This has been the most difficult and painful of all the subjects I’ve yet written about. I’m still not 100% sure where all of this is going, but I’m trying to connect some dots that I think desperately need connecting. What I’m about to say is going to sound really melodramatic, but I think that, just in case, it needs to be said.
While I struggle with severe chronic depression, and the loss of my son is so painful I feel like the entire world is crushing me down, I want/need to reassure everyone that in no way am I suicidal (though writing these next posts may cause some to wonder if I know what I’m talking about…would a man with no suicidal bent have the daring to write about these things, knowing that the consequences could be grave?). If I were going to commit suicide to avoid pain, its too late for that. I know the pain of seeing my son lying without a heartbeat on a hospital bed while a nurse pounded his too young chest, and drank in the horrible sight because I feared this would be my last moment with him, and to turn away my eyes to spare myself the pain would rob me of one more moment of seeing him while there was hope he would live. Suicide has little left to spare me from. Not even honor would be restored to me, the Great Daimyo of this world has turned their back on my disgrace. Whatever comes next, I must face, and I cannot die until the allotted time.
So no matter what you might hear later, know that IN NO WAY would I commit suicide. If you hear this of me, know that they found me. Know that they silenced me. And do with this information what you will.
The subject of this series is a man named Erik Prince. I’m going to do a two or more likely three part series on him, and that may extend further as I attempt to connect the dots. In this post I intend to share who he is and what his company does. Afterward, in the next post I intend to share the controversy surrounding him and his company. I don’t intend to hurt anyone I care about, but it is possible some of the dots I connect may hit closer to home than some are comfortable with. And afterward I intend to explain why this matters to you, the reader, especially if you are an Oklahoman and hope to change this state so our children have hope of a better life than we had.
Let’s dig in.
The Pedigree of Capitalism’s James Bond
We learn this from his alma mater, Hillsdale College: “Prince began his higher education with a brief tri-semester stint at the Naval Academy, but after his freshman year, he was already considering other options. He decided to transfer to Hillsdale College, and he attributes much of his business and personal success to what he learned after transferring to Hillsdale.
“The economic and business education, even the politics side, gave me the ability to analyze economies, trends, and societies, to figure out what makes people upset, and what people will fight for,” Prince said.
“The College’s celebration of free-market principles appealed to Prince, culminating in an Economics major and Political Science minor. He enjoyed reading about the Austrians and their passion for limited government intervention.”
Frankly, he did better than I did here. Rather than going to West Point, I decided to take a scholarship to OSU. Honestly, I likely made the right decision (in the end it wouldn’t have mattered), but this guy actually attended the Naval Academy, and I don’t read that he did badly (though I also don’t read that he excelled at the Academy). And he evidently excelled at Hillsdale, whereas I ended up contracting mono, washing out, and contracting a chronic fatigue that would haunt the rest of my life. “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Hillsdale continues the tribute: “Prince’s economics education also helped him take what he had learned growing up in Holland, Michigan, and apply it to the global scene.
“As an entrepreneur, Prince gained much of his knowledge of how to run a successful business from his father, Edgar Prince, who founded Prince Machine Corporation in 1965. PMC became a vastly successful firm in the auto industry and employed more workers than any other business in Holland at the time.
“His message to future entrepreneurs coming out of Hillsdale is simple: “You have to love what you’re going to try.”
Ya know, in a previous post I said I was looking for a mentor. This guy actually seems to be someone I could really follow!
Hillsdale ends with this: “I learned to be a leader by first learning to be a follower,” Prince said. “To convince them that I wanted to join the fire department, I had to earn their confidence. I was always the last one rolling up hoses while the other volunteers would sit back and crack open a drink after a call. I learned to relate to those guys better, which helped me to better relate to enlisted guys going through BUD/S and the SEAL Teams.”
“What final worldly advice did Prince have for Hillsdale students? It’s simple: “fall down two times, get up three.” Not surprising coming from a former Navy SEAL.”
