Alfred Mendes looks at the men who fight other people’s wars, and who’s behind them.


Due to the very nature of their task, ‘soldiers of fortune’ - or mercenaries - have played a destabilising role throughout history, and whereas in the past their paymasters have been such as Alexander the Great, and feudal barons, in today’s capitalist world their paymasters are fast becoming business corporations. In his study of mercenaries, David Isenberg notes this phenomenon, stressing that “the important distinction here is that such firms are bound by the terms of a business contract and not necessarily those of international law” (1). On the face of it, this would seem to mean that nothing much has changed since those earlier days of Alexander and the barons,  but in view of the enormous potency of modern weaponry coupled with the increasingly global spread of capitalism - with its inherent inequitable class structure - it follows that today the destabilising role of these mercenary groups now poses a far greater and more wide-spread  hazard than in times past. Furthermore, this hazard is exacerbated when, as in the case of Western capitalist ‘democracies’, the corporate establishment wields immense political clout. This is particularly true of the USA - that quintessential dominant capitalist state, with its de facto corporate-controlled Administration.

The most influential of these American mercenary groups is the Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) which, to quote its website homepage “is a professional services company engaged in defense related contracting in the USA and international markets”. A brief resume of some of the more high-profile board members since its incorporation in 1988 confirms its prestigious standing within the military/Intelligence community (though it is of interest to note that these Washington-based corporate mercenaries - all retired military officers - are known , among themselves, as ‘beltway bandits’. This is justified cynicism):


          President/CEO: General Carl E. Vuono (US Army Chief of Staff ‘87 to ‘92 - and, as such, oversaw both the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War)

          Snr.Vice-Pres.: General Crosbie ‘Butch’ Saint  (Commander US Army Europe ‘88 to ‘92)

          Executive Vice-Pres.: General Richard H. Griffith (Asst. US Army Commander Intelligence in Europe ‘89 to ‘91)

          Vice-Pres Operations: General Ed Soyster (Asst. US Commander Europe ‘82; later Head of Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] - retired ‘88)


As for its contracts ‘in the USA and international markets’ quoted above, it is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of these are with the US government, but, in view of America’s increasingly intrusive advance eastwards since the fall of the Soviet Union, it is equally inevitable that MPRI’s involvement in ‘international markets’ is increasing - as the following list of some of the events in which it played a pivotal role illustrates (MPRI has been - and is - active in a number of regions, including Columbia, Africa and the Caucasus, but the Balkans will be the only region covered here because of its importance on the stage of contemporary world politics; because it exemplifies, in a concise manner, MPRI’s activities; and because it falls within the constraints of an article of this length:

In 1994, a contract  - titled Democracy Transition Assistance Program (DTAP) - was agreed between the Croat defence minister and the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Deutch (who subsequently became Director of CIA from ‘95 until he was forced to resign the following year because he had improperly stored classified information on his personal computer disc!). The contract was awarded to MPRI who would train and equip the Croatian army under the command of retired General Richard Griffith (see above). This resulted in the Croatian attack  on the Serbs in West Krajina, in which more than 150,000 Serbs fled the region. The efficiency of this attack was largely due to a tactic known as ‘Airland Battle 2000’, the brainchild of General Crosbie ‘Butch’ Saint (see above) at the special training center, TRADOC, under the command of Gen’l Vuono (see above). It is worthy of note that DTAP, in effect, violated the 1991 UN Security Council embargo on Yugoslavia which made ‘direct military assistance illegal’.

In May ‘96, in the aftermath of the Dayton Peace Accord, MPRI was awarded a 3-year contract (subsequently renewed) to ‘train & equip’ the Bosnian Muslim/Croat army - again under the command of General Griffith. This was financed by the Pentagon and five Muslim countries, the Pentagon supplying a significant amount of its surplus weaponry (including 45 tanks, 80 armoured personnel carriers, et al.). MPRI was also given a contract by the State Department to monitor the Serbia/Bosnia border to ensure that the former did not supply the Bosnian Serbs with weapons.          

In the aftermath of NATO’s bombing of Kosovo in 1999, the KLA (once rightly considered by the Western Powers as ‘terrorist’) was transformed into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and the MPRI was awarded the contract to ‘train & equip’ same - again under the command of General Griffith. Intriguingly, the commander of this newly-formed KPC was one Brigadier General Agim Ceku, an Albanian Kosovan who had been serving in the Croatian army when, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly of 10th June ‘99, he had “masterminded the successful HV (Croatian army) offensive at Medak in September ‘93; and he had played an important role in the Croat’s routing of the Serbs in Western Krajina (covered above). He was thus well-acquainted with General Griffith.          

