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The controversial “Blackwater” private military contractor, which is the largest private military security firm in the world, and which the US administration outsourced special missions to in various places including Iraq and Afghanistan, has changed its name to “Xe Services.”

There is a well known principle in the world of advertising and marketing that says “if the product is bad, change its name packaging.” Blackwater spent a long time trying to rehabilitate and restore its image, and it is facing fierce campaigns against it due to its black record after the misconduct of its personnel resulted in a series of killing and injuries to Iraqis, Afghans, and even other Americans. Therefore the company decided to appear to the world with a new look. This new name would practically mean the removal of the name “Blackwater” from all the company’s dealings, as well as from the company’s subsidiaries. For example “Blackwater Airships” which provides intelligence information to security apparatus has changed its name to “Guardian Flight Systems” while “Blackwater Target Systems” changed its name to “US Training Center.”

Blackwater, or according to its new name, Xe (which is a name that was chosen extremely carefully because it does not have any link to the company’s past, and because it’s meaning is unclear therefore allowing the company to enjoy greater flexibility to access all possible fields) has tried to distance itself completely from the past, and believes that by choosing a new name and identity people will not link what happened in the past to the company’s new reality.

This company was founded by Erik Prince, former Navy SEAL, and expanded quickly to become a major part of US national security policy, assigned to gather intelligence and take part in major operations. However this company, which has air, naval, and defense forces, quickly turned into a private army. The company’s manpower is strongly reliant upon the Israelis (ex Israeli army veterans), as well as a number of Chileans who are well-trained and less costly.

The company is now expanding its services to include US embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as new fields, and its operations will include construction, security, training, and procuring intelligence. The US administration would prefer to maintain the status quo and continue dealing with “Xe” for fear of exposing officials in the previous administration, especially with regards to the policies implemented during the war in Iraq, and also the post-invasion plan, due to the tremendous number of violations and mistakes that were committed during this period. If these mistakes and violations were disclosed publicly now, this would draw focus away from important issues, such as post-war management and handover of power, and ensuring that following security stability [in Iraq and Afghanistan] there is a period of economic development, which can be achieved via protecting Iraqi oil, and securing safe passage for natural gas and minerals across Afghanistan.

However there is another story that needs to be monitored, which is that Blackwater founder Erik Prince will “outwardly” no longer appear in the picture; he is putting his company up for sale, and is set to move to Dubai. Many observers believe that this is a precautionary measure against possible investigations that could be followed by a series of charges against him and other Blackwater executives by Congress and public prosecution, especially in light of the fact that there is no extradition treaty between the UAE and the US. However we are hopeful that the UAE will decline to receive such a controversial visitor so as not to give the city of Dubai a bad name by linking it to a figure who will only attract even more controversy.

Blackwater, or Xe, or whatever other name this company might want to be known by, was the product of extremist right-wing and neo-conservative ideology, and represents nothing more than a major mistake.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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