Against all Odds
Author: Eeben Barlow
552pp, 32 pages colour photographs
Six in-text maps and other in-text illustrations
ISBN/Bar code 978-1919854- 41-0
(3rd Edition) - Non fiction
Executive Outcomes is the model on which all Private Military Companies (PMCs) operating in
Iraqand Afghanistan are based. Founded by author Eeben Barlow in the early 1990s he originally offered courses in intelligence to South Africa’s Special Forces and security work to De Beers’ diamond mining industry. This was greatly expanded in 1993 when an oil company offered EO a contract to provide security for its staff while they recovered valuable drilling equipment stranded at the Angolan oil port of Soyo— after its capture by UNITA rebels.
Barlow recruited ex-members of
South Africa’s elite military units for the job. EO was contracted for a month, but this ended up being extended and EO spearheading an Angolan Army assault on Soyo and its capture from UNITA. This highly successful operation led to a contract to retrain the Angolan Army. Both UNITA and MPLA had taken part in UN supervised elections in 1992, but UNITA had rejected the results after losing and it had returned to civil war.
During a hard-fought campaign, retrained Angolan Army units led by EO captured Cafunfu — the diamond producing area that funded UNITA’s war effort. Eventually, international pressure spearheaded by the UN and the ‘blood diamond’ lobby, forced EO’s withdrawal from
Angolawhich quickly sank back into chaos. The UN’s efforts to restore the situation achieved by EO for US$35 million, cost the world body many billions of dollars.
EO’s next contract was in May 1995 when 200 men were despatched to
Sierra Leonewhere RUF rebels, chopping off people’s limbs and engaging in cannibalism, were marching on Freetown. EO smashed the rebels and this led to free and fair elections with a new government being elected. Pressures were again exerted which resulted in EO’s withdrawal. In the place of its 200 troops the UN deployed 18 000 soldiers at a cost of US$1 billion per year. The rebels regrouped, frequently taking UN troops as hostages, and the country again sank back into an orgy of cannibalism and limb chopping.
There is much, much more to the Executive Outcomes’ story and Eeben Barlow tells it the way it was in this no-punches-pulled account.
Review taken from Goodreads.com:-
Few heroes emerge from a war such as the one waged by Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front and their friend Charles Taylor against innocent men, women and children in this corner of West Africa. But there are some, and they are most certainly not Kofi Annan and the men in the blue berets.
In March of 1995, when Sankoh’s rebellion was at its height, 200 South Africans with the fortitude typical of Boer warriors secured the diamond fields of Sierra Leone, which bought Charles Taylor’s support for RUF. The RUF scattered with remarkable speed in the face of real soldiers. Relative peace came upon Freetown for the first time in years; peace which enabled a civilian government to be elected in 1996. The South Africans were from the private military company Executive Outcomes.
Kofi Annan, a shyster who built a career on the perception that he was a beacon of light emerging from the darkness of colonialism, didn’t like this one bit. He was no fan of white South Africans or free enterprise. UN forces were dispatched quickly to replace the South African PMC.
The episode makes Kofi’s silence in the face of the Rwandan Genocide shortly before all the more astonishing. It seems that if the genocide was to stop in this part of Africa, the credit had to go to some enlightened racially diverse UN bureaucrats, certainly not Boer mercenaries.
The UN forces, placed in Sierra Leone as part of Kofi Annan’s PR exercise, completely lost control of the situation. Tens of thousands died in the resumed RUF/Taylor rebellion.
Here, Eeben Barlow provides a fascinating account of his background in the SADF and South African intelligence, the founding Executive Outcomes, and its operations in Angola, Sierra Leone and Indonesia.
John Connolly, www.goodreads.com
Against all Odds is an appropriate sub-titles for this history of the activities of Executive Outcomes (Eo) written by its founder Eeben Barlow. The company’s activities have attracted much adverse comment. In Barlow’s own words, some potential clients seemed to view him as an unsavoury character.
Barlow established EO as a military training company in 1989 after resigning from the SA Military Intelligence to join the Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) ¾ a covert unit of the country’s Special Forces. The CCB was wound up shortly afterwards leaving Barlow embittered. The author became convinced ¾ and this is a leitmotif in his account that the authorities were determined to discredit him and his company. He later describes part of his motivation as exposing ‘the duplicity, hypocrisy and corruption that was rife within the South African establishment’. He would aim to provide training to the national armies of countries in which the SA government was supporting militant opposition parties or liberation movements.
Barlow stresses that EO only ever worked for legitimate business enterprises. He describes a number of potential contracts, which he turned down because these criteria were not met. The author also makes clear that, despite many allegations of illegality, he and his company were never prosecuted in SA for any wrongdoing. He rebuts the charge that EO ever received mining or mineral concessions in exchange for its services. Barlow seems unwilling to concede that the involvement of oil and mining companies in guaranteeing the funding for EO’s activities in
Angolaand might have allowed this interpretation to take hold. He argues that his company was aiming to provide African solutions to African problems, and that many of its activities were more effective ¾ and more cost effective ¾ than were many UN-sponsored interventions. Sierra Leone
Executive Outcomes does not purport to be an academic study of confliction in Africa . . . Barlow will not convince everyone that his account is definitive, but it should give some of his detractors pause for thought. As Barlow himself points out, similar companies operating today in Iraq and Afghanistan attract little of the opprobrium which attached to EO activity, As an insider’s view this work . . . provided san important counter-balance to the prevailing official view on the privatisation of Warfare.
Roger Kershaw, The African Book Publishing Record
Today the role of private defence contractors, private military companies, private security and advisory companies and similar organizations have become well known through the employment of Blackwater in
. Prior to the legitimacy that Blackwater brought to the business in Iraq there was a long period where such organizations, staffed mostly by white ex-military professionals, gained a great deal of bad press as `mercenaries' in Africa and elsewhere doing the dirty work that locals were either incapable of doing or that foreigners wanted done. Executive Outcomes (EO) and its story from 1989/1993 to 1999 represents a mid-way point between the over-professionalization of these types of companies and the more Rambo derring-do of a previous era. Iraq
This story is intertwined entirely with the life of Eeben Barlow, the author, who was born in
Rhodesia[Northern Rhodesia – now ] and joined the South African Defence Force in 1974. He rose through the ranks, eventually commanding 32 Battalion's elite reconnaissance unit. Eventually he was recruited by the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) and from there through his operations, made contact with other men who would become integral to EO such as Tony Buckingham and Simon Mann. His first missions involved Zambia and the civil war there between MPLA and UNITA. When EO became operational and more involved in 1993 it ended up confronting the very movement, UNITA, that Angola had actually worked with before. South Africa
Barlow details the widening area of operations of EO and its recruitment of ex-SADF personnel, especially from elite units such as Koevoet and other people involved wit counter-insurgency. More surprising is that it also received applications from former members of the ANC military wing. Eventually EO was tasked with supporting the Angolan government’s attempts to recover territory and natural resources, including diamond mining areas from UNITA and by 1994 it had achieved its objectives of forcing UNITA into a ceasefire. Barlow details many of these operations and provides excellent analysis of the `blood diamonds' question and the resolution of the conflict.
In 1995 as EO's reputation grew it was hired by
to stop the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)'s attempt to take over the country. This successful mission was concluded when the diamond areas, controlled by the RUF, were re-captured. Other missions followed but in general EO's greatest days were behind it. Disinformation, spread by numerous governments and the press, focused negative attention on the `mercenaries' and their supposed attempt to `re-colonize' Africa, an irony considering they were influential in helping African governments that had hired them and that the EO included black Africans in its ranks. In the end Barlow details the duplicity of the UN and the international community and the fact that numerous African countries were allowed to be destroyed by genocide, such as in Sierra Leone , while governments did nothing and at a time when the EO could have done much. Rwanda
An excellent book with numerous maps, documents and color photographs. A must read for anyone interested in
Africain the 1990s and also in the role of `mercenaries' in conflict. This is no dry read, but the best in storytelling and furthermore it is all true.
