As the dubious verdict that acquitted five Blackwater guards for the murders of 17 Iraqis was delivered – and this was a crime that was verified and witnessed by more than one person – I avidly read a terrifying story that is on a different level to the horror stories that US author Stephen King is famous for and the popular vampire books that have been published recently. The book that I am reading is called ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,’ by Jeremy Scahill, an American correspondent for ‘The Nation’ weekly magazine. His book is an international bestseller and won the George Polk Book Award. The book has also received remarkable reviews and has been highly praised in recognition of the author’s investigative methods.
The least that can be said about this book is that it is terrifying and causes grave concern because it reveals the real magnitude of the dirty work carried out by the Bush administration and the gravity of the crimes it committed during its war on Iraq. The book begins with a frightening introduction about Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater. A former member of the US navy SEALs, Prince is a solid ideologist and a right-wing extremist to the utmost degree. Even his family history can be traced back to an important figure among the Freemasons who supported George Washington, the first President of the USA, during the War of Independence against the British Kingdom.
The idea of establishing Blackwater emerged when George W. Bush was sworn into office led by neo-cons like the former Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. They wanted to create an independent entity (external to the official framework) to assign it all the dirty work that needs to be done effectively without being held accountable by Congress or criticized by the media. So Erik Prince was given the task of setting up an entity that would primarily guard senior US and Iraqi figures and major public buildings in Iraq and “carry out some difficult and strategic operations.”
Erik Prince began to look for reliable human resources that would enable him to accomplish this mission. So he began bringing in his finest recruits from Chile when he became aware of the efficiency of fighters there who could support him. [He looked for] fighters from Central American countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras and Salvador, thus, capitalizing on the expertise of American Diplomat John Negroponte who was a US ambassador to several Central American countries (and who later took on an executive position in the Bush Administration). Prince also brought in US, Israeli and Russian recruits until the total number of fighters for his mercenary army reached approximately 65,000 according to some documented reports.
This army was assigned many shady missions and dirty work and was also charged with collecting information and intelligence and analyzing it. In other words, work to do with war and intelligence gathering was being outsourced. Consequently, this firm, whose main job was to provide special protection, began to offer inclusive services that were originally carried out by the US government itself. The range of tasks assigned to it widened to include the manufacturing of apparatus, vehicles, transport equipment, protection gear for troops and the building of plants and laboratories.
This is the terrifying story of a small security firm initially founded in a quiet and tranquil town in the state of North Carolina before becoming one of the principal icons of the war on terror.
The neo-con footprint can be seen everywhere. [Former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee] Richard Perle or the ‘the Prince of Darkness’ as he came to be known, and controversial former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz among others were staunch supporters of Blackwater, as their plans were completely in line with those of the infamous security firm.
‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,’ is a horror story. But it is a true story of the painful changes that took place in US foreign policy and the low levels of morality demonstrated in the dark era of George W. Bush. However at the same time, the fact that the book was published is testimony to American society’s ability to criticize itself and correct itself.