up in Chikurubi prison, a high-security facility.
What the activities of white mercenaries indicate is that they have become emboldened by the policies of their governments. The criminal nature of their work is only matched by their brazenness. Yet it is clear that whenever these mercenaries have been convicted, their sentences have been derisory for their crimes. In Iraq, American soldiers have been sentenced to a maximum of one year for torturing and killing civilians; in Afghanistan they have got 8 to 10 years, but this may be reduced on appeal. Had Muslims been guilty of such crimes, it is safe to assume that they would either have been executed or locked up forever. The case of the Guantanamo Bayprisoners, who have not even been charged, is proof of this.
One wonders why peoples and governments that are the victims of mercenaries have not a more severe attitude to them. It does not take much imagination to think of a plausible and likely answer.