Blackwater is up for sale and its shadowy owner, Erik Prince, is rumored to be planning to move to the United Arab Emirates as his top deputies face indictment for a range of alleged crimes, yet the company remains a central part of President Obama's Afghanistan war. Now, Blackwater's role is expanding.
On Friday, the US State Department awarded Blackwater another "diplomatic security" contract to protect US officials in Afghanistan. CBS News reports that the $120 million deal is for "protective services" at the US consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Blackwater has another security contract in Afghanistan worth $200 million and trains Afghan forces. The company also works for the CIA and the US military and provides bodyguards for US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as well as US lawmakers and other officials who visit the country. The company has four forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Prince has boasted that Blackwater's counter-narcotics forces have called in NATO airstrikes.
The new security contract was awarded to one of Blackwater's alter egos, the United States Training Center, despite the indictments of five senior company officials on bribery, weapons and conspiracy charges. Its operatives in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been indicted for killing innocent civilians. The Senate Armed Services Committee has called on the Justice Department to investigate Blackwater's use of a shell company, Paravant, to win training contracts in Afghanistan. Despite these and numerous other scandals, the State Department once again awarded the company a lucrative contract.
The mercenary firm Blackwater is clearly more teflon than Gen. Stanley McChrystal. While McChrystal sips Bud Light Lime, watching Talladega Nights and ponders what private sector job to scoop up, Erik Prince's crusading private soldiers will still be running around Afghanistan and other theaters of undeclared US wars globally with the CIA. All with the blessing of the Commander in Chief.
..."Blackwater has undergone some serious changes," an unnamed U.S. official told The Washington Post. "They've had to prove to the government that they're a responsible outfit. Having satisfied every legal requirement, they have the right to compete for contracts. They have people who do good work, at times in some very dangerous places. Nobody should forget that, either."
Let's also not forget that like McChrystal, Erik Prince was recently featured in an entertainment magazine. In January, Vanity Fair profiled Prince. In the article Prince and his associates didn't speak disparagingly about the commander in chief or the vice president, but Prince did appear to reveal details of classified US operations and the existence of a covert CIA assassination team, trained and organized by Prince, that planned hits in various countries, including inside Germany, a key US ally.
Maybe if some reporter catches Erik Prince and his cronies engaged in drunken, profanity-laced diatribes aimed at the White House and Commander in Chief, something would really change. If they used the phrase "bite me" when speaking of the vice president or embarrassed poor little Richard Holbrooke or called the National Security Advisor a "clown," maybe the administration would decide it was inappropriate to continue Blackwater's "services."
There's no doubt, under the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, McChrystal was rightly relieved of his duties. But in the end, it was McChrystal's words--not his actions--that sunk his ship. Blackwater's ship of misconduct, crime and murder will apparently sail on for the foreseeable future, at least until their words, instead of their bullets, strike the wrong people.