Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Erik Prince Defends His Hoodlums

Blackwater USA founder Erik D. Prince told a Congressional committee yesterday that his company’s employees in Iraq were not “trigger-happy mercenaries”, but were “loyal Americans doing a necessary job in hostile territory.” He said he was proud of his employees. He said the Blackwater guards had “strictly followed rules of engagement set by the State Department, which call for gradual escalation of force before any shots are fired.” However, the New York Times reports this morning that the House committee staff “found that Blackwater employees had fired their weapons 195 times since early 2005 and in a vast majority of incidents used their weapons before taking any hostile fire. The report also said that in most cases Blackwater guards fired from fast-moving vehicles and immediately fled the scene of any confrontation.” The latest outrageous Blackwater incident occurred on September 16th. The NYT says it started out as a family errand: “Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching. Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official familiar with an American investigation of the shootings offer new insights into the gravity of the episode in Nisour Square. And they are difficult to square with the explanation offered initially by Blackwater officials that their guards were responding proportionately to an attack on the streets around the square.” Near the end of his testimony, which lasted nearly three hours, Erik Prince made a thought-provoking statement. He said, “If the government doesn’t want us to do this, we’ll go do something else.” Oh really? What would that be? It was revealed during the hearing yesterday that the Blackwater company charges the United States government $1222 for each day of work for each of its mercenaries. In 2001, Blackwater took in less than $1 million in federal government contracts. But last year, Blackwater made nearly $600 million in federal money, most of it with contracts with the State Department. Committee Chairman Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) said it appeared the State Department was acting as “Blackwater’s enabler”. What “something else” does Erik Prince have in mind if the State Department cancels his contracts? Is the fanatic religious right-wing faction in the Republican Party prepared to pay Blackwater USA $600 million a year to start the religious war in the United States that the Prince family and James Dobson have predicted will happen if Republicans aren’t kept in office? That doesn’t seem likely. But then, what other service could Prince provide that would utilize his Blackwater thugs? Perhaps one of the seven United Arab Emirates needs a few thousand guns-for-hire at $1222 a day.

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