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7 Mar, 2019 10:00

Blackwater founder caught off guard when asked about his ‘chanting barbarians’ in Iraq comment

Blackwater founder caught off guard when asked about his ‘chanting barbarians’ in Iraq comment

Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military firm Blackwater, struggled to explain his apparent anti-Muslim sentiment when confronted by Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan.

During his Head to Head talk show, Hasan asked Prince why he called people in Iraq “chanting barbarians American troops had been sent to liberate” in his memoir. Prince explained that people who set off car bombs in packed squares to hurt American troops deserve the name, especially given that civilians are also hurt.

Hasan immediately called him out: “You were not sent to liberate terrorists. Sounds like you are talking about Iraqis.” Prince was left speechless for a moment as the audience burst into applause. Attempting to smooth things over, the Blackwater founder replied that he did not have any role in making the decision to “liberate” Iraq.

In another part, Prince tried to downplay the sentencing of four Blackwater employees for the 2007 Nisour Square massacre by pointing out that the convictions came after a lengthy legal battle. The guards escorting a US Embassy patrol killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 others.

“The federal government finally got them in a DC jury on the fourth time they tried it,” he said.

Hasan asked if Prince was implying that the jury was not legitimate. He replied: “I’d say the jury of your peers does not really compare to the rest of America.”

The Qatari channel is set to air in full what appears to have been a trainwreck interview with Prince on Friday. The former Navy Seal remains an influential figure in the private security market, advocating for things like fully privatizing the US military presence in Afghanistan.

Blackwater was one of a plethora of private military companies hired by the US government to provide services in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Its reputation was marred by a string of scandals, eventually leading it to change its name and ownership several times and eventually become part of Constellis Holdings.

Incidents like the Nisour Square massacre contributed to the growing resentment of the Iraqi population to the presence of US troops, and the rise of the bloody insurgency. Contractors working for the company were targeted in one of the first high-profile attacks on Americans in occupied Iraq. In March 2004, four Blackwater men were ambushed and hanged from a bridge in Fallujah.

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