Seth J. Frantzman,
Soldiers of fortune or not, this is a compelling must- read book with espionage, counter-espionage, intrigue, wars, history, and much more.
A very different point of view and explanations into conflicts, particularly the Angolan war, and the roles played by big corporations and governments world wide.
The personal battles that some of the Special Forces soldiers faced in being abandoned by their government and then seeking employment elsewhere are also exposed.
Hard hitting, it’s a military must- read.
Peter Gregersen, Daily Despatch
For those of you interested in matters military, that great futurist Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock and Third Wave) wrote a prescient book, War and Anti War that predicted how global trends would unfold as a new world order arose (which he calls Third Wave or post modern). He predicted the rise of private armies and the importance of Special Forces as solutions to splintered global threats. The template for these private armies was EO, formed by Lt Col Eeben Barlow in the early 1990s. Barlow, with whom I shared time briefly as a young officer, has written his memoirs “Against All Odds”. According to the Jaques logic of organisational growth, any entrepreneurial endeavour will respond and reflect the capability of its founder, growing through distinct organisational phases.
Andrew Olivier: Working Journey Autumn Newsletter 2008
South Africa ’s famously tough stance against “mercenaries” is the result of the success of one man – Eeben Barlow, founder of Executive Outcomes (EO). The company operated for less than a decade and reportedly only had about a handful of clients during that time, but rumour, conjecture and reporting greatly exaggerated this at the time. Where EO operated in public view, as was the case in Angola and Sierra Leone, the local people spoke highly of it, as William Shawcross wrote in his myth shattering book about United Nations peacekeeping — Deliver us from evil — Warlords & peacekeepers in a world of endless conflict – reviewed elsewhere on these pages.
Barlow established EO as a sideline in 1989 to teach intelligence procedures to the South African Special Forces and the company shut its doors on December 31, 1998. By then the company was infamous and Barlow a pariah, as he sourly notes in Executive Outcomes – Against All Odds, the book here under review. It is a lengthy tome, weighing in at over 500 pages, but a rewarding and easy read for Barlow gives a good description of his company’s operations in
Angola, Sierra Leone, Ugandaand . In doing so, he sheds light on the conflicts there, both before EO operatives arrived and after they left. It makes for interesting reading – the more so since very little has been written about those brutish conflicts outside academic circles. What is striking is just how disorganised, badly trained, paid and disciplined many African “militaries” are, so much so that Sierra Leone’s beleaguered people coined the term ‘sobels’ – part-time soldiers, part time rebels – full time predators. The level of their savagery and sadism proverbially defies description but will be remembered for decades to come. Indonesia
Executive Outcomes also underscores several points made by James F Dunnigan in How to Make War, reviewed on these pages some years ago (June 2003). In many parts of the world, most of Africa inclusive, a gun and the willingness to use it is the key to economic, political and social success; camouflage fatigues do not turn criminal gangs filled with dysfunctional children and sociopaths into soldiers; and, that “much of what we currently call war is merely armed disorder” and brigandage. “This is an important distinction, as a great deal of military skill is not needed to create armed disorder. You don’t need trained troops to create a proper insurrection or civil war. All you need are angry [or desperate] people and some weapons.”
This, in turn, recalls the Indigenous Military Peace-building Initiative (IMPI) described on these pages in June 2002. Core to IMPI was the idea that peace and prosperity on this continent required ‘the professionalising and right-sizing
Africa’s armed forces, paramilitaries and militias…’ The flip-side of that is Barlow showing just how easy this is to do and with what economy in life and treasure rebel movements such as UNITA (in Angola) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), in , could be smashed. Sierra Leone
Barlow holds scant regard for the UN, whom he notes — as does Shawcross — is more to disposed to talk peace than make it a reality. Indeed, Shawcross laments that the
US– directly and via the Security Council — bullied EO out of and then muscled the lawfully elected government into a ‘unity’ pact with Sankoh. The result was more blood.Yet, when EO left, the RUF were beaten. The EO founder then clearly believes there is a role for private military companies (PMC) – and there may very well be. During the Rwandan genocide, then-UN peacekeeping chief Kofi Annan even asked them for a quote to put an end to the murder, but adjudged the company as ‘too expensive’. UN concern about EO’s activities led to a special report on PMCs, which Barlow reproduces at length. The report clearly values principle more than mere human life and provides an interesting counterargument to EO. For the military professional, this is a valuable read. Sierra Leone
Leon Engelbrecht: South African Armed Forces
Interviewing Eeben Barlow is not an experience you would describe as comfortable.
It’s not because he is a former CCB operative nor the fact that he is proficient in multiple ways of killing and maiming. It’s because what he says not only makes a lot of sense, it also makes you somewhat ashamed of both yourself and your profession, journalism.
He doesn’t like most journalists, whom he accuses of helping his enemies wage a vicious disinformation war against him and his company, Executive Outcomes, for many years.
“All that shit you wrote, all the garbage you passed on from the so-called ‘sources’ – where was even the slightest bit of evidence to back it up?”
In his newly-published book – Executive Outcomes, Against All Odds – Barlow savages many local and international journalists who, he says, willingly did “hatchet jobs” on EO.
I’m one of them. Back in 1993, my byline was one of three which appeared on a piece quoting former SA Defence Force Colonel Jan Breytenbach as saying EO was “training ANC hit squads” in
. (At the time, EO had been given a contract by the Angolan government to re-train the army – a project which effectively spelled the beginning of the end of Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA movement, as the Angolan forces were better trained and prepared for battle.) The alleged ANC squads had a hit list of prominent people, including himself, claimed Breytenbach. I don’t even remember the story, save to know that Breytenbach was never one of my sources or contacts. But my byline was on the story and I must have contributed to it. Angola
Did we ever try to get corroboration or confirmation of Breytenbach’s claims? No. Why would we? Barlow and his bunch of ex-SADF “mercenaries” could only have been up to no good in
. After all, we told ourselves, why would they help the people who were once their enemies, unless they were being paid huge amounts and were involved in oil or diamond deals? Angola
Barlow sits across from me in a
coffee shop, his blue eyes accusing. I have no answers. He has a point. Pretoria
In conversation, Barlow echoes the litany of accusations and claims which were levelled against EO in the eight or so years it operated as a private military company in Africa and elsewhere: they committed atrocities, they were given huge diamond and oil concessions, that they were a front for Britain’s MI6 secret service, that they fronted for the American CIA; that they were incompetent buffoons.
“Take the case of
Sierra Leone(where EO helped the government crush RUF rebels): we were accused of committing atrocities against the local people. No proof. Nobody ever charged. No witnesses. The opposite was the case. As we went into action against the rebels in a new country and environment, we realised that we needed intelligence and information. And we got that from the local people, who realised that we were bringing stability and security after years of rape and murder by the rebels. We gave them some medical help and we made it safe for their (them) to go back to their normal lives. They helped us with the information we needed to mount our operations. Think about it – if we had been slaughtering them, would they have helped us?” Freetown
Barlow is correct. Neither the United Nations, whose peacekeeping troops replaced EO and who then virtually lost the country back to the rebels; nor the
government, has made any atrocity charges against the company. Sierra Leone
“A professional journalist,” Barlow says with just a hint of a sneer, “visited the country and wrote that the people were happy with our presence and what we achieved.”
