Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Erik Prince defends Blackwater shootings

Blackwater chief defends actions in Iraq

October 2, 2007



WASHINGTON – Blackwater USA head Erik Prince says he welcomes Congress looking into whether it pays to contract out security missions to free up military personnel for other duties, adding, “If government doesn’t want us to do this, we’ll go do something else.”

The son of a wealthy industrialist from Holland, whose sister is married to former GOP gubernatorial candidate and Amway owner Dick DeVos, Prince today defended his contracting company’s work in Iraq during a wide-ranging hearing before the House Oversight Committee.

Democrats on the committee complained that Blackwater’s employees don’t seem accountable enough for their actions. The company has come under fire for allegedly killing Iraqi citizens, but Prince said the number of incidents where shots have been fired are less than 1% of the total number of missions the company has had since the war began.

Blackwater is based in North Carolina and guards officials in Iraq, including congressmen and women when they are visiting the country.

While Prince acknowledged that there have been cases in which personnel have done wrong – he noted that one worker was fired and fined after he shot the Iraqi guarding that country’s vice president – he said the company cannot detain its employees and that cases of wrongdoing are turned over to the Justice Department for investigation.

He also said that when an incident occurs, it is the company’s job to get the official they are guarding out of harm’s way, not conduct a “terrorist crime scene investigation.”

He also said he welcomes an announced FBI investigation into the Sept. 16 killing of 11 Iraqis.

“We strive for perfection,” he said, adding, ”The fog of war and accidents ... the bad guys just have to get lucky once” in order for someone to get killed.

He said that 27 Blackwater personnel have died in Iraq but that no one the company has been guarding has ever been killed during the mission.

Prince defended his company as nonpartisan despite connections between him and his family and the Republican Party in Michigan, including his sister, Betsy DeVos, and the fact she was the chairwoman of the state party.

"I've given individual political contributions. I've done that since I was in college and I did that when I was in the military and I will probably continue doing that going forward," said Prince. "I didn't give that up when I became a military contractor."

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