Blackwater 1: A Short History

Blackwater USA, while not the only private mercenaries in Iraq, are the largest. They may have up to 120,000 soldiers providing security for US diplomats and corporate war profiteers. We don’t know because Blackwater uses the independent contractor scam and a dizzying maze of subcontracting corporations to hide the actual numbers. What we do know gets scarier the deeper you dig.

erik-prince.jpgBlackwater USA is a private security corporation founded in 1996 by Erik Prince, the multi-millionaire son of billionaire Edgar Prince. Erik, an ex-Navy SEAL, saw a business opportunity as the Clinton Administration began outsourcing security services for US diplomats abroad, and when his father died and the family sold his businesses, making Erik even richer than his Trust Fund, he bought a huge piece of land in Virginia and built a state-of-the-art training ground for mercs and security personnel. Blackwater munched along for the first 5 years training SWAT teams and elite SEAL teams, with Erik using his own money to keep it going during the long slack times. Then came 9/11 and a huge change.

“Before the events of Sept. 11, I was getting pretty cynical about how people felt about training,” Prince told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper two weeks after the Twin Towers fell. “Now the phone is ringing off the hook.”

But it wasn’t until 2004 that Blackwater really took off, and by 2005 it had become but a part of a corporate entity known as The Prince Group, which included Prince Manufacturing and four – count ’em – aviation companies. It was and is now the only private security contractor with its own air force. Its annual report in early ’06 showed that in the previous year it had increased its business 600% over the year before.

The source of all that wealth was, of course, the Bush Administration, which threw no-bid, $$$multi-million$$$ contracts at Prince by the handful for everything from diplomatic security in Baghdad to counterterrorism and drug enforcement in Afghanistan to “provid[ing] 164 armed guards for FEMA reconstruction projects” after Katrina that were really street patrols.

In an hourlong conversation I had with four Blackwater men, they characterized their work in New Orleans as “securing neighborhoods” and “confronting criminals.” They all carried automatic assault weapons and had guns strapped to their legs. Their flak jackets were covered with pouches for extra ammunition.

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One might ask, given the enormous presence in New Orleans of National Guard, US Army, US Border Patrol, local police from around the country and practically every other government agency with badges, why private security companies are needed, particularly to guard federal projects. “It strikes me…that that may not be the best use of money,” said Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Indeed one might ask. Why does such largesse – over $1 BILLION$$$ in 4 years – bless the likes of Blackwater when Wackenhut has been around a good deal longer, sports a far more extensive resume, and has just as many connections to the corrupt GOP and Bush Admin as Blackwater?

Because Blackwater’s political connections are extensive. So is the amount of money Prince and his family have showered on Republicans.

According to election records, Blackwater’s CEO and co-founder, billionaire Erik Prince, has given tens of thousands to Republicans, including more than $80,000 to the Republican National Committee the month before Bush’s victory in 2000. This past June, he gave $2,100 to Senator Rick Santorum’s re-election campaign. He has also given to House majority leader Tom DeLay and a slew of other Republican candidates, including Bush/Cheney in 2004. As a young man, Prince interned with President George H.W. Bush, though he complained at the time that he “saw a lot of things I didn’t agree with–homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kind of bills. I think the Administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative concerns.”

Actually, the number is in the $hundreds of thousands$almost $half=a-Mil$ since Blackwater was founded. More if you include the donations to random far-right Pubs like Ron Paul, Jim DeMint, Tom “There are lesbians in the lavatories” Coburn, and Duncan “Fence Me In” Hunter, and almost all of it paid out between ’97 and today (Scahill’s Nation article was written 2 years ago).

But Prince’s political contributions and his family’s connections may not be the determining factors. Two others have to be considered: its ex-govt officers and its connections to religious fundamentalists.

(to be cont’d)

8 Responses to “Blackwater 1: A Short History”

  1. matttbastard says:

    Mick: if you haven’t read it already, P.W. Singer’s recent Brookings report on PMCs is apropos (PDF).

  2. matttbastard says:

    Also see this SWJ blog post that gives you an idea of the military establishment perspective on PMCs (short answer: they’re here to stay, but need to be better regulated).

  3. matttbastard says:

    Whoops, forgot one last link – McClatchy reports that Blackwater has scaled back a planned expansion due to the PR fall out from the Sept 16th massacre.

    (Can you tell I HAD a BW post in the works? ;-))

  4. Zak says:

    How hard would it be to start your own PMC business like Erik Prince? honestly, it would take a hell of a lot of money but thats all it takes. People want money. If you pay the right people, you get what you want.

    Of course, thats not how we should think but its true and nothing will change the fact that MONEY MEANS EVERYTHING.

    Its just like this global warming bull shit that people complain about. then people say, “What happened? Why did they stop their cause to help get rid of global warming?” well its because some rich guy gave him or her money.

  5. Zak says:

    Oh and also, you said they should be better regulated. It can happen but that doesnt mean it will. Still, the whole subject it money

  6. willam says:

    i think that was a good think to do

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