Erik Prince has a message for ISIS: You’re lucky Blackwater is gone.
On Friday night, the controversial founder of the private military company had plenty to say about what the organization he once ran could be doing in the fight against the so-called Islamic State—and also why Republicans need to stop being such losers.
“It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organization, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of U.S. active duty going back in there,” Prince said in an on-stage discussion featuring retired four-star Gen. James Conway. “[They could have] gone in there and done it, and be done, and not have a long, protracted political mess that I predict will ensue.”
Prince was speaking at a dinner event for donors to the Maverick PAC, a conservative group with ties to the Bush dynasty, at the Capital Hilton just blocks from the White House.
His private military company (since rebranded as Academi) courted more than its fair share of trouble during the Bush years, in large part due to Blackwater guards gunning down 17 civilians in Baghdad. The Obama administration severed most ties with Blackwater, and Prince sold the company and uprooted to Abu Dhabi, where he continued doing sketchy work with security forces. Feeling betrayed by the Obama administration, he has since said that his days working for the U.S. government are over.
But on the subject of the federal government that he no longer wishes to work with, Prince has a rough message for the Republican Party: Get off your asses, guys. (Prince is a libertarian, staunchly Catholic conservative.)
“I want you to tell your congressman that we pay them to fight,” Prince told the crowd. “They are hired to fight for our values, for what you sent them there to do… I am sick and tired of Republicans getting rolled—having a lousy, weak leadership that gets rolled every time by the Democratic Party. We’re like… Charlie Brown trying to kick the football every time and they keep taking it away… I encourage the Republican Party to get off their ass and fight like we pay them to.”
This was the big applause line of the evening, but another one of Prince’s crowd-pleasers came when the conversation turned to Iran. He, of course, had nothing but unkind words for the regime in Tehran, but praised the young, liberal population of the Islamic Republic.
“Most Iranians… are just like you guys,” he said. “They want to be able to drink a beer when they want, travel where they want, have their wife or girlfriend drive a car or wear a short shirt and wear high heels. I’m all in favor of it.”
Roughly 70 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 30 and has no memory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, so the Prince characterization is… sort of on the money.
But what—beside perhaps killing ISIS members—could The Artist Formerly Known As Blackwater do for the world today? Prince has said that one thing that inspired him to create Blackwater was his disgust at the international community’s failure to stop the Rwandan genocide.
“Who can watch the movie Hotel Rwanda and not wish it had a different outcome?” he told Charlie Rose in 2007. “Who didn’t wish that the UN would have sent troops or yanked those Belgian commandos back there, to secure that hotel and to provide some safe havens? I mean, you let almost a million people in a country about the size of Maryland get killed by farm tools over four months.”
So I asked him what he sees in terms of the humanitarian potential for something like Blackwater in the world today. He pointed to the NOAAS McArthur (S 330), an American survey ship once bought by Blackwater for the stated purpose of humanitarian missions.
“Now, that’s the sort of thing that could help fight Ebola,” Prince tells me.