Blackwater ex-boss offers to ‘take-on’ ISIS!



by Selvam Canagaratna

"They combine a mad love of country with an equally mad indifference to life, their own as well as others."

– Stephen Fischer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.

Forget the ‘mad love of country’ that Hitchcock character gave voice to in the film quoted above. For Erik Prince, former US Navy SEAL and founder of the notorious private security firm Blackwater – later re-branded as Xe Services, and more recently as Academi – his patriotism begins and ends with amassing filthy lucre, a trait he shares wholeheartedly with America’s One Per Cent which manages the politicians in that nation’s bogus two-party system.

Prince is undoubtedly promoting the paperback version of his bestselling book, Civilian Warriors: The Inside story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, to be released very shortly. Writing on his own company’s blog post, Prince said President Obama’s strategy to counter the Islamic State was "half-hearted at best" and would not be able to dig the militants out of any urban centers where they sought shelter among civilians.

He made the point that military clearing operations inevitably fell to foot soldiers, and the Iraqi military was "demonstrably inept after billions spent on training and equipping." He noted that when ISIS attacked Iraqi units earlier this year, the Iraqi army folded up and the jihadists were able to seize tanks, Howitzers, armored vehicles and ammunition, among other supplies and equipment.

"The Kurds, once a lean and strong fighting force that routinely rebuffed Saddam’s forces, now find themselves outgunned, under-equipped, and overwhelmed," Prince wrote. "But they do fight, and they fight bravely. The Kurds’ biggest problem is the US State Department blocking them from selling their oil and from buying serious weaponry to protect their stronghold and act as a stabilizing force in the region."

Prince’s message to Obama was as simple as it was direct: "If the United States is unwilling to send in ground troops, let the private sector finish the job."

Erik Prince’s apparently generous offer to Obama came just days before a jury in a US Federal District Court found four former Blackwater security guards guilty in a deadly shooting in Baghdad in 2007 when 17 Iraqi civilians were killed in cold blood. The Court held the deaths – which began when a convoy of the guards suddenly began firing in a crowded intersection – were not the result of a "battlefield tragedy" but a deliberate "criminal act".

The convictions on murder, manslaughter and weapons charges represented a legal and diplomatic victory for the United States government, which had urged Iraqis to put their faith in the American court system. That faith was tested repeatedly over seven years as the investigation faced many setbacks, leaving Iraqis deeply suspicious that anyone would be held responsible for the deaths.

A US Congressional Report had already found Blackwater personnel were involved in almost 200 shootings in Iraq between 2005 and 2007. On December 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater guard shot one of the men guarding Iraq Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. On February 4, 2007 an Iraqi journalist was "killed,": February 7 three men guarding an Iraqi state television station were killed, September 9 five people near a government building were killed, September 12 five people were wounded in eastern Baghdad and, on September 16 seventeen Iraqis were killed in Nisour Square, shootings for which the verdicts of guilty against Blackwater employees were returned on October 22, 2014. In addition to having been accused of shooting many Iraqi civilians while in Iraq, the company earned more than $1 billion.

On February 25, 2010 US Senator Carl Levin wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate whether Xe Services (Blackwater’s new name at the time) made false or misleading statements when bidding for a contract in Afghanistan. He also wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates describing corrupt practices the company might have engaged in and requesting its activities be investigated. He said the Department of Defense "should review the transcript of this hearing and consider the deficiencies in Blackwater’s performance . . . before a decision is made to award the police training work [in Afghanistan] to Blackwater." But on June 21, 2010 Blackwater was awarded a $120 million contract for providing ‘protective security services’ at new US consulates in Afghanistan. [The inevitable conclusion: ‘someone up there’ was looking after Erik Prince’s empire! If truth be told, Prince’s fail-safe business tactic was to regularly tap retired CIA officials for executive positions in Blackwater; hardly surprising, then, that the firm was also briefly hired to covertly track and kill al-Qaeda operatives worldwide, a program that was shelved before any killings were effected.]

While Prince’s offer to Obama was receiving far more publicity than it deserved, the man himself turned nostalgic about his old company: "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. "The professionals would be hired for their combat skills in armour, artillery, small unit tactics, special operations, logistics, and whatever else may be needed. 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."

Christopher Brauchli, a lawyer, writing in CounterPunch magazine about Prince’s ‘generous’ offer to Obama, noted: "At first blush it seemed like a great idea and the only question it raises is why in the world no one in the administration suggested it."

Given the terrible reputation that Blackwater has earned in Iraq, Brauchli then gave voice to what many readers would themselves have been asking: why the US uses private contractors?

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta had, in a 2010 interview, offered this, the lamest of lame excuses: "that, in a war zone, we have need for security . . . Unfortunately, there are few companies that provide that kind of security. The State Department relies on them . . . to a certain extent. So we bid out some of those contracts. They [Blackwater] outbid everyone else by about $26 million." Brauchli noted that in an interview with Rachel Martin over National Public Radio on October 26, 2014, one of the guests said that as recently as late summer the United States had 35,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan – and 52,000 private contractors providing them security. [Babes in the woods!]

Dan Lamothe writing in The Washington Post noted it was not the first time Mr. Prince had claimed that his Blackwater outfit "would have changed the equation in the fight against ISIS", saying as much at a political event last month: that it was "a shame the Obama administration had ‘crushed’ his old business because it could have solved the issue of whether to put American troops on the ground in Iraq this year. Contractors could have "gone in there and done it, and be done, and not have a long, protracted political mess that I predict will ensue," Prince claimed.

Erik Prince is now chairman of Hong Kong-listed Frontier Services Group – of mercenaries – which operates in Africa. He proudly claims to provide "innovative, cost-effective, sustainable solutions to clients. We are bold in our approach, agile in our response, and resourceful in our solutions."

No doubt, but Prince forgets to mention some of the other, murderous qualities his mercenary outfit had resort to without rhyme or reason.

But, most helpfully, memory remains to haunt us.

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