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A Dark Prince Has Trump's Ear on the War in Afghanistan

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Message Michael Galli

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Remember fundamentalist Erik Prince, billionaire founder of the "Christian supremacist neo-Crusader militia" called Blackwater? The George W. Bush administration employed this private army after 9/11 to help carry out its "global war on terror." Known for operating secretly outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Blackwater's tenure in the Middle East was one of indiscriminate civilian murder. Firing weapons into crowed boulevards from moving vehicles was their modus operandi. Death from above was also on their macabre menu of atrocities. In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries massacred 14 Iraqis and maimed 20 others in Baghdad with the help of one of their private fleet of helicopters. A congressional report detailing Blackwater's operations found that its soldiers fired their weapons first over 80% of the time. Bad press forced Prince to change the name of Blackwater to Xe in 2009, and he sold the "army for hire" in 2010.

In an effort to escape legal scrutiny (two former Blackwater employees filed sworn statements in federal court implicating Prince in the murder of multiple Blackwater employees), yet still continue in the mercenary business, Prince traveled to the United Arab Emirates to help build an "800-member battalion of foreign troops" for the oil-rich dictatorship. On setting-up shop in the U.A.E., Prince stated that "left-wing activists, Democratic politicians, and lawsuits had destroyed" Blackwater in the U.S., and working out of the U.A.E. makes it "harder for the jackals to get my money."

From his new base of operations in Dubai, Prince helped build a mercenary army in Somalia and attempted to set up a mercenary force in Libya. In 2014, he partnered with the Chinese to form Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-based company that provides "integrated security, logistics and insurance services for clients operating in frontier markets." While serving as FSB's CEO, Prince continued to peddle mercenary ventures around the globe, and in 2016 he came under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for money laundering to finance them. A close associate of Prince describes him as FSB's "rogue CEO" who still "wants to be a real no-sh*t mercenary," and James Poulos, columnist at the Daily Beast, published an article in Forbes magazine describing Prince's FSB adventures as a "U.S.-created monster."

Prince, a close associate of both Vice President Mike Pence and Trump confidant Steve Bannon, served as an adviser on "defense and intelligence matters" to team Trump during the campaign, and was with the President and his family in Trump Tower on election night. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump's Secretary of Education. On May 31, Prince published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling on President Trump to privatize military operations in Afghanistan and "consolidate authority" in the country "with one person: an American viceroy who would lead all U.S. government and coalition efforts--including command, budget, policy, promotion and contracting--and report directly to the president." Prince has likened the current U.S. effort in Afghanistan to "trying to mow the lawn with a Porsche--it's way too expensive." Not only would mercenaries be cheaper, it's argued, but they would lead to less media scrutiny as no more U.S. soldiers would be returning home in body bags; the dead would merely be "company employees."

Steve Bannon reported that Trump liked Prince's article. He and Jared Kushner went on to recruit Prince to help devise an "out of the box" strategy to "corporatize" America's longest running war and turn it into a private, for profit, venture. While Bannon met with Secretary of Defense General Mattis to sell the plan, Prince personally briefed National Security advisor General McMaster. So far, both men have voiced skepticism, but one would be foolish to second-guess the mind of the man that the generals answer to.

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Michael Galli is the Dean of Students at Rivendell Academy, a small 7-12 interstate public school on the New Hampshire / Vermont border, where he teaches classes on media and U.S. foreign policy.

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