Blackwater boss defends his thugs

The boss of US security contractor Blackwater Tuesday denied his staff ran riot like “cowboys” and said they acted appropriately in a Baghdad shootout which left at least 10 Iraqis dead.

Company founder and chief executive Erik Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL who had previously shunned the limelight, warned lawmakers there had been a “rush to judgment” over the deadly September 16 shooting.

Prince, wearing a suit and close cropped hair, confronted hostile Democratic lawmakers determined to put his firm, which has reportedly scooped one billion dollars in US government contracts, in the dock.

“Based on everything we currently know, the Blackwater team acted appropriately while operating in a very complex war zone on September 16,” Prince said in prepared testimony.

“To the extent there was loss of innocent life, let me be clear that I consider that tragic,” said Prince.

Prince appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee amid a public storm over the role of for-profit contract firms in war zones, and a string of probes into Blackwater’s conduct.

A committee report found that Blackwater, which protects US diplomats and visiting dignitaries in Iraq, had been involved in nearly 200 shootings there since 2005, and accused it of covering up fatal shootings involving its staff.

But Prince warned the firm was the victim of “negative and baseless allegations reported as truth.”

“There has been a rush to judgment based on inaccurate information,” he said.

Committee chairman Henry Waxman questioned whether Blackwater activities conflicted with US interests.

“The September 16 shooting … is just the latest in a series of troubling Blackwater incidents,” the Democrat said.

In one cited by the committee, a drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed a guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi.

Prince said the man had broken company rules, and had been immediately fired, and he rejected a remark by one senior US commander quoted in the Washington Post that Blackwater employees “often act like cowboys.”

“We strive for perfection … but the fog of war and accidents, and the bad guys just have to get lucky once.”

Representative Dennis Kucinich, a longshot Democratic presidential hopeful, said firms like Blackwater had no interest in promoting peace.

“If war is privatized, then private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going. The longer the war goes on, the more money they make.”

Prince said no one, including US lawmakers on visits to Iraq, had been killed while being protected by Blackwater guards, most US veterans, while 30 employees had died while on duty.

The committee report accused the State Department of failing to restrain Blackwater’s activities and helping to cover up some wrongdoings.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she wanted a full probe into the firm.

“I have been very clear with people that I expect it to be probing, I expect it to be a 360-degree look,” she told the New York Post.

The FBI meanwhile said Tuesday that it had sent a team to Iraq to help the State Department investigate the Baghdad shooting.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in San Salvador meanwhile that Pentagon investigators who recently made a survey of private contractors in the country, had made recommendations for strengthening oversight.

Blackwater guards opened fire on September 16 as they protected a convoy of American diplomats in west Baghdad, killing at least 10 Iraqis.

The firm said its guards fired in response to a car bomb, but a senior police officer said the shooting was unprovoked.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met President George W. Bush at the White House as Prince was in the hot seat, but did not mention the contractor, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

“I don’t think that he (Bush) has any reason to believe that they are not, at the moment, conducting themselves appropriately,” she said.

6 Responses to "Blackwater boss defends his thugs"

  1. Jenifer D.  October 3, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Now if he just raises that hand a little higher and screams “Heil!”

    I say we bring the troops home and leave his boys over there that might save the taxpayers a couple bucks.

  2. Klaus Hergeschimmer  October 3, 2007 at 11:23 am

    HAH HAH HAH!!! -Your “Heil” comment about Erik Prince is right on the mark.

    Like Schultz in the TV show Hogan’s heroes, Prince’s plausible deniablity is “I know nothing”

  3. Bill Robinson  October 3, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    At first glance I thought it was a pic of Oliver North being sworn in before he lied profusely to Congress during the Regan/Bush Administration.
    Come to think of it, there ain’t much difference between these two crooks after all…
    They make me sick with their smirking, better-than-you scornful attitudes. More thieves stealing from the coffers of the taxpayers.
    Give me their address–I’ll send them an envelope of puke to voice my response to their smirks.
    Bill Robinson

  4. bryan mcclellan  October 3, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Lets have a pukethon so we can all send them your message Bill.Smirking Rats they all be!

  5. Paolo  October 4, 2007 at 12:38 am

    Pirate firms like Blackwater, KBR, and Halliburton are predictable results of a very longstanding Republican Party concept: the “partnership between government and business.”

    The idea goes all the way back to the early 1800’s, when the Whigs invented something they called “the American system.” Basically, it was the government giving special favors and big contracts to business interests if they toed the party line.

    In the 1920’s, Italy experimented with the same concept, and called it Fascism. It’s all the same game: corporate businesses join up with the government for huge profits on the condition they do what they’re told, ask no questions, and reveal as little as possible to the poor, stupid public that foots the bill through taxation.

    Mussolini is alive and well at Blackwater.

    The sad part of this is that a lot of people identify these government bootlicking companies as examples of the “free market.” Blackwater is not “free enterprise.” It is corporate fascism.

    This is why Murray Rothbard, the great libertarian economist, called for separation of state and economy. If the government is allowed to collude with private businesses, Blackwater is what you get.

  6. SEAL  October 4, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Let me see if I have this right. Prince says he has 1000 men in Iraq. His firm is paid a Billion dollars for them to provide sequrity. That equals 1 million dollars per Blackwater guard in Iraq. Are my figures correct?

    Is it just me or does that price seem a little too high?

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