It was only a matter of time for this to happen. Now that President Barack Obama has decided to bomb Syria and Iraq in an apparent effort to dislodge the Islamic State (or, ISIS), a big-time proponent of hired military contractors has decided to offer his two cents on the effort. Erik Prince, the ex-chief of Blackwater, says Obama should send a core of hired mercenaries to fight the Islamic State.
Prince, brother to former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Betsy DeVos, recently reminisced about the good ole' days, when he was paid an enormous about of money from the U.S. government to send thousands of private contractors to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"If the old Blackwater team were still together, I have high confidence that a multi-brigade-size unit of veteran American contractors or a multi-national force could be rapidly assembled and deployed to be that necessary ground combat team," Prince wrote on the website of Frontier Services Group, a security and logistics contractor where he is now the executive officer and chairman.
"A competent professional force of volunteers would serve as the pointy end of the spear and would serve to strengthen friendly but skittish indigenous forces," he continued.
In case you're unaware of Blackwater's troubled past, we'll direct your attention to a 2009 story in Metro Times.
Prince, Betsy's brother, is a former Navy SEAL who co-founded Blackwater back in 1997. Earlier this year, as a group of his employees were slapped with manslaughter charges connected with the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, the company attempted to re-brand itself by changing its name to Xe (pronounced "zee"). Whatever the name, though, Prince and his company have long been the center of controversy. But the new allegations being reported by Scahill are the most explosive yet.
The investigative reporter [Jeremy Scahill] discloses allegations made in two sworn statements submitted in connection with five civil suits brought by Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater "for alleged war crimes and other misconduct." A federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia recently consolidated the cases.
Scahill wrote extensively about Blackwater's rise in his 2008 book, "Blackwater the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Army." What type of power was afforded to the group? This disturbing report from the New York Times' lays out one example.
Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.That's right. Officials sided with Blackwater.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
If you're interested in further reading, Jeremy Scahill's 2009 piece that was the subject of the aforementioned MT News Hits column can be found here.