Angola, likewise, was an area where EO was repeatedly under fire, mainly from journalists in . South Africa
“You people,” he says, “ignored everything we provided you in terms of intelligence about who was really benefiting from the continuation of the war between UNITA.”
Those people were senior officials in the former SA government, companies and businessmen.
Barlow believes that UNITA’s supporters in
South Africawere making a fortune out of the diamonds-for-arms trade which saw the rebel movement exchanging gems for weapons which were flown into from South African airfields. Angola
“When General Ita (the then head of the Angolan military intelligence) told journalists this was happening and even provided registration numbers of the aircraft, nobody followed up on it.” They actually verbally attacked Ita, claiming he was lying and then attacked the government for attacking UNITA.
He adds: “There are people who have a lot of blood on their hands – by prolonging the Angolan civil war, tens of thousands of people died.
“But I’m proud of what we in EO did and the sacrifices we made.”
Undoubtedly, Barlow and the company made a lot of money contracting out their military expertise – he has long since ceased to care about being labelled a “mercenary” he says – but the costs of the EO intervention were miniscule when compared to that bucket loads of money spent by the UN and African Union whose troops replaced the South African company in Sierra Leone.
“What the Executive Outcomes experience proved was that there is a place in
Africa– and the rest of the world – for private military companies. In our case, we did jobs that others either couldn’t do or didn’t want to do. And we did those jobs well, without any bias, because we were employed by legitimate governments.”
, the company started off training the Angolan Army’s 16 Brigade, but was also involved in some of the heavy fighting against UNITA. Barlow says that it was more the comprehensive training given to the Angolans which enabled them to turn the tide against UNITA, rather than EO’s own combat team: “we had only 500 people, spread out around Angola and you can’t win a war like that with that number of soldiers...” Angola
, EO’s combat-hardened veterans – white and black, former SADF and from the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe – didn’t pussy-foot around when hitting the RUF rebels. Using highly mobile teams on foot and in vehicles, and backed up by air support which included a Russian-made Mi-24 helicopter gunship, EO decimated the rebels’ jungle hide-outs after initially saving the capital, Freetown, from what looked like a certain surrender to the rebels. Sierra Leone
“It is a great pity that EO did not continue, because it would have been a very effective instrument for change in Africa – and it would have enabled
to project its influence to far corners of the continent. It wasn’t long before the South Africa and European governments stepped into to the vacuum we left. So, again, it’s outsiders sorting out African problems...” US
Ironically, many people are not aware that EO played a major role in drafting South African legislation which controls the private military industry, the Foreign Military Assistance Act – and that, so far, EO is the only company to have been licensed by the government to offer military assistance and know-how outside the borders of this country.
Although EO has been shut down, Barlow gets a number of calls from abroad, “asking me if I’d start it up again.”
One such was for assistance ahead of the
invasion in 2003 which, Barlow says, “I turned down because that is not legitimate, it is just about oil and resources.” Iraq
It pains him to think that the expertise of thousands of former South African policemen and soldiers has been lost to this country, as they apply their skills and experience all around the world.
“Those in the military field know just how good the former SADF was and how capable some of our people were. It is a great pity that this government, in the name of transformation, has turned its back on those skills.”
Barlow, in common with many ex-SADF officers, doesn’t have a high opinion of the current SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and especially in its peacekeeping missions around
“Our guys seem more interested in theft, robbery, rape and murder than they do in carrying out their jobs.”
These days, sitting in retirement in
, Barlow watches cynically from the sidelines at developments. Like the fiasco of the abortive Pretoria Equatorial Guinea(EG) coup, where scores of South African ex-soldiers were detained in Zimbabween route to EG and later served jail sentences in . Harare
“Simon Mann (the coup plot leader who now sits in jail in
awaiting extradition to EG) is an arsehole and from my dealings with him, I regarded him as incompetent. So I’m not surprised at what happened.” Harare
But, that disaster also brought down the curtain on the 60s-style cowboy mercenaries, thinking that with a few people and a few guns they could take over a country.
“We were accused of that sort of plotting all the time. We could have overthrown governments, sure, but we were professional suppliers of military services, not hired guns.”
Barlow still keeps a jaundiced eye on the media: “I can see the disinformation and bullshit all over the place.”
The reports on the Pikoli/Selebi/Zuma sagas should all be looked at with extreme caution and cynicism, he says.
“There are some many different agendas at play and there are so many people involved who are past masters at spinning a lie: some of the people who put together smears against us are still at it and the ANC is also highly experienced at the art of disinformation.”
He says he can see the media being used and manipulated.
“Some things never change...”
Brendan Seery – The Star,
“I first met Eeben Barlow in 1982 … (as) a young and eager reconnaissance officer with 32 Battalion …” writes the old South African Defence Force’s former Intelligence chief, General R (Witkop) Badenhorst, in his foreword to this book.
A quarter-century later Barlow still looks surprisingly young, but definitely not so eager. Wary, perhaps.
Surely the founder of the first private military company to place this type of business in an ethical framework that saw him contracting only to legitimate governments – the man credited with paving the way for the expansion of similar operations around the world – could afford to look a little more satisfied with those achievements?
Why not is suggested by the second part of the title, “Against All Odds”, as well as at the back, in a tailpiece.
There he confesses: “Today, I have little interest in the misery and chaos that is spreading across
Africa. I have come to realise that any attempt to stem the tide is viewed as sinister – especially by those who are pursuing alternative agendas for personal gain. ...I still receive calls from governments asking if I would be prepared to assist them to resolve their problems. They have totally lost faith in the UN and even in , whose ‘peacekeeping’ missions have become tainted with gross misconduct, poorly disciplined troops and political partiality. To them, my answer is always ‘No’.” South Africa
(Prior to publication, Barlow reiterated the above comment, confirming continuing approaches from African, European and Far Eastern governments, hoping he would revive Executive Outcomes.)
To read the pages in between is to travel a journey that started with Barlow as a sapper – an engineer – in then South West Africa clearing mines (and getting wounded in the process), before moving to 32 Battalion, patrolling deep, and dangerously, into Angola. Then came a transfer to the Directorate of Covert Collections (DCC), where he built an agent network in
and “controlled people within the SACP, the ANC, the PAC and the BDF”. Later counter-intelligence work included spotting, developing and recruiting an agent with the US Embassy in Botswana , before resignation from the military to join the Civil Co-operation Bureau, the CCB. Pretoria
In the not-yet-notorious CCB his responsibility was for the
United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East. However the actions of its Region 6 (within ) as a sort of “Murder Incorporated”, in Barlow’s words, led to the organisation’s collapse. So sudden was this that Barlow ended up using his own money to bring home four of his overseas agents … leaving him both “broke and heavily indebted”. South Africa
Thus was laid the road to Executive Outcomes. But first came (among others) a request from a South American country to enter the field of drug enforcement (stymied by the US); training for the SA Army’s Special Forces, mainly in covert operations but also counter-espionage; and assisting De Beers to curb the illegal diamond trade.
Then in early 1993 Barlow was presented with “a very delicate problem”. It led to the Executive Outcomes operations which made that company’s name and brought invitations to operate far and wide.
South Africaout of Namibia, there was no reason for Pretoriato be hostile to . It was thus entirely legitimate for South African citizens to accept a contract to protect recovery teams extracting heavy equipment from a Unita-controlled area in Angola’s far north, in “a little town called Soyo”. Angola
Barlow’s description of the fighting that ensued is a classic of its kind: descriptive, detailed and vivid, at times passionate, without moving at any time into Soldier of Fortune bravado. It displays also the compassion and understanding which mark a true soldier.
