Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
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AUGUST 5, 2009 5:46PM

No Surprise, Just Shock: Blackwater CEO Implicated In Murder

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Erik Prince

Jeremy Scahill reports at The Nation that the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, has been implicated in silencing whistleblowers at his company by killing them:

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

Nothing about Blackwater (now called XE) surprises me, and I'm very, very sad to find that out.  These statements came as part of sworn affidavits filed August 3, meaning the men who alleged this face perjury charges if what they say is proven untrue.  In the affadavit from John Doe #2 [.pdf via The Nation], this should-be-shocking line caught my attention (emphasis mine):

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.  For example, Mr. Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to "lay Hajiis out on cardboard."  Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game.

Yes.  War was a game to these men, many of whom also didn't pass necessary mental health screenings, according to JD#2, who also says Prince fired mental health professionals for giving bad reports.  John Doe #2 was, according to Scahill, a former Blackwater manager.  In his statement, he says that Mr. Prince and his associates have threatened to kill him since he left the company, and he offered his testimony even under that threat.  It's probably no wonder that Prince and his top managers would want this man to keep quiet: among his charges are that Prince knew of and encouraged the use of illegal weapons and ammunition and "did nothing to stop the use of prostitutes, including child prostitues, among his men" on their specially-construced Man Camp base in Iraq. 

The other affadavit was from John Doe #1, who may actually still be working for the company.  It provided some supporting information for JD2's charge of murderous intent, namely that he offers his testimony as a John Doe because he's heard of others being killed in suspicious circumstances after cooperating against Mr. Prince.

John Doe #1 talks mostly about the kind of stuff that's pretty well known about Blackwater, outlining a specific instance when civilians were shot at for no reason and the man responsible wasn't punished, but rewarded, for that behavior.

The worst part is it should be the pattern of unjustified, terroristic violence that brings Blackwater down.  Instead, I fear that if Erik Prince ever sees jail time, it will be for that ultimate of attention grabbing crimes: killing an American.  If that is the charge that's proven, and that's the charge that sends him away, it will be a crime in and of itself, a discounting of the value of the hundreds of Iraqi lives lost through the culture of hatred he encouraged at his mercenary company.  And he shouldn't be held solely accountable for that -- those in the government who hired him, interacted with him, and took donations, advice, training, even transportation from him -- they are all culpable, and should face investigation.

Does that seem extreme?  Could the Bush administration have known how wrong things would go with Blackwater?  I think they could -- worse, I think they wanted Blackwater for exactly this kind of ruthlessness.  They wanted a crusade, and they hired a crusader.

The lesson of the past eight years was that the worst case scenario is possible.  When George W. Bush was sworn in, I was upset but not terrified.  That was partly ignorance, sure, but it was also fact-based optimism.  His father wasn't the world's greatest president, but he'd never seemed to be a threat to the very fabric that holds America together.  What I didn't understand was that presidents often lack only opportunity for remaking the country in their ideal image.  George W. Bush got that opportunity on September 11, 2001, and this world, secured by Erik Prince's army, is the what's come from it.

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I want to see Congressional investigations.
This is a truly fascinating story. Thanks for sharing it. I've been around life for awhile now, and I'm not a conspiracy theorist in the least, but stories like this make me wonder what's really going on with our government, especially the Bushies and Co. This is scary stuff.
doesn't matter what you want, doesn't matter what you do.

obama is king, and has proclaimed that all is well, or else. so peasants should keep their mouths shut, lest they be visited after dark by wide men with very short hair.

learn to curtsy as the limo rolls by, and cry out: live forever mighty king, and wonderful new gear!
Nice Catch Saturn! Name change to XE was ridiculous. Many missed this one, they would have loved to bury this story till the weekend. Keep up your fine work!
OLN, I'm with you and awaiting the day.

