Erik Prince Trumps State Department Woes

Really, who wouldn’t want to gun tote with Blackwater/Xe or other private security firms-for-hire? While Blackwater/Xe and the many companies like it offer similar services now the stuff of myth and lore, the they command their weight in gold and provide a crucial service to those who cannot protect themselves.

As the final U.S. combat unit has departed Iraq, the State Department has said it is doubling its private security force to 7,000. (Larger than a the old U.S. Army regiment.) While guns for hire are nothing new, it is heart-stopping that the U.S. Department of State must hire thousands of private gunslingers for its protection. It seems a sad commentary on this powerful nation’s capabilities.

The U.S. departure leaves those who remain vulnerable in a nation not yet secure. Blackwater/Xe has been out of the State’s Iraq picture since the 2007 incident when two of its employees were accused of killing 14 Iraqis in a shoot-out/security incident.

Iraqis apparently have long memories and are angered at the prospect of more guns-for-hire in their country. We also may have reason for concern: This next Iraq chapter is reportedly the largest mission the State department has led without DoD backing.

With Blackwater/Xe founder Erik Prince’s boys gone, we wonder how many top-shelf companies remain to which State is willing to entrust its diplomats.

Prince is reported to have mused about putting together a combat battalion, something he has denied. As upsetting as that may be to some (and exhilarating to others), Prince, often the visionary, had an idea whose time has come. Such a force could be ideal for the U.S. predicament in Iraq.

While State’s situation is one of national import, it is Prince’s plight that’s piqued my interest. If you have followed this roller coaster ride, Prince stepped down as Blackwater CEO when controversy was killing his bottom line. Two employees now face murder charges while five former top company executives stand indicted on federal weapons, conspiracy and obstruction charges. While there remains a Blackwater USA, much of the company became Xe – yes, it sounds like a Cirque du Soleil show. It has been reported some part of the company is for sale.

Currently, Prince is paying a $42 million fine for export violations, which include illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan and providing the Taiwanese police with sniper training. (Bet the Chinese were miffed.) The fine should allow Prince to continue to do business in the U.S.

But that business will be long distance. It is now reported Prince has moved to Abu Dhabi. His PR people say he needs a break from the U.S. Our guess is he’s looking for lucrative Middle East contracts and a place with few extradition worries. The princes of the United Arab Emirates and others in the region may appreciate Prince Erik’s talents more than the U.S. Justice Department. Or Code Pink.

Several days ago, Prince was confronted in his U.S. home by a Code Pink cofounder, who was later arrested.

Stay tuned. I say Erik Prince has something planned.

So who will State hire?

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