But while this was going on, the South Africans doing their job for the government of
– a country with which this country was officially now at peace – were being shafted. Angola
Pretoria, I received a frantic telephone call from at about 05:00 South African time. It was one of my old CCB agents. London
“ ‘Eeben, you guys are in big shit’, Richard declared. ‘A friend of mine works at GCHQ,
Cheltenham. They intercepted a telephone call last night from the South African Parliament building in Cape Townto the Unita representative in …” London
Both Barlow and his company had been mentioned, together with the advice “by someone in your government” that Unita hang on to Soyo regardless of cost.
Meanwhile, fed by leaks from both Military Intelligence and the Department of Foreign Affairs, a media war was unleashed back at home, with very little consideration being given to what EO might have to say, or indeed as to whether the material being “fed” was in the least reliable.
Much more – both triumph and tragedy – followed in
. Then came the challenge of Angola . Sierra Leone
Suffice it to say that a small group of South Africans restored peace, at minimal cost and loss of life, only to see these achievements negated following international pressure.
For around US$31-million a year, Barlow tells us that EO defeated the rebels on the battlefield, saw the child soldiers who had been a tragic feature of that conflict demobilised, the government regain control of the country’s mineral wealth, a cease-fire in place and fair elections.
Enforced replacement of EO with the UN force Unamsil cost some US$600-million a year, lost
to a coup, led to thousands of civilians being killed, the capital overrun, floods of refugees and massive infrastructural damage. With presumably no sense of irony, the UN rated Unamsil as a “most successful” mission. Sierra Leone
In 1996 Barlow mounted a low-profile and extremely successful mission at the request of the Indonesian government to rescue hostages from an irredentist group. Invitations were extended by other governments with whom SA has friendly relations to assist in various projects, but these did not come to fruition.
EO closed its doors at the end of 1998, when “the South African Government lost a perfect vehicle for projecting force and bringing about stability in
Far too often we tolerate behaviour that should be unacceptable; put up with that which should be insupportable. If the written word has a sound, in Executive Outcomes this would reflect the quiet rustle of a coat being trailed.
Barlow freely names his villains. They come chiefly from the old Military Intelligence, the old Department of Foreign Affairs, and ambitious businessmen with multiple agendas. They also include journalists.
There is no way this reviewer can comment on the accuracy or otherwise of such charges. But they cannot be ignored.
Shortly before this book appeared there were rumours that one journalist was asking for help in seeking an interdict to prevent publication. More to the point would be an action for libel, mounted perhaps by one or more of the “eminent” businessmen and former top public servants whose characters and activities are also ripped to shreds here.
Yet Barlow appears to have been a compulsive acquirer, and keeper, of sometime incriminating records. What would happen if those suing him, lost? And what would the media do about some of those who have been employed and trusted for so long as opinion-formers, if – in court – the records and documents which Barlow says he has safely cached “off-site”, substantiate his allegations?
Overall, this is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of recent political and military history, both here and throughout
Africa. It would be a great pity if, because of the many cans of worms it exposes, it was ignored.
James Mitchell: The Star, Johannesburg
This is the story of the birth and demise of Executive Outcomes. It is also the side of the story of Eeben Barlow, founder of EO, and he does not mince his words…
Barlow was a Lt Col in the Army and served in the Engineer Corps, 32 Battalion, Military Intelligence and he later entered the shadowy world of the CCB.
He was a spy with a network of agents overseas and in southern
Africa. He knew a lot about sensitive issues and especially who was involved. This was probably the reason why he and EO were castigated when they sold their talents to the “enemy” in . Angola
Barlow presented courses to the SADF’s “Recces” until shortly before EO accepted a contact with an oil company in
Due to their success, EO was asked to aid the Angolan Armed Forces to train its troops in order to break the stranglehold of UNITA on parts of that country in order to establish a government of national unity.
Due to the fact that
had supported UNITA, EO and Barlow were branded as traitors. It was however the continued support from South African diplomats, businessmen and other highly-placed members in UNITA – even after the UN implemented sanctions against UNITA – that clearly had a sobering effect on Barlow. South Africa
Disinformation campaigns, threats and even an attempt on his life made him realize that big money was fuelling the war behind the scenes.
The police regularly investigated EO but never found any reason to prosecute the company. This did not stop the South African government and MI’s determined efforts to destroy EO. Indeed, Barlow used his contacts in MI to brace himself for the continued attacks on his person and that of the company.
The book stretches from EO’s Angolan operations to those in
, as well as smaller contracts tackled by the company. Sierra Leone
He writes frankly about the alleged ineptitude of MI, the Defence Force, Foreign Affairs, Armscor, the UN. He does not shy away from using documentation to name those officials involved – nor those he identified as double agents.
Ironically enough, some of the senior military officers who apparently helped to hound the company, are themselves now in security jobs abroad, where they do exactly the same work…
Beeld - Erika Gibson, Military Correspondent
Mr. Barlow's book is an excellent source of information on his company and its operations in the 1990's. While not always grammatically correct, the book nevertheless conveys a true picture of the firm and explodes many of the myths and untruths that have been circulated about it. For any reader interested in private military companies this book is a must have.
Review from Amazon.com - R. S. Binder "Security Guy", Los Angeles, California
I am happy to say I have finished reading your book, cover to cover, word for word. And both as a reader and an author I want to congratulate you.This is a truly excellent book. If in the future anybody ever asks me about EO this will be the first thing I recommend. Certainly, nobody presuming to speak about EO should do so without having first read this.
I feel sad that it has not received more publicity but count on me to always mention it in the future.
And as a veteran I commend both your past leadership and remembrance of those who worked for EO. Although we have never met in person I consider you a highly moral man. If I had encountered more officers like you when I served in the Navy maybe I would have reenlisted.
Having written a book myself I can appreciate the effort you put into this and I want you to know that it is both worth it and appreciated.
I think you really did a comprehensive and immensely readable job. Having read it I now fully understand your feelings towards the media and the UN. And, of course, you are fully justified in your feelings. Until I read this I did not realize the scope of the past disinformation efforts against both EO and you personally. As someone whose knowledge on this issue is based primarily on open source literature I have to acknowledge that some of what I read in the past was obviously incredibly wrong.
Dr David Isenberg - USA
From Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/review/R38TXMC3Z02NU1/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
Executive Outcomes is the benchmark of the modern private military and security company. Like many pioneers in the world, Executive Outcomes no longer exists. This book describes the zeitgeist in which the company came to be formed, was able to flourish and ultimately was prevented from being successful. This book is a combination of enticing war narrative, political intrigue and personal catharsis.
Eeben Barlow's raw, immature writing style is redeemed by the subject matter. Executive Outcomes Against All Odds is an easy reading page turner, taking the reader on a high paced review of his work through military, "covert collection", formation, running and closure of the firm.
The focus of the book is the Angolan and Sierra Leonean contracts. Barlow provides much detail of how the contracts came about and the scramble to put together resources, communications and supply lines to fulfil the contracts. In some cases the quoted dialogue, instead of importing veracity often does the opposite - Barlow uses the technique too liberally to show how supportive his clients were. That anyone could remember so many conversations in such detail is dubious. The descriptions of the military activities are enthralling showing a typically South African "do much with little" initiative - and yet managing with proper strategy to defeat rebels who have been battling for years.
A good deal of the book is used to expound the pervasive incompetence and duplicitousness of the South African authorities and their lackeys, and Barlow never misses an opportunity to put the knife in, push it deeper and then turn it.
