Blackwater USA: Armed & Dangerous
The Moderate Voice (2007-08-30) Shaun Mullen
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Media Link: http://themoderatevoice.com/war/iraq/14821/blackwater-usa-armed-dangerous/
More Info: Blackwater
It seems right out of a shoot-'em-up Hollywood thriller: A shadowy private American security company led by a messianic right winger by the name of Erik Prince who has close connections to the White House and Pentagon hires out his own air force to put down civil unrest at home and insurgencies abroad.
Well, it's not a movie, but all too real.
There is an Erik Prince and he heads Blackwater USA, which touts itself as "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations company in the world" with a mission "To support security, peace, freedom, and democracy everywhere."
Blackwater is no stranger to readers of Kiko's House. I've written extensively about what are politely called private soldiers -- but in reality are mercenaries -- in Iraq.
Many of Blackwater's operatives there are former Army Special Forces troopers and Navy SEALS who get paid fat salaries and out-of-this-world bennies to guard prisoners, protect convoys, stand sentry and do security overflights in their armed-to-the-teeth black helicopters. Oh, and keep their mouths shut.
Four of those mercenaries, you might recall, were killed by a mob in Fallujah in March 2004 and their bodies hung from the trestles of a bridge.
Their widows sued Blackwater. They claimed that the Dark Prince, in an effort to increase his profit margins, failed to provide the armored vehicles, weapons, maps and necessary lead time in which the four men could have familiarized themselves with the area.
Incredibly -- that is until you understand Blackwater's modus operandi -- the Dark Prince's response was to take a page from the Dick Cheney playbook and claim that Blackwater is above the law.
When that ludacrious argument failed to pass muster with the courts, Blackwater countersued the men's estates for $10 million to try to silence the widows and keep them out of court.
Did I mention that the Dark Prince is well connected?
This Born-Again Christian, himself a former SEAL, helped bankroll the Republican Revolution of the 1990s and his family's good works include providing seed money to right wingnuts, including James Dobson's Focus on the Family. He also has given lavishly to President Bush's election campaigns.
The payback has been profitable as Blackwater has capitalized on the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld push for increased privatization of the military and use of mercenaries and other contractors in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Dark Prince's legal team includes Fred F. Fielding, one of President Bush's lawyers and a long-time Washington heavyweight; Joseph Schmitz, who was formerly the inspector general at the Pentagon; Cofer Black, who was director of the CIA Counter-Terrorist Center, and some guy by the name of Kenneth Starr.
But I digress, because the big news is that the Dark Prince is buying himself an air force.
Blackwater has placed an order for Brazilian-made Embraer Super Tucano light combat prop jets, which as you can see from the photograph are not used for giving rides at county fairs. Blackwater claims that the prop jets will be used for pilot training, but that begs the question:
Training for what?
The company has branched out into disaster response management since Hurricane Katrina, where it overbilled the feds ungodly sums, but appears to have other stateside plans in the works, as well.
Explains Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, in an interview:
"Blackwater's been in negotiations with several state governments in the United States. Blackwater met recently with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about doing disaster response in California. They’re opening up a new private military base in San Diego. Another one is in Mount Carroll, Illinois. They have applied for operating licenses in every coastal U.S. state. This is the expansion of a privatized army."
Creepy, isn't it?
Now try this on for size: Could it be the the Dark Prince is planning for the day that martial law was imposed after a disaster and would come to the aid of the very clergy folks whom the Department of Homeland Security is training to help put down citizen unrest?
Sound's batshit crazy doesn't it?
But as Jim Booth, who has aggressively covered Blackwater at Scholars and Rogues, notes:
"Having planes that are good at counter-insurgency in the hands of a dedicated private army headed by an evangelical dominionist could be a back-up in case pastoral diplomacy fails.
"Of course, this could merely be a business decision on the part of Blackwater. After all, as we’ve noted already, there's no business like war business. And to do business properly, you’ve got to have the right tools."
Be fearful, America, be very fearful.