Sitting on the patio of his lavish home in suburban Pretoria, Eeben Barlow poured afternoon tea and basked in the late summer sun, looking more like a successful businessman than a hardened, elite Special Forces operator of the now defunct Apartheid-era South African Defense Force (SADF). In fact, the former commander of the famed 32 Battalion’s Reconnaissance (Recce) Wing is both.
At the center of Barlow’s synthesis of commerce and soldiering skills is his highly successful private corporate army known as Executive Outcomes or EO. The activities of EO, the clients it serves, and the global transnational corporate elite (including the DeBeers diamond cartel, Texaco and Gulf-Chevron) which fund its operations, offer an intriguing look into the realpolitik of the emerging world order.
“As a private corporate entity, EO is able to operate without the restrictions of any particular nation’s flag leading our soldiers into battle,” says Barlow.
“Organizations such as the UN and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) can make use of EO without partiality in negating the speedy resolution of conflict in any given country utilizing our services. Our employees have over five-thousand man years of military knowledge, combat and training experience.”
While Western governments in the post-Cold War era continue to cut back on the manpower of their capital intensive forces, and are increasingly unable to sell their constituencies on nation-building exercises like the Somalia debacle, EO is ready to fill the void. EO is able to provide private counter-insurgency operations, peacekeeping forces, and the muscle for corporations to control gold and diamond mines, oil and other natural resources in a variety of failed states which stretch to the four corners of the world.
“We offer a variety of services to legitimate governments, including infantry training, clandestine warfare, counterintelligence programs [cointelpro], reconnaissance, escape and evasion, special forces selection and training and even parachuting,” adds Barlow. EO is equipped with Soviet MiG fighter jets, Puma and East Bloc helicopters, state-of-the-art artillery, tanks and other armaments. Barlow pointed out that EO boasts an array of no less than 500 military advisors and 3,000 highly trained multi-national special forces soldiers.
The long and twisted journey of Barlow’s involvement with the SADF began when he moved from Northern Rhodesia to South Africa as a boy. After matriculating in 1972, he joined the SADF in 1974. By 1980 he was with 32 Battalion, (known as South Africa’s Foreign Legion) fighting with the SADF Special Forces in Angola and assisting the anti-Marxist UNITA, (the Union for the Total Independence of Angola) guerrilla army. Later he moved on to Military Intelligence and then to the Armaments Corporation of South Africa, (ARMSCOR). Barlow’s most challenging assignment however, may have been heading up the Western European section of the Civil Co-operation Bureau, (CCB) which attempted to circumvent UN-imposed Apartheid sanctions by setting up front companies overseas. The CCB’s ability to import highly sensitive technology for South Africa’s advanced nuclear program, as well as its alleged assassinations of hundreds of anti-Apartheid activists world-wide still remains a mystery tot his very day.
EO’s parent company is most likely the South African-based Strategic Resource Corporation (SRC). EO exists in SRC’s corporate universe as just one satellite in a web of thirty-two companies involved in a plethora of mining, air charter, and “security” concerns. These satellite companies are registered anywhere from CapeTown to the Bahamas to the Isle of Man.
Since 1993, Companies House in London has carried a record of Executive Outcomes Ltd. With offices in Hampshire, UK. Barlow and the British national who became his wife after the company filed (and after his divorce from hi South African wife) are named as holders of 70 percent of its capital. Keeping EO’s title and other paperwork in the UK serves a two-fold purpose. Firstly, London is well known as a center of international weapons dealing and quasi-security deals. Secondly, it helps deflect negative coverage away from South African President Nelson Mandela and the ANC, who have used the reconstituted elite Apartheid forces (now EO) to fight and defeat it’s Angola-based Cold War enemy UNITA, (and installed the MPLA to power in the former Portuguese colony.
The genesis of EO came in 1989, during the dying days of Apartheid, when ANC leader Nelson Mandela ordered former South African President F.W. de Klerk to dismantle the SADF Special Forces units with the hope of crippling a right-wing Afrikaner coup against the take over of South Africa by its long-time Marxist enemy.
Reputed to be one of the finest military units in the world, 32 Battalion boasted successes like holding off the Cold War invasion of South Africa’s northern neighbor Angola — which was led by a contingent of Soviet, Cuban, East Bloc and North Korean forces.
Other elite SADF units, including the counter-insurgency outfit kovoet, (Afrikaans for “crowbar”) all of the Recce units and the shadowy Civil Co-operation Bureau were also targeted for dismantlement.
Faced with prospect of being thrown out of the army he had served so well, not to mention the apocalyptic end of three centuries of Afrikaner cultural identity and struggle for a free and independent Christian future, Barlow formed EO.
In its short history, EO has fought in South and West Africa, South America, and the Far East. An example of one of its initial tasks was to assist a South American Drug Enforcement Agency in conducting “discretionary warfare” against local drug producers. Other EO operations, stretching from Angola to Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea, always involve millions of dollars of cash payments augmented by mining, logging and oil rights to lucrative geologic deposits.
“It’s kind of ironic that when Eeben fought for Apartheid, the white race, anti-communism and Christianity, he wound up without any money and was shoved out the door,” says Willem Ratte, a former member of the elite Rhodesian Selous Scouts and the man who trained and honed Barlow’s superlative fighting skills. It was Ratte who ran South Africa’s war in Angola.
“Now that he’s fighting on the side of our enemies in Angola, and on behalf of the interests of the multinational corporations, he’s become a wealthy man,” adds Ratte. “Eeben is a very capable soldier. He once told me that he was angry about the sellout of the Communists by the National Party in South Africa. In the end, perhaps he figured that if the Marxists were going to take over our country anyway, why not make $US 40 million in the process?”
Barlow calls his former mentor Ratte, “simply the finest, most professional soldier ever trained by the SADF.” And although Barlow remains at odds with Ratte and a number of other former elite SADF troops that see him as having betrayed Afrikanerdom, he defends his right to change along with “The New South Africa.”
“We’ve undergone a paradigm shift in consciousness, in our interpretation of reality,” says respected South African political analyst Ed Cain, editor of the erudite journal Signposts. “We are living in the post-Christian era. The free world and the ‘former’ communist world are being merged. There are no more countries, no more Japanese, no more Mexicans. There are only rich and poor, hi-tech and low-tech, Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Its almost like a new form of virtual Apartheid.