Barlow shows himself to have been naive and immature in the machinations of the big league as he describes how the South African government constantly bettered him in non-military activities - propaganda, persuasion, dealing and political manoeuvring. The sub-story is seeing growth in his business maturity as the deals progress.
While the Angolan and Sierra Leonean contracts are covered in great detail, the Indonesian and subsequent contracts and activities are brushed over with decreasing detail. One of the contributing factors to this review getting less than five stars.
A few negatives: the flow of the narrative is often disrupted by paragraphs of non-related or semi-related information which could have been better placed elsewhere. A writing coach and better editing could have helped make this a better written book, but this doesn't detract from the fascinating content.
The books has many intresting photos, although not exactly award winning war photography.
All in all a captivating, exciting read.
From Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/AZCP0370OOIJB/ref=cm_cr_pr_pdp
So far it is just what I was looking for; a great look into EO and its military workings. I am sure the rest of the book will be as good, and to get it from Eeben Barlow is even better.
Very good reading. I understood why the Aparthied era South African government was opposed to Mr. Barlow's work for the Angolan government and their corporate allies. But I was surprised to learn the post-Aparthied ANC government, with their newfound power and financial resources, was against them as well. Apparently the Angolan government, which backed them during their struggle for equality in
, was surprised as well. South Africa
Even if they did work for profit, I do believe Executive Outcomes saved more innocent lives in
Angolaand with AK-47s than the United Nations did with paperwork, sanctions and protests. Too bad Sierra Leone only had the UN. Same for Rwanda Darfur.
El Monte, Califfornia, USA
The Executive Outcomes story was one of the best books I have ever read. In fact, it was brilliant!
I notice that there are anti-UN peacekeeping demonstrations in the DRC. If there are other like demonstrations, I am sure the UN is keeping it as quiet as possible. Did EO ever face such demonstrations? I believe that the only people who were worried about your presence were the rebels, the SA government and the UN – and of course, the riff-raff that call themselves “journalists”. Certainly makes one think.
I, like many of my friends and colleagues, believe that the demise of EO was the beginning of a disaster in
Africa. Apart from giving the government an ability to project peace and stability, EO knew and understood Africa, something the Yanks, the Brits and even the Frogs don’t know of. It is therefore no wonder that wherever they set their boots, there is a huge disaster followed by a massive tragedy. But, this has given the Chinese more than just a toe-hold in Africa, something the continent will live to regret.
A few of my friends served in EO and they still talk about the company in awe. They tell me that the actions you write about are so close to the real situation that they can smell the gunpowder while reading it!
Well done on a great book. I look forward to whatever next you will be writing about.
As an ex-national serviceman I was for many years left with more questions than there were answers available. I have long since made it my mission to understand what exactly the South African border wars were about. To this end I have read 10s of books on the South African Military and have obtained many answers, but also more questions.
In Eeben Barlow's book I found more answers than questions. It did leave me angry for him though, as I thought he achieved a great deal from very little. What an interesting character too.
In summary an excellent read. I could think of few things better than sitting down with the author over a beer and discussing some of the detail. Hopefully he will reveal more in due course.
Paul Danvers, Paul.firstname.lastname@example.org
Given that 99% of my reading these days is –by necessity- online, anything holding my attention for more than 60 seconds has to be pretty hearty fare. Eeben Barlow’s gripping compilation of ‘life in the PMC lane’; (Private Military Contractor) leaves little to the imagination and definitely fell into this bracket.
The books totally graphic; (maps included) -portrayal of conflict events unfolding simultaneously, from different aspects of a situation, both at ‘ground zero’ and at the ‘bigger picture’ or political level, is a technique Mr Barlow uses very skilfully considering his -apparently almost entirely military- background.
I’m no armchair general nor am I ex-army but I’m positive that everyone will enjoy the comprehensive descriptions of many good ‘African scraps’. Eeben’s record of political and military events on this Continent during the eighties and nineties, offered first-hand from an entirely practical viewpoint; that of getting the job (well) done, frankly it’s entirely credible.
Being myself an ex serviceman though, I have to say that by far the most fascinating aspect of ‘PMC service life’ he illustrates is definitely the frequent examples of camaraderie and esprit de corps depicted by him and his handpicked teams.
For me at least, I think its probably not only those from a service environment that are able to fully appreciate this thrill of a feeling part of a well-oiled combat machine working together in battle, it’s surely a rush that pretty much any decent, honest, red-blooded male (or female for that matter) can also experience firsthand for themselves.
Just be ready to also get really cheesed off and irate at the machinations of big (and corrupt) international business and governments sticking their dirty sorry-assed noses into the mix with all their usual dirty tricks, as well as a few you probably won’t have even dreamt of.
Thrilling stuff, entirely fixating, well worth the investment, highly recommended.
Martin L Hedington: Regional Advocacy Director: Gun Owners of
I have just finished your book “Executive Outcomes”, and found it tremendously interesting.
It filled in many blank spaces for me and just confirmed many that I presumed.
A wonderful book and you should be proud of what you and EO achieved. I know that you took a lot of flak and I am sure a weaker person would have crumbled. Keep standing strong with your head held high.
I pray that God will strengthen you and give you peace.
Rodney Tyson, Edenglen
I have just finished reading your book and I would just like to say it is absolutely brilliantly written and filled with so much information.
One cannot help but feel your heartache at fighting a war in Angola etc whereas in your heart, the real war was fighting journalists/the media campaign for your survival. I shared so many memories including the bad ones of worry about the guys fighting the war. Each step of the way took me back.
We knew we were being watched every time we went to your house (where my Alsatian had a good swim in your pool!!! - by the way you were out!!!) and the house in Verwoedburg but I never realised to what extent you were being hounded.
I think everyone had the 'intelligence agents' trying to get information out of them but to a very minor degree in comparison to yourself. I remember so many times that they would always try and buy me drinks and how many drinks I poured down pot plants or in their own glasses when they were not looking. I played their game and pretended I was drunk many times but they got nothing out of me about C.
One such agent, who obviously could not handle his drink (and yes, I had filled his glass with probably quadruple vodkas), got so drunk that he ended up crying and confessing that he was working for MI and had been sent to get info out of me and babbled on about a Unita connection etc etc and how he had been employed to watch C etc...
Anyhow I never said a word to C about this person until a year or two later because I was worried C would do something. The last I heard of this person was when he committed suicide in a parking garage in
, I think it was about 1997. All I know is that he supposedly shot himself and I never asked more. Durban
The houndings and strange phone calls I got were awful and C always complained that when he phoned me from
in the middle of the night, men were answering my phone. I knew that was rubbish but it did wreck his mind a lot. Sierra Leone
My post was opened, not very professionally because one could see where the stamp had been steamed open, my home was invaded, on one occasion a drawer of photographs was scattered across my room, obviously in the hurry the invaders did not have time to pack them away. All they were were my photos and also years of journalist photos of murders, disasters you name it. Guess those photos would have turned their stomachs anyway. I also knew my phone line was hooked and I would often hear the 'click' noises etc.... did not take a rocket scientist.
I am very glad to say, even though I was a journalist at the time, I never ever wrote a word about EO and kept that promise. I really had to chuckle that you ended up marrying a journalist and I ended up marrying someone in your line!
Yeah, it was stressful times, but nothing compared to what you guys went through.
Congratulations once again on an excellent book and a 'good read'.
