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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/6/19

Ex-Blackwater CEO Erik Prince Makes a Comeback Under Trump Selling Mercenary Armies Around the World

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The House Intelligence Committee has sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department for Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. House Democrats are accusing Prince of lying to Congress during his November 2017 testimony before the Committee, when he described a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian banker before Donald Trump's inauguration as a chance encounter. According to the Mueller report, the meeting was an attempt to establish a back-channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia, and may have been arranged by the Trump team.

The move is one of the latest actions placing Erik Prince in the spotlight after more than a decade of largely working in the shadows after Blackwater shut down. In a major new report, The Intercept looks at Prince's latest actions, including his pitch to privatize the war in Afghanistan; his creation of a mercenary army for the United Arab Emirates; a history of mismanaged projects that have soured his relationships with leaders around the world; and his comeback, made possible with the help of the Trump administration. We speak with Matthew Cole, the investigative journalist who wrote the story. It's titled "The Complete Mercenary: How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback."

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. The House Intelligence Committee has sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department for Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. House Democrats are accusing Prince of lying to Congress during his November 2017 testimony before the committee, when he described a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian banker before Donald Trump's inauguration as a chance encounter. According to the Mueller report, the meeting was an attempt to establish a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia, and may have been arranged by the Trump team. The move is one of the latest actions placing Erik Prince in the spotlight after more than a decade of largely working in the shadows after Blackwater shut down.

In a major new report, The Intercept takes a look at Prince's latest actions, including his pitch to privatize the war in Afghanistan, his creation of a mercenary army for the United Arab Emirates, a history of mismanaged projects that have soured his relationships with leaders around the world and his comeback, made possible with the help of the Trump administration. He is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, the current education secretary.

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We're joined now by Matthew Cole, the investigative journalist who wrote the story. The article is entitled The Complete Mercenary: How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback. Matthew, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about why you're focusing on Erik Prince today.

MATTHEW COLE: I think part of the genesis of this story was that Erik Prince was sort of gone from the public eye for about 10 years, by and large, after he left the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say "fled" the United States?

MATTHEW COLE: I think that's partly right. I mean, he moved his entire family to the United Arab Emirates. I don't think it's necessarily so that he was afraid of U.S. justice. The U.S. government and Obama administration had soured on Erik Prince and Blackwater, and so he needed a new start. And he went to the Emirates and he found a benefactor there in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who is the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates. And he built himself a new program, a new job, a new form of income which was two secret armies, one for the Emirates and the Emiratis, and one in Somalia.

And I think as he has come back with the Trump Administration, it was important to understand what he had been doing for the last 10 years and really to understand, as he tries to pitch in Afghanistan -- new reports that he's trying to sell a program in Venezuela and a mercenary army there to understand who he really is, both as a businessman, as a strategic thinker and more than anything else, I think sort of where he is politically, which is -- what people don't realize is really on the dirty tricks side of things. And that was something that was surprising as I went through the reporting, was that he took his skills that he had picked up and worked and sold around the world and ended up sort of coming around and using them domestically and finding domestic partners for them.

AMY GOODMAN: For people who aren't familiar with Erik Prince, go back to Blackwater and what it did, what it was known for -- among other things, Nisour Square.

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MATTHEW COLE: Sure. Blackwater was a private military consulting group, a company that provided armed guards, security, operatives for the U.S. military, for the State Department and for the CIA in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater, sort of as a name, became known and understood around the world or infamous for American hubris because they had a series of incidents, massacres, mismanagement and violence that occurred in Afghanistan, but most memorably and unfortunately in Iraq. And by the end of the Bush administration, Prince was forced to change the name because it had become so toxic after Nisour Square, and sell. He was forced --

AMY GOODMAN: Nisour Square was the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians with this band of Blackwater guards in a square in Baghdad where they opened fire.

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