Blackwater founder: We could have fought ISIS if Obama hadn't 'crushed my old business'
Erik Prince said in front of the conservative group Maverick PAC that his infamous private military firm - synonymous with the contracting bonanza that ensued after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 - would have effectively fought Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL), allowing the US to hold back its military in its offensive against the group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
“It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organization, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of US active duty going back in there,” Prince said during the discussion with retired four-star Gen. James Conway. “[They could have] gone in there and done it, and be done, and not have a long, protracted political mess that I predict will ensue.”
Nearly two weeks ago, President Obama said the US would conduct airstrikes and “hunt down” the fighters of the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq, Syria, and “wherever they exist.” Washington has promised $500 million to so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels for fighting both the Syrian government and Islamic State militants. While the US has also sent 1,600 “support force” troops to advise the Iraqi military in the fight against Islamic State, Obama has stressed - despite contradicting sentiments from Pentagon officials - that ground troops will not be necessary during the latest offensive.
Prince’s comments were made almost exactly seven years after Blackwater guards infamously shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. The incident sparked outrage with American presence in Iraq among the local population. The US iscurrently trying to prosecute four of the five guards involved in the incident after a first failed attempt to do it in 2009. After 10 weeks of arguments and testimony, the case went to a jury earlier this month.
After the Nisour Square killings and other scandals, the Obama administration eventually severed most ties with Blackwater - now known as Academi after several rebranding attempts. Yet despite criticism for the organization from the administration, more than half a billion dollars has been set aside for the firm and its associated entities since President Obama took office in 2009.
According to The Huffington Post, more than $300 million of that total half billion-plus was awarded before Blackwater was sold by Prince in 2010. Since the sale, the US State Department has awarded Academi just over $500 million, as opposed to $784 million in the three years prior to his sale of the company. The firm merged with security contracting rival Triple Canopy in 2010.
Former Navy SEAL Prince then left for Abu Dhabi to continue security contracting work, vowing to never work for the US government after being spurned by the new presidential administration.
The Friday discussion veered into Republican Party politics. Prince, a Catholic conservative, claimed the Republican Party - which dominates the US House of Representatives and is poised to take the US Senate following mid-term elections this November - is “getting rolled” by the Democratic Party.
“I want you to tell your congressman that we pay them to fight,” Prince said, according to The Daily Beast. “They are hired to fight for our values, for what you sent them there to do… I am sick and tired of Republicans getting rolled—having a lousy, weak leadership that gets rolled every time by the Democratic Party. We’re like… Charlie Brown trying to kick the football every time and they keep taking it away… I encourage the Republican Party to get off their ass and fight like we pay them to.”
Prince also spoke of Iran, saying the young population simply seeks more freedom in a closely-guarded society.
“Most Iranians… are just like you guys,” he said. “They want to be able to drink a beer when they want, travel where they want, have their wife or girlfriend drive a car or wear a short shirt and wear high heels. I’m all in favor of it.”
Prince also said Blackwater, if around today, could have countered spread of the Ebola viruswith humanitarian missions using the NOAAS McArthur (S 330), an American survey ship once owned by Blackwater.
“Now, that’s the sort of thing that could help fight Ebola,” Prince told The Daily Beast.