S - Durban
A very interesting read, which lays bare the incredible greed and corruption of the supposedly "honest" world powers. Being a Zimbabwean, I am well aware of the machinations of the bigger countries, who have absolutely no qualms destabilising/destroying a country to plunder its resources on the cheap, or remove it as a competitor on the global market.
Hats off to Mr Barlow and his men, honesty is a rare commodity indeed, bravery and conviction even rarer. The media has always been ridiculously skewed in favour of those who pull the strings to make the monkeys dance. I am lucky to have been brought up to question EVERYTHING the media spouts, sadly I am in the minority.
A highly recommended read for anyone who wants to know the uncomfortable truth behind the headlines. I worked for a well known
UKinvestment bank, and have seen first hand a retired politician courting corrupt Nigerian politicians with their ill gotten gains. UK
P Nugent (UK/ZW)
I bought the book out of curiosity, it should be an adventure book, it starts that way but as Mr Barlow and his team become more effective at what they do, the story changes to one of highlighting corruption at commercial, media, army, secret service, government and UN level. A very interesting read which so sadly becomes an education in corruption and vested interests that ultimately led him to walk away from his company. The world needs more forthright people like Mr Barlow and I hope that the people and events described in the book are taken to task by national governments and insight committees - but of course they wont - that’s the whole point. I wish you well Mr Barlow in whatever you're doing today.
I recently had the privilege of reading your phenomenal work on Executive Outcomes. I must congratulate you on how you answered many of our questions and uncertainties in an honest and open-hearted manner. Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down and during the course of reading I went through various stages of immense anger, disbelief and heart-break when I thought of the “good days” and our brothers in EO and I then relived my time in
We all knew that there was a massive propaganda campaign against us and the company but we didn’t always recognise the wolves in sheep’s’ clothing. You had the proverbial “balls of steel” to infiltrate the bastards and confront and identify them in your book. Thank you very much and congratulations. I would not have wanted it differently. I just hope that the wheel turns for those swines one day. Excuse my language and the emotions but this was a bitter pill to swallow.
I agree with Charl Alberts. I have never and will probably never work for a company such as EO. In many respects, we achieved the impossible, not only on a military level but also on an interpersonal level and the comradeship that was forged was not the normal SADF-type of camaraderie. This was much more intense and sincere and will remain with us for the rest of our lives and we shall always remember it.
Fortunately, I still maintain contact with many of my colleagues from EO.
Eeben, thank you once again for the opportunity you gave us ex-SADF men for an unforgettable experience in our lives. Although it was short-lived, we cannot compare it with anything today in our lives. I live each day since our “disbanding” in the memory of the times, of the friends, the humour, the happiness and the sadness.
Ben Burger -
(EO Book Number 170) Afghanistan
For a German reader's comments please go to: http://www.evolver.at/stories/Eeben_Barlow_Executive_Outcomes_Against_all_Odds/
Executive Outcomes — Against All Odds, is a brilliantly written and captivating inside look into one of the most misunderstood, and highly publicised, PMCs in the world. Mr. Barlow engages the reader from the first page onward and tackles some serious political and historical issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As Executive Outcomes has been widely reported on by a number of so-called "experts" across the world, many misconceptions and errors have developed. This book has been long overdue and it very effectively sets the record straight. I'm fairly certain many people, both inside and outside
, would have preferred not to see this book published, but it should be read by anyone interested in contemporary African history. South Africa
Eeben Barlow's understated and matter-of-fact writing style cannot hide the fact that he has led an extraordinary life and the book will definitely NOT disappoint anyone.
Magnus Myklatun —
Some would argue that Eeben Barlow’s writing is just another salvo fired in the disinformation and negative journalism saga he so painstakingly describes in his new book, Executive Outcomes. It is the story of the company he founded and which was at the centre of the controversial Angolan and Sierra-Leone ‘mercenary’ accusations of the 90s.
It would be sad if Barlow’s book goes down as that, as the true value of telling the story lies elsewhere. Barlow’s account confirms the suspicions we all have that governments are controlled by influential individuals, lusting after money, greed and power. Regardless of who is in power at the time, humanitarianism, social welfare and higher values all go out the door when money enters the scene. This seems especially true when third world citizens are at the other side of the coin.
It was in this environment of greedy individual gain that Executive Outcomes thought they could make a difference by holding on to old-style values of honour, valour, and camaraderie, believing in doing the right thing -- and having the guts to pursue that at all cost. The timing was certainly opportune, as these were the same values that kept the then-defunct, but highly effective, SADF war machine on the go for so long; the ‘Volk en Vaderland‘ propaganda had helped to fuel the Angolan war. By employing these ex-SADF soldiers into EO and adding the intelligence, planning, logistical and operational skills of their senior personnel was a huge and commendable feat, worthy of recognition.
According to Barlow’s telling, EO certainly made a difference where they operated and, if it weren’t for the hidden agendas, it might have had lasting effects of peace in these areas. But peace was obviously not on the agenda of the greedy individuals who saw EO as a major threat to their profitable endeavours and who did everything they could to derail the company. It is commendable, then, that EO stayed true to their word in fulfilling their contracts to the various governments. They performed under trying conditions, both in the field and at home, fighting on two very different fronts.
Today it is acceptable to have private military companies and security companies operating in high-conflict environments and EO can certainly claim to have pioneered the way for this industry.
To reduce the story of EO to one book, reading it and leaving it in the book case seems sad, as the story and legacy they left behind is far greater. However I’m sure the book has given many EO members, and even others who were involved in the dark days of the previous government, closure on many issues and questions. The book is an epitaph to the many fine people who stay true to principles and whose word is their honour, despite overwhelming odds.
It is refreshing, too, to hear Barlow’s version of the Executive Outcomes story after so many years of one-sided journalism.
Chris van der Merwe -
Just one sentence. This book is brilliant!
Martin Compart —
I have just read the Executive Outcomes book and thought that it was a magnificent piece of work as well as a story of epic and gallant proportions.
Hugh Paxton —
I believe that I, like many other people, only knew what we read about you and your company on the internet or in the newspapers. Thankfully, I now know differently.
I must confess that I was initially somewhat concerned that your book would be an attempt to whitewash EO’s role but with the evidence you provide in your book, I will no longer believe anything the media write about either you or EO. You have made – and proven – your point, something they never did. I am however sure that soon someone from the media will attempt to write a different account – without bothering to check their facts and in an attempt to justify their nefarious actions. I only hope that you will take them to task.
The book is a riveting read from page 1 and packed with information that very few of us were ever allowed to know. Not only has it exposed the many lies that have been published about you and EO, it also made me realize just how powerful a tool the media was in misleading all of us. As you wrote in your book: “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything”.
Apart from exposing some esteemed members of the media, Military Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and numerous other specialists at lying, you have covered a period of our history that has remained shrouded in secrecy for many years. You have also exposed the UN as a massive, “puffed-up-with-self-importance”, ineffectual organization that only has its own interests at heart. What a great pity you were never allowed to play a larger role in bringing peace to our continent.
I hope the many self-styled specialists on you and EO have the decency to hang their heads in shame and apologise for the grave injustices done to all of you.
Thank you for a terrific book! May your next one, which I understand you are writing, be equally riveting.
Mary Strauss, UK
I was given your book as a gift by someone who attended a talk you recently gave and have just completed it in a reading session that lasted a couple of days.
Firstly, I want to say that it is an outstanding piece of work. As someone who has a great interest in contemporary African politics, I found this book to be a true eye-opener. Indeed, it spills over into the international political arena and the way in which we are constantly being fooled by those elected to higher office and their big business associates and backers.
Secondly, the book, although somewhat disturbing at times, has raised a few questions I would like to ask:
- Are those agents-of-influence (regardless of whether they were witting or unwitting) still working in the media, and if so, why?
