In the world of the mercenary, colonialism is past, present, and future

On one day alone, three top news stories appear in the Associated Press and on the cover page of Yahoo! that deal with mercenaries:

U.S., Iraqis discuss Blackwater’s status
BAGHDAD – U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating Baghdad’s demand that security company Blackwater USA be expelled from the country within six months, and American diplomats appear to be working on how to fill the security gap if the company is phased out.

The talks about Blackwater’s future in Iraq flow from recommendations in an Iraqi government report on the incident Sept. 16 when, Iraqi officials determined, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square and killed 17 Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action.

Point No. 2 in the report says:

“The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws.”

Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable….

Ex-French mercenary Denard dies at 78
PARIS – Bob Denard, a mercenary who staged coups, battled communism and fought for French interests and his own across Africa for more than three decades, has died, his sister said Sunday. He was 78.

Denard died Saturday in the Paris area, said his sister, Georgette Garnier. She declined to say how he died, but he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular problems.

A fervent anti-communist who had worked for several dictators and monarchs, Denard was among a group of postcolonial French mercenaries known as “les affreux” – the horrible ones. He claimed he had the backing of Paris, but was never given official support.

Denard was twice convicted in France for his role in an attempted coup in Marxist-controlled Benin in 1977, and a later short-lived coup in the impoverished Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros Islands in 1995. He received suspended prison terms in each case.

Denard was perhaps best known for controlling the Comoros behind a figurehead leader for most of the 1980s following a coup he led in the country.

Bob Denard was one of about a dozen aliases that he assumed during his colorful career. His real name was Gilbert Bourgeaud.

Denard was born in southwest France on Jan. 20, 1929, the son of a noncommissioned officer in the French colonial army. Garnier described him as a lifelong military man who was “adored by his men” – dozens of whom were former European soldiers.

After serving in the colonial army in French Indochina in the 1950s, Denard became a hired gun in 1961 when he moved to the Belgian Congo to help train government troops. From there, he took part in uprisings in Nigeria, Angola and Rhodesia, the British colony that later became Zimbabwe.

Denard also served the Shah of Iran and trained royalist troops in Yemen. He claimed he worked with British intelligence there, and with the CIA in Angola – where he once led a group of mercenaries into the country by bicycle.

Namibia deports US security employees
WINDHOEK, Namibia – Authorities have ordered the deportation of two Americans working for a security firm that was trying to recruit Namibians to work as guards at U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, a government minister said.

The Namibian Cabinet also recommended the closure of the local branch of the Nevada-based security firm, Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group (SOC-SMG), which was set up earlier this month, Information Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said Friday.

The firm had been targeting Namibians over the age of 25 as well as veterans of Namibia’s lengthy war with South Africa for independence. The company is reported to have held meetings with some increasingly disaffected war veterans, who have been campaigning for hefty pensions and gratuities from the state for their roles in the guerrilla war.

A sparsely populated desert country, Namibia presents an easy option for companies hoping to operate under the legal radar. The country also presents an alternative to neighboring South Africa, where controversial anti-mercenary legislation has been introduced which will clamp down on citizens wanting to work in security and military sectors abroad.

An estimated 2,000 to 4,000 South Africans worked in Iraq last year, helping guard oil installations, hotels and foreign residents. Thousands more are in other countries like Nigeria and Afghanistan. Many of them are white former members of the apartheid-era armed forces.