Hereditary millionaire war-criminal and brother of Betsy DeVos Erik Prince (previously) is full of good ideas: after founding the disgraced mercenary company Blackwater (and several subsequent reboots thereof), he proposed that the US could withdraw its military from Afghanistan and instead pay him to occupy the country with a mercenary army that would brutally subjugate its people on America's behalf.
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The mercenary squads who carry out targeted assassinations in Yemen on behalf of the autocratic rulers of the UAE are composed of US veterans from elite units like the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA "ground branch" and the special forces of the Maryland Army National Guard, working for the US-based mercenary company Spear Operations Group. Some of the mercenaries are reportedly still US military reservists, others have US top secret clearance.
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This month's Harper’s Magazine includes a feature by Charles Glass about the growth of private security firms since 9/11, “The Warrior Class: A golden age for the freelance soldier.”
The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq.
Above, one of the five Blackwater clips published online by Harper's. This one is dated April 1, 2006, and was shot from the front seat of the fourth car in an armored convoy. Glass describes its contents:
Driving along a wide boulevard in Baghdad, the lead vehicle swerved close to the curb of a traffic island. A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, “Oh, my God!” Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: “You’ve been… thunderstruck!”
As Glass notes, the tape ends with a still frame which reads: "IN SUPPORT OF SECURITY, PEACE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY EVERYWHERE."
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Four years after their initial Freedom of Information Act request, Gawker has received and published 4,500 pages' worth of detail on the way that mercenaries from Blackwater and other defense contractors conducted themselves in Iraq. Their basic procedure appears to have been to shoot any car that attempted to pass or tailgate any of the convoys they guarded, especially if the driver was a "military aged male." Then, with no followup (or very little), they would conclude that the driver was unharmed and drive on, filing a report later. One victim of a Blackwater mercenary shooting was a judge, who was wounded in the leg (though the mercs' report claimed he was unharmed). The State Department backed the mecenaries on this; in Gawker's words, 'The State Department determined that shooting at judges for driving too fast in their own country is "within the established Department of State policy for escalation of force."' Other drivers were shot because they carried passengers with "devices" in their hands -- such as mobile phones.
When Blackwater teams were caught lying about their roadside battles and executions, they faced little or no discipline. The State Department officials supervising the mercenaries' behavior were told that discipline "would lower morale" among the mercenaries, and seemed to accept this at face value.
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A July 2007 email from one State Department official to several colleagues—apparently in reference to the judge's shooting—openly worried about contractor teams indiscriminately shooting their way around Iraq:
When was the last time we...looked into all the other contractor PSD elements running around Iraq?