Thanks, Grif and Patrick; I give credit to Glenn Greenwald, too, who has a great brief on this up at Big Salon.
Not at all surprised or shocked by this. Blackwater is as corrupt and evil as they come. A Canadian man was killed working for them and the company's attitude toward his family was truly an eye opener.
[shudder] And here I sort of used to think Jericho was a work of fiction.
(What in the hell is loomis on about?)
VR, loomis doesn't really know

Saturn, thanks for this, and I'm with you, not surprised at all. I'm wondering if these guys think they're in a movie like Taken or Bourne.x. They seem to not have a care for how most people live in the real world, but then, I always looked on them as the spawn of Cheney. I'm hoping at least that if it were not for Cheney, they would not have had the free reign to be the masters of the universe they envisioned themselves to be. What is an interesting question is why they were needed in Iraq in the first place...and that can probably be laid on Rumsfeld doorstep.

Not surprised at all.
"Not surprised at all" pretty much sums up my reaction to this news as well. Blackwater is just... gah. It's so upsetting to even think about. NO private company should get to have their own military-grade helicopters and weapons.

I've been meaning to get around to reading the book about Blackwater that came out a few years ago, but I've been putting it off, because I know that it'll probably just piss me off.

Great post as usual.
This is neither shock nor surprise for me, sad to say. The demeanor and conduct of the Bush administration signaled a decline in oversight, ethics, morals and respect for the law that was unprecedented in our lifetimes.

There's privatization for ya! I wish the American people would quit buying into privatization and all of that movement's false promise.
Why am I suddenly reminded of "Schindler's List?"
Every time I read Saturn’s blog, she is always covering the story from the day’s news I’ve been thinking about. Kinda eerie.

Jeremy Scahill, the guy who broke the story in The Nation about these allegations, is also the author of the book on Blackwater referred to by mad_typist.

Erik Prince is actually kind of a scary little psychopath—I would not be surprised to find out that there are little secret graves for lost pets all around his childhood home. He’s wealthy, well-connected politically through family, socially conservative, squeamish and uptight in a kind of “I secretly shave my balls or I won’t feel clean” kind of way. He quit the Bush I White house because they were too liberal, and then broke ranks with his political dynasty to support Buchanan in the next election until his dad and sister reigned him in.

He’s a fundamentalist converted crypto-Catholic—I wouldn’t be surprised if Mel Gibson sent him an autographed copy of “The Passion of The Christ” and a little bottle of Jergens for his birthday. The shared religious faith is his connection with Paul Bremer and drove the latter’s continuous support for Blackwater even as the evidence of the company’s incompetence and malfeasance kept rising. But he was not the best choice to lead an effective military mission in a Muslim country.

I agree with Saturn that it would be tragic if what it took for Prince to face charges is that he finally targeted American lives. I have heard several times and from different sources of things like Iraqi prostitutes, including children, killed and their bodies discarded by Blackwater personnel stationed at bases in Iraq. We already know of their general contempt for the value of Iraqi life in general.

But the blame for the ascendancy of Eric prince and Blackwater rise does not rest with him. We as a country lost our minds after 9/11, and CREATED the enemy we feared. It is now truly a clash of fundamentalisms, and Al-Qaeda and their ilk have home field advantage. Lost in the mix is that AQ is no more representative of the Muslim tradition than Erik Prince and his crusader Catholicism is of our country’s Judeo Christian tradition.
Thanks for posting this. I'll be interested in seeing how it's covered in the U.S.
Another Truman Commission please. Excruciating criminal trials please. Indictments please.

A full bore legal action so the strongest possible message is sent to Kenyans and Sudanese and Russians and Indonesians and everyone else that this is NOT American, PLEASE.
And what about the rumors of Blackwater Guys being in New Orleans, post Katrina?
Great post, Saturn. And thanks for tagging these hired killers what they are...mercenaries rather than the "contractors" euphemism. As a Marine Veteran who served honorably in Vietnam, I find it despicable that these guys are presented as some kind of heroes. They're hit men for hire who would apply their craft for anyone if the price is right. You'll find them fighting for all kinds of corrupt governments, not just the Bush crowd. And the fact that Prince is carrying on his own personal christian jihad is frightening. This jerk need to be shut down and incarcerated.

