(Cross posted at Out Of Iraq Bloggers Caucus.)
Take a good look at the man on the left, with the smirk on his face, that is Erik Prince, the highly successful war profiteer who founded and runs Blackwater. The man on the right is Stephen Ryan, Prince’s attorney, who seems quite amused as his client stonewalled the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a hearing yesterday. Apparently you can get away with being contemptuous with Congress if you are backed by Christian conservative extremists and awarded no bid contracts by a morally corrupt administration, as the Bushliburton administration is.
As reported by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, Prince ducked almost every question put to him by committee chairman Henry Waxman and others on the committee:
How much does Blackwater, recipient of $1 billion in federal contracts, make in profits? “We’re a private company, and there’s a key word there — private,” Prince answered.
What about the 2004 crash of a Blackwater plane in Afghanistan, when federal investigators said the pilots acted unprofessionally? “Accidents happen,” Prince explained.
The lack of prosecution for a drunken Blackwater worker who shot and killed a security guard to an Iraqi vice president? “We can’t flog him,” Prince said.
The high wages for Blackwater security guards? “They’re not showing up at the job naked,” Prince reasoned.
What’s more, Prince said, “I believe we acted appropriately at all times.” It was a bold statement for a man whose company is being probed by the FBI for the killing of 11 Iraqis in Baghdad last month — but Prince, a former Navy Seal, was a cool performer.
Despite the fact that committee chairman Henry Waxman declared “Blackwater will be held accountable today!” The Republican party flunkies on the committee practically gave Prince a standing ovation as reported by Milbank:
Many Republican questions could only loosely be qualified as such. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) congratulated Prince for a “very good job,” while Chris Shays(Conn.)credited him with a “perfect job.”
After finishing his game with the House committee members, the smirking Mr. Prince gave them all a kiss-off and stole a souvenir of the event (actually, the correct term for his final action would not be “stole” but rather, “plundered”, that is, after all what many mercenaries are in the game for.) Murder, that is what it really is, simply a byproduct of doing business with mercenaries, whether by a drunken Blackwater operative at a holiday party, or by trigger happy Blackwater mercenaries mowing down innocent Iraqi civilians on the street who posed no threat to anyone.
For more on Blackwater’s hired guns see this Nation article, and check out their Wikipedia entry. Another source of information on Blackwater is their own web site, where, ironically they state, in their own words, their core values:
Our leadership and dedicated family of exceptional employees adhere to an essential system of core corporate values chief among them are integrity, innovation, excellence, respect, accountability, and teamwork.
Respect and accountability seemed to be missing when called before the House committee yesterday. It seems appropriate that they modify their core values statement with a final clause, if honesty is important to them, and add the phrase “if convenient” to the end of the statement. But then again, maybe honesty just is not on Mr. Prince’s radar, overshadowed by power and greed.
It is time to eliminate Blackwater’s paymasters, remove Bush, Cheney and their flunky Condoleza Rice from their offices.