Erik Prince founded a company called Blackwater. Rather than resting on the laurels of his wealthy father, he became a billionaire in his own right. Let’s take a look at what we can learn about him from his own website: “Erik D. Prince is a US-born entrepreneur, philanthropist, Navy SEAL veteran and private equity investor with business interests in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America. A strong supporter of economic development in emerging markets, he is the founder and chairman of Frontier Resource Group, a private equity firm that invests in transformative natural resource projects. Prior to establishing the Frontier Group of companies, Mr. Prince founded and ultimately sold Blackwater USA, a provider of global security, training and logistics solutions to the US Government and others, which he sold in 2010 and Presidential Airways, a global transportation company with over 70 aircraft operating in emerging markets. Mr. Prince is married and between himself and his wife Stacy enjoy raising 12 children. He was educated at Hillsdale College in Michigan and upon graduation joined the US Navy, where he served as a Navy SEAL officer until 1996. Mr. Prince’s philanthropic endeavors are focused on refugees, humanitarian relief and economic development. Mr. Prince’s career of extensive professional engagements throughout the world give him a unique perspective on developing economic trends, opportunities and risks to consider.”
If I hadn’t already read some other things, and talked to a current member of the military about their thoughts about Blackwater, I honestly would start idolizing this guy right here. This sounds exactly like what non messed up Curtis would have ended up being if things had gone just the tiniest bit different. A warrior with compassion and vision. Someone with the skills to kill but with the compassion to make the world a better place. Then why, after doing some research, would I absolutely NOT trade places with the man? If God gave me the choice of being the burnt out shell who wasted almost every opportunity, or being Erik Prince, I would choose to be me. Why?
Rolling Stone paints a very dark picture of this heroic gentleman. They build up a damning story (basically, their strategy is the reverse of mine, damn him first and then tell you about him. I’ll admit, I am attempting to influence your thinking, but I don’t feel it is my job to tell you how or what to think, so I am presenting it bass-awkard).
“Prince’s father, Edgar, had made a fortune selling General Motors the lighted mirror on cars’ sun visors. Erik Prince, Edgar’s youngest child, flitted between career tracks in his early years. He enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy after high school, but he quit in a fit of pique after three semesters when he was written up for tardiness, according to Master of War, a biography of Prince by Suzanne Simons. In his senior year at Hillsdale College, he scored a coveted White House internship during the first Bush administration. But he left six months later, upset, among other reasons, that “homosexual groups” had been invited in, according to an article printed at the time in The Grand Rapids Press. He later became an intern at the office of former California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who sent him on fact-finding missions around the globe, according to Erik Prince’s own 2013 book, Civilian Warriors.”
Erik dropped out of politics (damn shame) and joined the Navy Seals. But when he inherited a fortune from his father after Edgar suffered a fatal heart attack (Absalom my son…Absalom) Erik took resigned from the Navy and invested a hefty chunk of his inheritance to form the company Blackwater.
Rolling Stone continues: Blackwater USA…began life as a cross between a shooting range and training facility for special-operations personnel near North Carolina’s Great Dismal Swamp. After 9/11, the company grew rapidly as it filled the government’s need to protect its personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater would go on to bill the U.S. government for more than $1 billion over its lifetime.
“Early on, Blackwater earned high marks by providing highly trained ex-Special Ops personnel to protect Department of State and CIA officers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They were lifesavers,” said Doug Wise, a former CIA officer who served in Afghanistan in the early days of the U.S.-led war there. Prince’s men won plaudits for going above and beyond the call to rescue diplomats and civilians in distress.
“After the invasion of Iraq, however, Blackwater grew far faster than Prince’s ability to manage it. The firm became, in Prince’s words, “something resembling its own branch of the military”
If I’m going to be fair to this guy, the situation in Iraq was a sh-t show. I’ve talked a little with soldiers and civilian contractors that worked there, and I guarantee, the PTSD that I honest to god have would have skyrocketed to dangerous levels if I had to attempt to survive that fiasco.
After the horror that was Fallujah, things went south hard and fast. Rolling Stone does not mention this terrorist atrocity, but combined with that knowledge we can still use the article to gain some perspective:
“Prince’s rising stock in post-9/11 America was also driven by his work with the CIA. According to Prince, he became an official asset, putting himself and his company’s resources at the spy agency’s disposal. Rolling Stone obtained an unpublished chapter of Prince’s book, which the CIA has blocked from release because it delves into Prince’s classified work. In the chapter, Prince describes how, in addition to training CIA operatives and maintaining the agency’s drone fleet, he helped set up a program to train a terrorist hit squad at the behest of the spy agency. Prince writes that over three years beginning in 2004, he spent a “few million” recruiting and organizing a team of about a dozen foreign mercenaries. The CIA gave him a codename: “Hans.”
