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Erik Prince off the record
May 6, 2010 1:14 AM   Subscribe

Eric Prince (Wiki), the controversial and secretive founder and owner of Xe, formerly known as Blackwater International, rarely gives public speeches. When he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending, and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording from May 5th in which Prince speaks to a select gathering in his hometown of Holland, Michigan.

Writing about this on the Nation blog is Jeremy Scahill (previously 1, 2, 3). In the speech Prince let slip details about Xe's involvment in Pakistan, narcotics busts in Afghanistan and his thoughts on the Geneva Convention's applicability to Xe operatives. Several of these remarks appear to counter the official line from Xe and US authorities.
posted by Harald74 (43 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
They don't know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.

Apparently being able to pinpoint the city on a map is the litmus test for whether you get to flout the convention's rulings to oppress people in indefensible states, or whether you get to be those oppressed people.

I can just imagine these guys in Yemen or Somalia. That's a friggin brilliant idea right there.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:31 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


He characterized the work of some NATO countries' forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations "should just pack it in and go home."

Well, at least we agree on something!
posted by mek at 1:42 AM on May 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Interesting. Is the recording itself available anywhere online?
posted by embrangled at 2:17 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by scrowdid at 2:26 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "X" stands for "Christ," because after all, what would Jesus do? Take money for killing people, of course!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:43 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm thinking that he's the Anti-Christ. And I am an atheist. He's all godhead but a true hater and kills (literally) for profit. Is douchey one of the traits if the Anti-Christ?
posted by brando_calrissian at 2:44 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. "The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places," Prince said. You're not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It's way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint."
Putting small Blackwater forces in various countries of the region to counter perceived Iranian influence? Yes. That's very politically sensitive. A grand idea all around, for dealing with the "sewer"people.
Every time I hear about this guy or people from his orgainization, I'm appalled at the us versus them mentality, the most simplistic conservative neocon views they seem to share, and how there seems little doubt that people like them are what has ruined our chances of resolving the fucked-up situation the US has gotten itself into.
"We need you to double down, go after them harder. That is a cost of doing business. They are there to kill us."
posted by Red Loop at 2:50 AM on May 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think Halliburton should also go for a new name. They are also tarnished by profiteering from war and whatnot. They need something new... something... Nu!

Then the two of them could merge.
posted by qvantamon at 2:51 AM on May 6, 2010 [17 favorites]


You're not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries.

I can't be the only person who parsed that as "uninformed".

I stand by my reading.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:56 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think Halliburton should also go for a new name. They are also tarnished by profiteering from war and whatnot. They need something new... something... Nu!

Halliburton which is primarily an oil field services company sold KBR (a logistics company) which was the party responsible for defrauding the government because of bad press.

I know several people (Arabs mostly) who worked on the oil side of Halliburton who quit because of KBR's involvement with the American war effort and at least one American who quit because of the fraud. For a while they were haemorrhaging people because of this, which is why they sold KBR.
posted by atrazine at 3:31 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The speech was titled "Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear"

Yowza. At least he doesn't try to hide his agenda. He is living the great Mercenary Merchant Dream: get millions of bucks for playing soldier. I imagine many of the ruthless bastards that make up the Fortune 500 are secretly thrilled by his exploits. Oh to live in the days of War Lords when you could force the peasants to work for free and fuck what ever you wanted! Leadership by way of spear was so much more fun.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:13 AM on May 6, 2010


Holland, MI, you may think of it as an idyllic beach town of American Pie, but in reality it is a Taliban haven in America, except the Taliban in this case is the Christian Reform Church. If you don't believe me, just go out on Sunday and start doing some work as a contractor. The beach is still nice though, as long as the sewer hasn't overflown from too much rain recently in GR.
posted by caddis at 4:29 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Halliburton should also go for a new name. They are also tarnished by profiteering from war and whatnot. They need something new... something... Nu!

Then the two of them could merge.


Xe + Nu = Xenu. Perfect! What we really need in this world is an expeditionary force of armed Scientologists. Somehow, I'm sure someone could get an OT promotion out of this.
posted by vhsiv at 5:06 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


yes, mek, let the other NATO forces go home as they clearly are doing something wrong.
posted by Pendragon at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2010


What we really need in this world is an expeditionary force of armed Scientologists.

