Thursday, June 17, 2010
In keeping with a military tradition that dates back to at least the Roman Empire, a grateful nation rewards a competent warrior with punishment and exile.
Consider the case of Erik Prince, founder of the world’s largest private army - now known as “Xe” but still commonly referred to as Blackwater. It is reported that Prince is considering a permanent move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Recent developments that suggest Prince’s motivation involve the 15-count indictment served to five top Blackwater executives by a federal Grand Jury on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among those indicted were Prince's longtime number two man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana Bundy, and Prince's former legal counsel Andrew Howell.
Prince’s plan to move to the UAE might be motivated to the lack of an extradition treaty between the UAE and the United States. Furthermore, last week Prince abruptly announced that Xe (Blackwater) is up for sale.
Prince’s alleged crime? His country called, and he was too successful at providing the services he was contracted to perform.
Struggling to deal with a two front war in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, the United States military exponentially increased the use of private contractors – a feature of US military operations in war and peace since the Revolution. While the majority of contractors deliver construction, logistics, telecommunication, transportation, and medical services, it is security contractors that have drawn close scrutiny.
Of the many security / paramilitary firms that filled this requirement, Prince skillfully steered Blackwater to the forefront. Recruited from the ranks of Special Operations and elsewhere, and trained at their facility in Moyock, North Carolina (within AO STORMBRINGER) the most visible Blackwater role was PSD – Personal Security Detail. Prince himself has claimed a more extensive role, however, stating that Blackwater operators have called in NATO air strikes and performed operational functions for the CIA in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
If this is the case, then this is nothing new; the CIA’s paramilitary wing has made use of contract personnel since its inception. While Blackwater’s presence on the battlefield may or may not be in violation of the Law of Land Warfare (Hague & Geneva Conventions), this is also besides the point; the CIA itself does not enjoy the protection of these legal definitions. Besides, when you’re dealing with an enemy that has no national identity, wears no uniforms or distinctive insignia, routinely commits war crimes as a major tactic and beheads prisoners, the Geneva Convention becomes an increasingly archaic piece of legislature.
Despite the fact that I have worked as a security contractor for two firms – one a well-known competitor of Blackwater, the other providing services within a narrower market niche - and have founded my own defense contracting company, I am not a personal fan of Blackwater.
We are often called mercenaries, although I believe ‘professional soldier’ or ‘security professional’ more correctly describes our role. Examply: the client I am currently working for requires prior service on a Special Forces Operational Detachment 'Alpha', and a working knowledge of the principles of Sun Tzu as prerequisites. This hardly fits the commonly held concepts of a ‘gun for hire’; there are certain parties I outright refuse to work for, and some things I will not do for any money.
Despite my feelings regarding the Blackwater phenomenon, I feel the legal actions of the Holder Justice Department represent nothing less than the Obama Administration’s personal war on its own irregular assets. This is tantamount to a commander directly ordering his own men to shoot themselves in the foot – self-inflicted wounds – as a furtive means to resolve a difficult and challenging military campaign.