“Prince says the off-the-books program had support at the West Wing of the White House and with then-Vice President Dick Cheney. “The program was so secret, I was told that Cheney instructed the agency not to even brief Congress about it,” Prince wrote in the unpublished chapter…
Nisour Square Massacre
“This was the apex of Blackwater, but it soon fell apart — with deadly consequences. On September 16th, 2007, Blackwater personnel shot and killed 14 unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, a traffic circle in Baghdad, and wounded 18 more. The next day, the Iraqi government announced that it would revoke Blackwater’s license to operate and demanded to prosecute the Blackwater guards. The New York Times reported that Blackwater continued to operate in Iraq after Blackwater’s president authorized bribes of about $1 million to Iraqi officials, a charge Prince later dismissed as “false.” But the uproar over the Nisour Square massacre pushed the Bush administration and Congress to investigate the company.”
Rolling Stone continues: “The United States promised to handle the case, which has dragged on for years. Last year, one of the guards convicted in the massacre, Nicholas Slatten, was sentenced to life in prison, and three others were resentenced to lengthy terms behind bars. Lawyers representing victims and their families in the Nisour Square massacre obtained a confidential settlement with Blackwater.
“While the Nisour Square case was slowly working its way through the legal system, Prince’s off-the-books CIA work met a swift, unceremonious end at the hands of the incoming Obama administration. New CIA director Leon Panetta shut down Prince’s anti-terrorist hit squad. The company, Panetta found, was “free-wheeling” and doing stuff on their own. “It had gotten to the point where they really felt that because of what they were doing, they were somehow entitled to do it their way. That’s kind of what really concerned me,” Panetta tells Rolling Stone.”
Prince fell out of favor with the CIA (who, after all, are paragons of virtue and would NEVER think to do anything unethical).
“For Prince, the final indignity came when he lost Blackwater, selling off the company in 2010 after the firm settled a host of federal investigations by agreeing to pay a $42 million fine to the U.S. government.”
In spite of my bias, I’m gonna admit, I can actually empathize a bit with the man.
While I’ve already made a beginning on the topic, the next post will outline the controversy (yeah, I’m just getting started). Stay tuned for more Tired Blogging. If CIA operatives or Blackwater mercenaries don’t get me first.
Harming civilians is always a bad thing. However, as someone who was involved rather heavily in the training of individuals who served as mil/le during our more recent 20+ years of stupidity 🙄 (that all sides messed up and all sides politically supported to some degree depending on the current ruler at the moment) remember how almost no anti-war protests happened for 8 years of that 20+?
PMC companies serve a purpose and have for all of known human warfare history – we can blame PMCs or… place the blame firmly where it belongs
The hands of the ruling elite, of which both demo/repuke in this country are equally culpable.
Keep writing on this, I will keep being a Devil’s advocate of sorts.
I will say this, the Islamic state/a q whatever you call them is very well known for using kids, especially little girls to stop convoys and or carry bombs – American soldiers stopped almost 100% of the time when a little girl was pushed crying into the road…
Any people who willingly and specifically use children as sex slaves (they do) direct pawns to murder (they do) or little boys as sexual gratification tools (Afghanistan pashto) doesn’t fight the same way you have been raised to believe.
I have no direct combat experience in those areas, though I do have some in cartel held areas and the single thing that Trump said that I agreed with was…kill the cartels
Until you see the depths those we fought could go to … judging the actions of a few (especially those who fought daily for way to long in a row) is difficult.
Again, NO EXCUSES FOR BAD BEHAVIOR, however, understanding how men could get to be that callous and what drove them to it…is essential
LikeLiked by 1 person
This one was difficult to write. And honestly, if I didn’t have a local tie in/plot twist coming at the end, I wouldn’t write it. It’s too painful going back over that time and thinking about the bill of goods we were sold (we need to do this to keep America safe) and the actual result. I didn’t go to either theatre of the wars. For good or ill I stayed home and tried to have a family. I had a graphic photo, close up, of the Blackwater employees that were hung from a bridge. I posted it in the blog because I was trying to make that point. We have people in that kind of territory, can we really judge someone in that terrain by the same rules. Yeah, I’m still investigating, hopefully what I’m trying to reveal comes out. It won’t get me a pulitzer, I don’t have enough readers. But maybe it will help us understand. Thank you for the comment. I play devil’s advocate a lot, it’s actually a great practice that so many misunderstand
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person