- Has the media taken any action against them, and if not, why not?
- Has the media ever had the decency to apologise to you?
- Why did the SADF not win the war in
? Surely, if your involvement led to an end of hostilities in Angola Angola– I recall Unita almost destroyed on the battlefield after EO had only been in for a year – someone needs to question what the SADF was doing, or not doing. Angola
- How many lives were needlessly sacrificed by the SADF in order to cover up the actual aim of the war in
- Has the UN apologized for using such a powerful forum to slate you?
- Has the SA intelligence community taken action against those who fabricated intelligence reports about you and your company – or even apologized to you?
- Has anyone offered to reimburse you and the company for the financial losses they cost you through their campaigns to mislead all and sundry?
- Why hasn’t the UN approached you for help? Surely they must realize that you achieved far more, with far less, than they have ever achieved?
- Has the SA government realized that by trying to prevent your company from working, they simply opened the field to all the foreign companies and denied
any form of influence? The SANDF is obviously a bad joke that no-one can take very seriously and has on numerous occasions proved itself incompetent and definitely not impartial. South Africa
I have many, many more questions from this extraordinary book that need answering. But, in typical fashion, those that can give the answers will no doubt remain silent and wish it all away.
I feel that the world owes you a massive apology. I look forward to the day the UN approaches you to help them achieve something positive in DRC, Darfur, Chad, Ivory Coast and so on. This is one manuscript that ought to be compulsory reading at all military institutions, across the world.
Well done on a superb piece of work.
As the old saying goes: “EO is dead, long live EO”.
Michael van Reenen - South Africa
This has to be one of the best books I have read in a very, very long time! At times, I could feel my adrenaline racing, my heart pounding and my head throbbing – it was as though I was able to relieve every second of that amazing company of men. A true band of South African brothers, black and white, if ever there was one.
I, too, like most people, became of victim of the disinformation about you and your company. I recall almost being physically ill when I read the headline that you were going to be training MK members to take out prominent white South Africans. And now, it was all just a lie, propagated by the media to serve someone else’s interests. How those journalists ought to hang their heads in shame!! And to think, that none of us even considered the fact that all of the disinformation might just have been one big fat lie aimed at neutralizing you. I shudder to think how many millions of dollars your company must have lost due to such shameful actions.
Even more shocking to me were the Military Intelligence reports, along with the other so-called intelligence services, that you placed in your book. To think that these were the people who provided the decision makers with intelligence – and on their lies, more propaganda was aimed at you. Absolutely disgusting!! Even more nauseating is that their lies cost the lives of good men, both black and white.
Despite the true story of Executive Outcomes finally seeing the light of day, perhaps the time has come to see who will have the courage to apologise to you. I can bet you no-one will. The manner in which you and your men were treated is reprehensible, to say the least. For allowing those liars in the media and the intelligence services to expend their lies, you have certainly come back with a bang and exposed their nefarious actions.
This fast-moving book ought to be compulsory reading to all military buffs, strategists, tacticians, soldiers, airmen – and yes, politicians and journalists.
Thank you for finally setting the record straight on what must surely be considered one of the most professional PMCs ever to tread the earth. I salute you and if ever you need men for a similar venture, no matter where or when, or how grave the dangers may be, I shall answer your call.
I cannot wait for another book from you.
Jason Stone - South Africa
Executive Outcomes – Against All Odds… what a company, what a story, what a book. While I would change no part of it, I’d like to propose, however, that it be given a new name. To steal from that American bunny-hugger, Gore, Executive Outcomes - An Inconvenient Truth would have been a far more appropriate title.
Inconvenient indeed for the many so-called journalists, double agents, government sycophants and other such lowlifes who now, thanks to Eeben Barlow, have had their duplicitous agendas torn open and exposed, like soiled underwear, to a very gullible world.
Inconvenient also for all those self-proclaimed EO experts who swallowed the lies, who sat at mid-90’s dinner parties and regaled guests with wild stories of cannibalism, rape, overthrown governments, merciless mercenaries and other such immoral horrors.
Shamed they must be now.
In a truly gripping account, written in a style that makes you feel like you’re having a beer with a pal, Barlow tells an astonishing story of an extraordinary life – filled with experiences you wouldn’t believe.
No sooner have you begun when you’re whipped up into an underworld of real-life spies – some quite professional, others a little uncomfortable in their suits – a world of betrayal, disinformation, espionage, hostage dramas, international men of mystery and a war that was fought and won by brave, thick-skinned heroes.
Barlow names names, with evidence to back him up, and puts a human side to a company which for so long has been a kind of enigma, shrouded in much faulty guesswork. All this, sprinkled with a few wild assassination attempts, a crooked peace-keeping force, politicians and their pawns gone mad, makes you feel like you’re caught up in a movie – a kind of Bond meets Tarantino. Except this was real life and real people were being killed every day.
Read it. If not merely to set the record straight, then for the fact that you need to know what really goes on behind closed UN and big business doors. What monies exchange hands for not very much, and how selfish, twisted government agendas control how our great continent is led down a very destructive path. When SA banned the existence of firms such as EO, one has to at least entertain the thought that by inference, those clever paper-pushers effectively banned lasting peace in
Africa– an Inconvenient truth indeed.
Daniella Louw - Publisher
I have just read Executive Outcomes – Against all Odds and thought that you might be interested in some of my impressions with regard to this truly remarkable book.
Many of us who served in EO, and more specifically some of my fellow senior officers, were vaguely aware of the fact that you and EO’s other directors were enmeshed in a struggle to overcome the efforts of numerous shadowy persons, intelligence gathering organizations and less than objective media representatives who were all trying to discredit the company and force its closure by fair means or foul. However, it was not until I had read your book that I was able to understand just how widespread and intense these attempts were and how unsavoury these characters, their deceitful actions and hidden agendas actually turned out to be.
Having said that, and notwithstanding the 'bad' press and disinformation campaign aimed at yourselves, the fact that EO was able to successfully fulfil its contractual obligations by achieving each and every goal that had been set, speaks absolute volumes about the calibre of person that served on your board and the resoluteness of the men that were employed by the company.
Although I may only comment on the Angolan operations, I was impressed by the factual and historical integrity of the information that is recorded in the book. The way in which all aspects of the training, the deployments, the build up to the operations and their successful execution are described makes for riveting reading. Even readers who were not involved in any way and who may have no knowledge or recollection of either the South African or the Angolan political situations at the time will develop a sense of urgency as they read about the difficulties which had to be overcome, both physical and ideological and, later, geographical as well, before the enemy could be engaged.
In all probability, many of EO’s men saw their contract as just another 'job' for which they had been well trained, while most were grateful for the employment opportunity that the contracts offered during a rather uncertain period in the South African labour market. To my way of thinking, however, what started out as a job, per se, irrevocably turned into a personal mission aimed at ending the hostilities for the sake of the povo, not so much the Angolan Government, since it is they who had borne the brunt of the misery, that only civil war can bring, since 1975. There was no doubt in our minds that UNITA had to be defeated at all costs!
One need not be familiar with the science of logistics to be able to appreciate the enormous effort that was required to, for example, mobilize and transport EO’s personnel to their training bases, set up all the training facilities, then move mechanized combat groups, complete with certain support elements and an air wing, hundreds of kms across enemy held terrain, before the offensive over a wide front could commence. The enormity of these tasks and the continued logistical support accorded to EO on the ground throughout the entire campaign are well documented in the book and provide some insight into the level and scope of the task that was undertaken by the 'loggies'.
