Sunday, January 28, 2007

Video :BLACKWATER the US Secretive Mercenary Firm

In this post:
1. a two part interview with Jeremy Scahill author of a book on Black Water
2. 'Iraq For Sale' bonus scene: Blackwater
3. A short bio of Blackwater's leader Erik Prince from Wikapedia
4. An interview with Erik Prince
5. Links to a couple of good books about Blackwater

Part Two

'Iraq For Sale' bonus scene: Blackwater

BLACKWATER USA, is the world's most secretive and powerful mercenary firm. Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest-growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet we know almost nothing about the firm's quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the US. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex- Navy Seal named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes, including President Bush.

This civilian reserve force is used by the President without needing Congress' approval. Fred Fielding was Blackwater's lawyer is now Bush's lawyer replacing Harriett Myer. Ken Star the special prosecute in the Clinton's impeachment fiasco is now Blackwater's counsel.

Erik Prince, born in 1969 in Holland, Michigan, is the founder and owner of the military support contractor Blackwater USA. A millionaire and former US Navy SEAL, after high school he briefly enrolled in the Naval Academy before attending and graduating from Hillsdale College. After college, he earned a commission in the Navy and served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia. When his father Edgar Prince unexpectedly died in 1995, he ended his Navy service prematurely. He sold his family's automobile parts company, Prince Corporation, for $1.4 billion and later moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater USA.

Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Prince's first wife died of cancer in 2003, and he has since remarried and has six children. He now runs Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, from an office in McLean, Virginia and also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a nonprofit group with a mission of helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ".

Due to its controversial role as an independent, though US-supported, military entity, Erik Prince and Blackwater USA have been the target of several allegations, leading to at least one major court case. Among these allegations are claims of unethical hiring practices and war profiteering.

Q&A: Blackwater's founder on the record

Erik Prince
Erik Prince

The Virginian-Pilot
© July 24, 2006

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater USA, is famously media-shy. But the former Navy SEAL agreed to an e-mail interview with The Virginian-Pilot. Here’s the complete text:

Q. Can you tell me a little about your personal history? I know you were a SEAL. When was that? Is that what brought you to the Hampton Roads area? How long did you live in Virginia Beach?

A. I was raised in Holland, Mich. My dad was a very successful entrepreneur. From scratch he started a company that first produced high pressure die-cast machines and grew into a world-class automotive parts supplier in west Michigan. They developed and patented the first lighted car sun visor, developed the car digital compass/thermometer and the programmable garage door opener.

Inside America's
Private Army

Not all their ideas were winners. Things like a sock-drawer light, an automated ham de-boning machine and a propeller driven snowmobile didn’t work out so well for the company. My dad used them as examples of the need for perseverance and determination.

I earned my pilot’s license at 17 and entered the Naval Academy after high school intending to be a Navy pilot. I didn’t like the academy but loved the Navy. This is where I was first exposed to the SEAL teams. I resigned after three semesters at the academy and attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, where I graduated in 1992. I re-entered the Navy through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a naval officer. I then joined the SEALs, where I served as an officer at SEAL Team 8. I deployed to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia.

As I trained all over the world, I realized how difficult it was for units to get the cutting-edge training they needed to ensure success. In a letter home while I was deployed, I outlined the vision that is today Blackwater.

I lived in Virginia Beach for about five years.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the genesis of Blackwater? What was your motivation in starting the company? Did you have any inkling that it would come so far so fast?

A. Just prior to a deployment, my dad unexpectedly died. My family’s business had grown to great success and I left the Navy earlier than I had intended to assist with family matters. I wanted to stay connected to the military so I built a facility to provide a world-class venue for U. S. and friendly foreign military, law enforcement, commercial, and government organizations to prepare to go into harm’s way. Many special operations guys I know had the same thoughts about the need for private advanced training facilities. A few of them joined me when I formed Blackwater. I was in the unusual position after the sale of the family business to self-fund this endeavor.

Q. How do you account for the phenomenal growth of Blackwater and the private security industry? Do you expect this growth to continue?

A. Blackwater's growth is due to a few simple, but important facts: We have always delivered our services complete, correct, and on time, and we continue to attract committed professionals who value service over self and who want to have an immediate positive impact for our customers.

Growth in this industry is not restricted to Iraq alone. Because of the demand, the companies who have continually invested for the long-term will be the companies who are looked at to provide services whenever they are needed. As I said before, when Blackwater got started there was little focus on training and readiness in individual skills.

We have a very long-term view to our work. We see ourselves assisting in the transformation of the DoD into a faster more nimble organization. The private sector has always led innovation in our country. If the government sees some of the things we are doing, and chooses to utilize us or to adopt and adapt some of our innovations in the defense of the nation, then all the better.

Q. Can you discuss the role played by Blackwater and other contractors in the Pentagon’s “total force,” as referenced in the latest Quadrennial Defense Review? What is its significance for Blackwater?

A. The "total force" refers to all resources available to be used in the nation's defense. Blackwater considers itself a partner to the DoD and all government agencies, and we stand ready to provide surge capacity, training, security and operational services in various areas at their request. We are honored to contribute in some small way.

American history details the contributions of private contractors in the development of our Nation. Examples include the Jamestown, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay colonies; all started as private investment endeavors whose security was provided by PMCs. Across the street from the White House is Lafayette Park; on its four corners stand statues of Lafayette, Von Steuben, Rochambeau, and Kosciusko. All were foreign professional military officers that came here to help build and develop the capacity of the Continental Army. The base of one of the statues bears the inscription: “He gave military training and discipline to the citizen soldiers who achieved the independence of the United States.” Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the American West consisted of some active duty soldiers but their “Corps of Discovery” crew also consisted of what would now be considered contractors.

Q. What are the economics of this industry? How is it cost-effective for the government to outsource these functions?

A. Blackwater and the private sector are able rapidly to tailor a custom solution to solve the customer’s problem. Our ability to quickly react with a right-sized solution whose entire cost is only associated with the duration of the contract is cost-effective because there are no subsequent carrying costs like salary, medical care, retirement, etc.

My family’s business was automotive supply, one of the most efficient and globally competitive in the world. You wake up in the morning having to drive efficiency throughout the organization or you will be driven under. We strive for that level efficiency in what we do today. In very competitive industries, the purchasing/contract officers understand your business as well as you do. The government can ensure good value for the taxpayer by pushing that level of competence and accountability to its purchasing agents and contracting officers too.

Q. There have been calls for more regulation of this industry. Do you agree that any further regulation is needed? If so, what could you support?

A. Given the sensational tone of the media coverage our industry receives, it is understandable that there are calls for more regulation. We certainly agree that our industry should be accountable and transparent, but we should carefully analyze the domestic and international regulations that already exist so that further conversations can be had from a common foundation of accurate information. There are already many tools at the disposal of purchasing agents, government contracting officers and law enforcement officials to ensure proper behavior of PMC’s. For example, early privateers (the forbearers of the U.S. Navy) would post a significant performance bond to receive their Letter of Marque. We fully support high standards with high enforcement that drive unethical, immoral players from our industry.

Q. Some contractors have been involved in financial or abuse scandals. How can that kind of thing be avoided?

A. Those companies or individuals who disregard the moral, ethical, and legal high ground are not long for this industry. Closely working together with contracting agencies, contracting officers, and policy makers can only reduce the opportunities for financial and other abuses. The key to success is leadership and balance; strong corporate governance, and operational and "field” leadership at all levels carries the day always. We want to reduce opportunities for abuse without constraining the flexibility that makes our industry so valuable.

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