As confirmed by Major General Metodi Stamboliski of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) General Staff in the magazine Defence of April 2000, “Our work has been significantly assisted by the contribution made by the US team known as the MPRI team, headed by the retired general of the US Army, General Richard Griffith”, adding “Among other things, the MPRI team has also developed a G-3 assistance program”. G-3 was the title of the ARM training program. In his article ‘Proxy War in Macedonia’ Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian professor, reveals another pertinent fact: namely, that the Chief of Staff of ARM, General Jovan Andrejevski had attended a military school in the USA, under General Griffith.(2)                   

This government/ private army relationship is generally seen as a case of the former disassociating itself from the actions of the latter (known as ‘outsourcing’ in business circles): “We cannot be held responsible for what they do!”. This does not stand up to closer scrutiny in the case of MPRI. Here is a company so self-evidently close to the Administration that the two could reasonably be considered one - and inseparable. To quote General Soyster (see above) in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times of 3rd December 2000 regarding MPRI’s contract to advise and train Columbia’s military and police: “They are using us to carry out American foreign policy. We certainly don’t determine foreign policy, but we can be part of the US government executing its foreign policy”. This poses no problem in America. As Ken Silverstein reveals in his article ‘Privatizing War’ in The Nation : “Congress reviews and can restrict the dispatch of Pentagon military trainers abroad. It has no authority over private trainers, who need only get a licence from the State Department, a process that happens far from view” (3). Such is the nature,  the power of a Corporate Administration - to say nothing of its lack of ‘democratic’ accountability! : In the same article, Silverstein reveals that, while head of the DIA, General Soyster had dealt out a number of contracts to the well-known German arms dealer, Ernst Werner Glatt, for the procurement of Soviet weapons which were then shipped to the USA “from whence they would be sent to America’s proxy troops in Latin America, Asia and Africa. After Soyster retired, he and Glatt became business partners on at least one weapons deal” - adding - “ Glatt was the favorite arms merchant of the CIA, which chose him to move arms to the contras in Nicaragua and the mujahedeen in Afghanistan”. Silverstein further added that Glatt was supplying weapons to Croatia until “at least late last year”, and had bought “a country estate in Virginia, which he named the ‘Black Eagle’, a symbol of Nazi Germany.”

Having ventured into the hazardous realm of finance - even going to the extent of adding the suffix ‘Incorporated’ to their company’s name - these soldiers of fortune were, presumably, not surprised when, on the 18th of July 2000, they were incorporated into L-3 Communications Corp., a company whose main customers were the US Department of Defense and US government intelligence agencies - and on whose board sat John M. Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Clinton. This is a company specialising in telecommunications and ‘simulating training’ which had just previously acquired two other firms: SY Technology and Raytheon - both firms engaged in telecommunication and simulation. Intriguingly - and alarmingly -  SY Tech. plays a crucial role in the Bush-sponsored Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation - a throw-back to Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ planned project.

L-3 was co-founded in 1997 by Robert LaPenta and Frank Lanza, the latter being its Chairman/CEO. He had previously been Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of military aircraft, which, in the eyes of those countries on the receiving end of same - such as Germany, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq - would surely classify them as ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Not surprisingly, Lockheed owns 34% of L-3’s common stock. To quote Forbes magazine of 7th July ‘02: “Lanza is capitalising on the dramatic change in military strategy over the last decade” (see ‘Airland 2000 Battle’ above) - to say nothing of the increase in the Defense Department’s 2000 budget. ‘Forbes’ further states that L-3’s battlefield simulators & training bring in $400 million in sales each year....and “in the Defense Department’s recently released quadrennial review of the military, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld listed battlefield simulation as a priority”. Having already noted the clonal relationship between the US Administration and MPRI, it is clearly apparent that this noteworthy merger would not - to put it mildly - have occurred without the former’s permission.                   

Having merged with L-3, MPRI, in November 2000, created its own sub-division, the Alexandria Group, which, in its own words “will provide the highest quality education, training & organisational expertise to law enforcement & corporations around the world”, adding that it is staffed by law enforcement professionals headed by retired FBI Assistant Director Joseph R. Wolfinger. This was certainly a broadening of its professed earlier aims which were, understandably, martial in nature - as confirmed by the following quote from MPRI’s website: “The company’s business focus is on military matters, to increase training, equipping, force design & management, professional development, concepts & doctrine, organisational & operational assistance, quick reaction military contractual support, and democracy transition assistance programs for the military forces of emerging republics”.                   

America is thus ignoring President Eisenhower’s warning to the American people in his farewell address when, in his reference to what he termed this ‘military-industrial complex’, he warned that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists - and will persist”. Prophetic words!

The MPRI are mercenaries on a mission - according to the words of Mammon!

1)       David Eisenberg Soldiers Of Fortune Ltd. (Center for Defense

Information monograph, Nov. 1997)



This article also appears in the Islip Unity Group Political Newsletter, Vol.11, No.6. Write to George Anthony at midhurst14@cs.som for more information about this monthly bulletin of political news and comment from a group of British activists committed (in their own words) to “Communist and Left Unity”.