I believe that EO’s successes in the field can be attributed directly to the individual military training and combat experience of its men as well as to the perseverance they displayed in getting to understand the way in which their FAA allies thought and reacted during both the training and the active deployment phases of the entire campaign. The cooperation between EO and FAA, from being rather tense and untenable at the outset to being highly efficient when it really mattered, is graphically described in the advance to and inevitable capture of Cafunfu. This was a truly remarkable operation and all the credit for its successful outcome must go to the EO combat team commander, his leader group and men as well as to the, often heroic, accomplishments of the aircrews of EO’s air wing for the close air support that they provided throughout the operation.
There was an incredible feeling of accomplishment among these men at the conclusion of the operation since UNITA’s decisive defeat at Cafunfu truly signaled the beginning of the end to the Angolan civil war, protracted though it was. But one has to remember that this victory came at considerable cost to EO in terms of the lives that were lost. In this instance, the book once again captures the “feel” of the combat situation by telling the story on the ground and in the air as it was; both the happy and the sad endings, the feelings of elation and desolation.
Such was the comradeship, communication and cohesion among the men that the reader can almost feel how the resolve and determination of EO’s combatants, to decisively defeat the enemy, increased with each casualty. As any person who has been under fire will confirm, only
can try and convince an audience that war is 'glamorous' - there is no such thing! The resolution of the conflict in Hollywood can only be described as an arduous affair. Angola
Incidentally, I find the term Private Military Company (PMC) as it pertains to EO most fitting since that is exactly what EO was. Many of us who served in the company at the time felt uncomfortable with the mercenary tag because this conjured up a picture of a motley bunch of rabble rousers who were up to no good as opposed to a dedicated, well trained and disciplined grouping of soldiers whose bona fides were impeccable and who were involved in legitimate work of a military nature, as EO was. Ironically enough, this is exactly how EO eventually came to be portrayed once the positive and irrefutable results of its ongoing endeavours in
and elsewhere in the world could no longer be refuted. Angola
The book is much more than a coffee table narrative. It should be read by all persons, scholars and laypersons alike, with an interest in the military and social history of Africa, because the events that unfold in its pages truly record the transition between anarchy and stability in
between 1993 and 1995. One can only speculate about what would have happened in this beautiful African country had EO not been requested to intervene by the MPLA Government of the day or been prevented from accepting the contract to do so by those warmongers in the RSA and elsewhere who were bent on continuing to destabilise Angola at all costs in order to profit financially from the misery that they had sown within its borders! Angola
There is no doubt in my mind that all former members of Executive Outcomes will share my sentiments, namely, that “This is a must read”.
Mike Herbst: former senior officer Executive Outcomes
I would urge all South Africans and any person interested in world history to read Executive Outcomes – Against All Odds by Eeben Barlow.
Any person that was a member of the old SADF or had a loved one in the SADF who wondered why they were never told the truth about what was happening on the ‘Border’ need look no further. The answers are here.
This is a gloves-off account of how a small group of committed people achieved in a few months what the powerful SADF and its’ masters did not want to achieve in
. Not only is this book a well-told narrative of military history, international business, intelligence and counter-intelligence; it is never tedious and moves at a pace equal to that of any best-selling novel. Angola
Only after reading this book have I come to realise how much we were victims of the massive disinformation and brainwashing machine that the apartheid government had at its disposal. I regret that I and so many thousands of South Africans were so naïve and gullible.
At 552 pages this is a big book in more ways than one that has far more hitting power than a 155mm howitzer.
The perpetrators of the misinformation, deceit and lies that were fed to the public of
should be exposed. South Africa
Well done for sticking to the courage of your convictions and for a thoroughly enjoyable book.
Tony Nienaber: ex-32 Battalion, SADF
I am reading your monograph with all my might and I don't get enough sleep because of it. It is fascinating reading material, especially the
part since the names and places and events ring more than bells in my memory. I realised early on during my stint as service chaplain in the SAMS that all this Light against the Darkness ideo-theology was not as simple as that. Especially after been asked by a SWAPO commander who came in wounded into the Ondangwa Air Force Base sickbay, to read to him from Psalm 23 - from his own Bible. Wow. That woke me up. Angola
I must say that reflecting on your experiences (I am now at chapter 33) I have learnt a lot and I remain your student. Allow me to share some valuable lessons learnt so far:
* get sufficient, relevant, reliable and current intelligence
* look after your support group (your "men") no matter what
* take the fight to the enemy
* be honest in alll your doings (this is why you are reaping the reward now after many years - referring to The Star article)
* let those who fall by the wayside due to fear or cowardice, go home ("fit in or fuck off")
* look ahead at possible future opportunities (this job/contract is not going to last forever).
Oh I don't want to bore you with things you already know. It's just to say that you and your book have made a lasting impression on my life. Thank you. I am proud to know you.
Chris le Roux
It is always easier for people to condemn and to blame and forget the sacrifices made when they are feeling like they have lost.
I thought the closing of EO was a loss to
Africaas a whole. It would have been nice to have some form of stabilizing factor involved somewhere.
Richard York : UCS Software Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd Developer Support Manager
I have just finished reading your very, very long book. Congratulations! J
Whilst I found it extremely disturbing, it was also fascinating and enlightening. I champion truth and found the clarity you shared and the relentless onslaught against you very thought provoking. Strangely for a white South African 44 year old male, I did not really have a strong opinion on EO prior to reading your book. Whilst I was an opponent of apartheid, I was also a victim of much of the misinformation that was being fed to me. Now I understand so much more of what was going on during my teens and beyond. Thank you.
On a more personal level, reading your book also challenged me in terms of my own journey in to maturity and manhood. I doubt if this was your intention, however for that I also thank you.
Once again I congratulate you for this achievement and your courage in sharing it at personal risk. That sort of guts is what this wonderful country of ours so badly needs.
Ian Hatton: Strengths Revolutionary: See Learndo
I recently bought a copy of the newly published book ‘Executive Outcomes’ with keen interest. While I do not have a military background, in my research I stumbled on the EO/Sandline conspiracy many years back and certainly was left with the impression that they were not one of the good guys and not agents for positive change in
Africa. As is the case with many topics that are left unchallenged in the system you don’t know better until someone tells you otherwise.
And then I read your book.
With the last chapter in the Angolan conflict finished, I decided to Google key-words in the search for a ‘balanced’ account of what took place. In reading article after article I certainly became more sympathetic with the author as I saw firsthand the vast and growing difference between the truth ‘of free and fair’ reporting and what he had written in his own words. I am reminded of the daily barrage of news, print and online ‘news’ that we are forced to regurgitate.
Certainly the more I read and compared it I believed the author’s account of what transpired more than the UN Reports, Government Reports and that which appeared in the media regarding any of the events, people or places mentioned in the book. Just like the negative publicity by the media attracted candidates for employment so many years back, these negative reports further spurred my curious mind to finish the next chapter and the next so that I could finish the story and find out what really happened at EO.
While I understand how the tone of any writer is influenced by the experiences of the story, I looked past the ‘ah gee-shucks’ of everyone being the best and brightest as if we lived on Sesame Street and teamwork is the requirement to live rather than air, I found it easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. In the 2 days that it took I was captivated from the first page to the last. The logical flow of a progressive story made sense and ultimately you almost forgot that this was real-life unfolding in front of you and wasn’t a novel by Forsythe or Clancy.
Thank you for probably the best non-fiction book I have read so far this year. I have bought copies for two friends and for the lending library at the Rand Club,
for other members to read. Johannesburg
Grant Davison -
, Houghton South Africa