War is sickening enough, but this goes so far beyond that. Can we possibly sink any lower?
What makes me really sad is that this isn't screamed across the headlines. Everyone just shrugs their shoulders because they are told that this is what politics/war is all about.

The Bush Administration was arrogant and attracted sociopaths from all corners that were welcomed with open arms.

Congressional investigations could not happen fast enough.
I want to see massive CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS staged by the US Justice Department. But I gauge our chances of seeing that as slim and none. It's a matter of political fortitude and cojones.
I'm with you, bbd -- I think Rumsfeld has as much to answer for here as anyone.

Mad_t, that Blackwater book broke parts of my brain with anger and fear. I recommend it, but slowly, and during the sunniest part of the year. And it's from that book that my own fears of Prince, which are right in line with those of whitenoise above, come.

Doc, I don't think that's rumor -- I think it's been proven they were deployed, hasn't it? Now my reading has gone fuzzy.
For the past few days since The Nation broke the story I've set Google Alerts to let me know as soon as something new is posted.

I have a friend who's a contractor for another firm in Iraq. When I told him ages ago about how Prince was a radical Christian, it was shrugged off as being something else for the liberal media to rag about. He was convinced that Prince wasn't a Christian at all.

There is an absolute disconnect by some who feel that what we have all seen and knew was occurring was somehow.... not real. These allegations against him should not be surprising at all. There has always been the news that Blackwater ran rough-shod and was extraordinarily hostile towards the Iraqis, leading to the death of countless Iraqi civillians. These reports tended to get buried by the media. If he does serve time in prison, I doubt it will end up being for the Iraqi lives lost but rather his involvement in the deaths of Americans.
Cindy, I totally agree -- these contractors have become symbols of America to millions.
Blackwater/XE is only the tip of this hideous nightmare. Look into Wackenhut, Pinkertons, DynCorp, and tell me what you see. Private armies, listed on the Stock Exchange, being deployed all over the world, many at the behest of dictatorial governments, but also for NATO, the US, and so on. As a corollary, read up on prison privatization...they go hand in hand. This isn't just scurrilous, it's horrific. These companies draw personnel from the military, but also from publications such as SOF, (Soldier of Fortune), and the like. The people who post their resumes' in the classifieds of these rags aren't just into it for the money, (up to $1000.00 per day), these people love combat, love killing and torturing, and a lot of them are Section 8s, who were booted out of the service becuase they got into their work just a little TOO much. (kinda ironic...they send you to war and if you dig it too much, they can you...weird). These people could never pass a psych screen, but these private organizations don't want well-adjusted humans doing their wet-work: They want these sociopathic mad dogs because they know that they will operate mercilessly, and do whatever they are ordered to do without question.
Currently, their are between 15 and 20,000 of these bastards operating worldwide, and their numbers are growing.
Another aspect of this scenario is that for the most part, these "Mercs", as they are called, kill and maim with impunity. They are almost above the law. This is work Jeffery Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy would have loved.
Blackwater (sorry, Blackwater people, but Xe just doesn't describe your brand of evil) is a company of mercenaries. Soldiers of fortune. Cold-blooded killers. Their job is to kill people. They don't have to follow all those darned regulations like the US Army does. So it's open season on A-Rabs.

When you put together a militia of people who are willing (and many of them excited) to kill people, lots of people will be killed. In Erik Prince's world, killing is a perfectly logical solution to a problem. So if one of his employees gets out of line, just kill him. It fits in with the Blackwater ethos.

Hiring mercenaries (and paying them scads of money) was a lot easier than instituting the draft, which would have provided plenty of men to fight. But the draft never could've happened and we would've had to quit Iraq. What a tragedy that would have been!

Using Blackwater was a deal with the devil that one no one will be held accountable for. Though, if there were a hell, there would be seats of rusty spikes reserved for Bush and Cheney on either side of Satan. You know, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.