How about the IMF?
posted by DU at 6:30 AM on May 6, 2010


caddis has it. Used to be the only McDonald's that closed on Sundays was in Holland.
posted by QIbHom at 6:43 AM on May 6, 2010


qvantamon, vhsiv,

Sadly, Xe the element is a noble gas and has no urge to merge.
Xe the company, on the other hand, is ignoble and wants to get up in your business.
posted by lukemeister at 7:01 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Machiavelli: "He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay..."


Well, not so paltry in the case of Xe.
posted by lucien_reeve at 7:14 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh good, I was wondering if something would surface. The local press was pissed off about being locked out of his speech when I was there last weekend. Nice place, but it was annoying to have a weekend vacation cut short because everything closed even in the middle of their big annual tourist draw.
posted by Kyol at 7:27 AM on May 6, 2010


The Nation website is currently down. Let's blame the Xe CyberforceTM.
posted by rocketpup at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2010


At first I summed those two names as Nuxe. That was an idea that scared the hell out of me.
posted by Babblesort at 8:20 AM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Xe-nophobic.
posted by grubi at 8:34 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure enough they did and they found a cache--262,000 kilograms of hash, which equates to more than a billion dollars street value. And it was an industrialized hash operation, it was much of the hash crop in Helmand province. It was palletized, they'd dug ditches out in the desert, covered it with tarps and the bags of powder were big bags with a brand name on it for the hash brand

The hashish they found was a powder? That doesn't sound like any hashish I've ever seen...
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh to live in the days of War Lords when you could force the peasants to work for free and fuck what ever you wanted! Leadership by way of spear was so much more fun

Was so much more fun?
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:06 AM on May 6, 2010


The hashish they found was a powder? That doesn't sound like any hashish I've ever seen...

That would be kief - kief is pressed into blocks to form the solid hash that you're familiar with. It's the 262 metric tons of it just sitting out in pallets in the middle of the desert part that's a little less credible to me.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ex-Blackwater Boss Now Resembles Sarah Palin
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2010


God, he's like some perfect cocktail of scum, evil and avarice. Raised by one of the multi-millionaire founders of the Family Research Council, profiteering mercenary, racist, and – to boot, because you obviously need one more reason to hate him – related by his sister's marriage to a bunch of quasi-pyramid scheme hucksters.
posted by Len at 9:39 AM on May 6, 2010


caddis: "Holland, MI, you may think of it as an idyllic beach town of American Pie, but in reality it is a Taliban haven in America, except the Taliban in this case is the Christian Reform Church. If you don't believe me, just go out on Sunday and start doing some work as a contractor.

Eh, this isn't really fair. Not that the CRC is anything like a liberal denomination, but it's not quite the Taliban actually. I tend to think that encouraging people to rest from work one day a week is a feature, not a bug. (Though my mum would probably disagree with me, since she's still a little bitter about the neighbours' angry response to her brother's daring to cut the grass op Zondag when they were growing up in the suburbs of Grand Rapids.)

It is, I grant, kind of depressing to note that the two most well-known companies from West Michigan are Blackwater Xe and the ponzi scheme multi-level marketing company Amway Int'l, but in my experience Christian Reformed folks are moderate conservatives of the Bush 41 sort, not rightwing gun nuts, although I guess that may or may not be changing.

/derail
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:44 AM on May 6, 2010


I think Halliburton should also go for a new name. They are also tarnished by profiteering from war and whatnot. They need something new... something... Nu!

Then the two of them could merge.

Xe + Nu = Xenu. Perfect! What we really need in this world is an expeditionary force of armed Scientologists. Somehow, I'm sure someone could get an OT promotion out of this.


They could call it "COBRA".
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I love Wikipedia. I found out that one of the three key execs behind Xe/Blackwater was Joseph Schmitz, whose dad was a race-baiting senator in California and whose sister is Mary Kay Letourneau, the famed rapist teacher from just outside Seattle. Joe himself was a crony in Dubya's administration. Everything about this company and its people reads like characters and events in a James Ellroy conspiracy novel.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 AM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's the 262 metric tons of it just sitting out in pallets in the middle of the desert part that's a little less credible to me.

