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Erik Prince, commander of the world’s most powerful private army – Blackwater; and how wars can make private companies very rich, very quickly

Posted by gasweek on 10 October, 2007

At 38, Erik Prince was in effect the commander of the world’s most powerful private army. He looks like Hollywood’s take on a soldier, even in civilian dress. His straight blond hair is cut army-short, with just a little length in the neat fringe. He is tanned, fit and good-looking, with sharp blue eyes and the bearing of a man in uniform.

Go to interesting places and kill people: According to Anne Davies, in The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/10/2007, p. 25, the story of Blackwater’s meteoric rise is both Prince’s personal story and the story of how wars could make private companies very rich, very quickly.

How the rich get richer: Despite coming from a wealthy Michigan family, Prince wanted a career in the military. He initially attended the US Naval Acad­emy, where he first encountered Navy SEAL teams, the elite special forces of the US Navy responsible for unconventional warfare, counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and special reconnaissance operations.

A well-connected lad: In a rare interview with a local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, Prince said he did not enjoy the academy and finished college in Michigan. In 1992, though, he re-entered the navy and moved to the Navy SEALS, based in Virginia Beach, where he served for the next five years. During that time he was deployed to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Christian crusador money-making mission: Prince’s family were blue bloods of the Republican party;

• his late father was instrumental in creating the Family Research Council, one of the right-wing Christian groups most influ­ential with the Bush Administration;

• his mother runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which has given generously to Christian groups, affiliated with the Council for National Policy, a se­cretive Christian organisation whose meet­ings have been attended by the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

• Erik’s sister, Betsy, married into the DeVos family, the founders of Amway and one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party. She served as the state chairwoman of the Repub­lican Party in Michigan from 1996 until 2000 and from 2003 to 2005.

• Prince has made personal donations of nearly $US300,000 to Republicans. he served as an intern in the White House of George Bush snr for six months and is a director of Christian Freedom International, a group devoted to helping Christians who are persecuted. T

No-bid $US5.4 million starter dealThe impeccable connections almost cer­tainly helped Prince get started. Robert Young Pelton, the author of Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, reported that one of Blackwater’s earliest contracts was a no-bid $US5.4 million deal to provide se­curity guards in Afghanistan.

Mates in the CIA: Pelton says Prince made a call to A. B. “Buzz),” Krongard, who was then the executive director of the CIA, to help clinch the deal. But Prince’s big break came in 2003, when Blackwater won a $US27.7 million contract to provide personal security for Bremer, the newly appointed head of the Coalition Pro­visional Authority in Iraq.

One big family: Frank Gallagher, who had provided personal security for the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger when Bremer was managing director of Kissinger’s consulting firm, was put in charge of the team.

Ex Inspector-general, Defence gets a job: Prince has continued to surround himself with well-connected Republicans. The chief operating officer and general counsel for Blackwater is Joseph Schmitz, who worked as a special assistant to the Reagan era attorney-general Edwin Meece and whose father was a two-term Republican congressman. Prince employed Schmitz in September 2005, a month after he left his job as the inspector-general of the Defence Department, respon­sible for overseeing the Pentagon’s $US42 bil­lion in military contracts.

Head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre: The vice-chairman of Blackwater is Cofer Black, a 28-year CIA veteran who has worked in covert operations and who was head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Black joined Blackwater in 2004.

Osama bin Laden’s head on a plate:The Washington Post says Black has a gift for the theatrical and his colourful presen­tations while at the CIA earned him special access to the White House. It is Black who, in the days after September 11, is supposed to have ordered a CIA field officer to bring Osama bin Laden’s head back packed in dry ice, so it could be shown to George Bush.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/10/2007, p. 25

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