Erik Prince looks like the all-American boy but don’t let the good looks fool you.
The trim, articulate 38-year-old served in the Navy SEALs, an elite commando unit. Ten years ago, Prince decided the particular set of skills used by himself and others could be put to more lucrative use on the private market, so he started Blackwater USA, a firm of mercenaries for hire, killers for profit who have profited extremely well in President George W. Bush’s illegal and immoral war in Iraq.
Blackwater operates in Iraq as trained assassins beyond the rules of war, killing at random while raking in huge fees from the U.S. government. They got the “no-bid” contract through strong political connections with the Bush administration: Prince’s sister-in-law is Betsy DeVos, a fact cat Bush fund-raiser, former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and wife of the party’s 2006 nominee for governor.
But despite the corporate facade, Blackwater is just another gang of mercenaries, killers for hire, ready to spread death and mayhem in any place where money can be made. The government even hired them to provide “security” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and, from all reports, the Blackwater operatives generated more terror than the storm.
Now Blackwater is under public scrutiny for killing Iraqi civilians without provocation and shooting first and trying to cover it up later. So Prince brought his all-American charm to Capitol Hill Tuesday to try and explain away the excesses of his gang of thugs.
“Based on everything we currently know, the Blackwater team acted appropriately while operating in a very complex war zone on Sept. 16,” Prince gave a Congressional committee as an excuse for killing at least 17 Iraqi civilians in a public square.
Complex war zone? Witnesses to the massacre on Sept. 16 say there was nothing complex about the way Blackwater’s killers opened fire on unarmed civilians. A bunch of gun-toting, trigger-happy thugs simply killed at will. Nothing complex. Just trained murderers going about their daily business.
A Congressional report says Blackwater USA has been involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005. The private army of mercenaries, the report says is “dangerously out of control.”
The report continues:
Blackwater has covered up fatal shootings involving its staff, is the first to shoot in most incidents, and has joined in US military tactical operations.
The Mafia had a name for such an operation: He called it “Murder, Inc.”
Prince, of course, has still more explanation for all this:
The real stupidity lies with the Bush Administration for allowing a politically-connected gang of murderers for hire to operate carte blanche in the Iraq war but it’s not the first or the last stupid thing Bush will do when it comes to Iraq.
The Iraq government says it’s had enough of Blackwater and its killers and wants the company out of the country. The U.S. is resisting.
Prince, like the mercenary he is, knows that if he can’t get rich in Iraq he can always kill for profit elsewhere.
“If the government doesn’t want us to do this, we’ll go do something else,” Prince told the Congressional hearing Tuesday.
Sadly, Prince is right. There’s always work for professional killers and money is the only oath of loyalty for a gang of mercenaries like Blackwater USA.