Howard Marks once said the single largest shipment he ever personally saw was between 50 and 60 tons which he describes as about the size of "15 prison cells".

The 262 tons was described as "30 double-decker buses," which jives with Marks' numbers. Also, that article described the palettes as being stored in an underground bunker, not sitting out in the middle of the desert. Which also makes sense given hash's long storage life (as opposed to marijuana).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2010


Oh, and if you've read Marks' biography, Mr. Nice, you'll recall that all his really big hash shipments were from Pakistan. The region is just very, very good at making quality hash. If the shit were fucking legal they'd be like Brazil with coffee.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:42 AM on May 6, 2010


I dunno--for me the most questionable part was including the "street value". To be fair, he includes the value to the producers at something like $60,000,000, but are these producers even conclusively linked to AQ or the Taliban? And by the time it gets to "the street" and is worth over a billion dollars, that money has nothing to do with the producers anymore regardless. Bin Laden's boys are not slinging dime bags on a street corner in the US as far as I know. This is just a cheap appeal to the prejudices of his terrified right-wing neocon audience, tying Xe's operations conveniently into the War on Drugs as an additional benefit.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2010


They could call it "COBRA".
posted by sevenyearlurk


You take that back.
posted by COBRA! at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps I was too harsh on GH. It is a lovely town, much nicer than here in Jersey, and as for the CRC, well some of my best friends are in the CRC.
posted by caddis at 11:04 AM on May 6, 2010


This is pure speculation, but I read this guy like Alan Rickman's character in Die Hard. The ideology, the xenophobia...it's all just for show. Given the Pentagon audience that hires Xe and the crowds attending his speeches and planning to buy his book, it's just a facade that's good for business. But I wager all he cares about is that the checks clear. Does that make him more evil or less evil than if all the hawkish neocon blah blah blah were real?
posted by dust of the stars at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, that article described the palettes as being stored in an underground bunker, not sitting out in the middle of the desert. Which also makes sense given hash's long storage life (as opposed to marijuana).

Fair enough, I guess that's what I get for skimming.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2010


What great timing, I am currently reading Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and I can say that without a doubt Erik Prince is one cold-hearted bastard. However you have to acknowledge that without the Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney triumvirate, Blackwater anc co. would have never been has successful or prominent.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2010


don't back down so quickly, caddis. When I saw the post and that his hometown was Holland... it clicked. Among other things, one part of Western Michigan that made growing up so difficult there was the inate suspicion or distrust of anyone different, in my case, being Jewish. It's one thing to get grumpy stares for mowing your lawn on Sunday, it's another thing entirely when your classmates believe you're responsible for killing Christ. The Xe 'us vs. the infidels' mentality discussed upthread makes more sense knowing the guy is from Holland.

kind of depressing to note that the two most well-known companies from West Michigan are Blackwater Xe and the ponzi scheme multi-level marketing company Amway Int'l

Man, growing up it used to be Steelcase and Upjohn. At least there's still Bells and Arcadia. If the state of affairs gets too bad, you can drink your troubles away with good beer.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:39 PM on May 6, 2010


It can be a tough place to be Jewish. True conversation in GR, CRC woman to Jewish woman, "I don't why everyone says that stuff about the Jews, you are so nice." She meant this in all sincerity.
posted by caddis at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2010


To be fair, I moved away from West Michigan as soon as I could, and I'm not planning to move back. (And, I grew up in the city of Grand Rapids itself -- I'm sure I'd be more prejudiced against the region if I'd lived in the suburbs or in Ottawa County.)
posted by tivalasvegas at 4:07 PM on May 6, 2010


tivalasvegas, I found Grand Rapids to be a whole lot more reasonable and level-headed than Holland.

It's intense feelings against everyone different; I talked to several Catholics who were advised (by their realtors) not to move into the city proper because the locals would make trouble for them.

It was a hell of an adjustment to move away, having grown up there.
posted by base_16 at 4:38 PM on May 6, 2010


His mother was also one of the largest donors in favor of Prop 8 in California.
posted by base_16 at 4:41 PM on May 6, 2010


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