Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has been a tireless opponent of U.S. Government spending on military contractors in general and Blackwater/Xe in particular, largely due to their rampant, wanton, violent behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not news. She consistently opposes them. But in October, she reacted strongly to the release of a new videogame based on Blackwater and licensed by Blackwater's Erik Prince. Here's the trailer:
Yeah, that's what we need. I can hardly wait until there are full-fledged simulations in the street. You?
Schakowsky's reaction was strong, but not wrong:
Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic Congresswoman and prominent critic of Blackwater, told The Independent that the game was "appalling".
"Blackwater is a company of mercenaries who have operated in a way that compromises the safety, reputation, and lives of Americans and Iraqis, and whose employees have been guilty of killings," she said.
"The notion of playing a game in which they are the hero is wrong on almost every level."
If Mr Prince had not emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US, he too would now be facing prosecution, the Congresswoman said. "His company has caused the death of innocent people without any accountability. It is inconceivable and appalling that a video game should celebrate his tough-guy image."
Erik Prince took exception to her criticism. Rather than simply denying what is on the record, he got his high-powered Washington, DC lawyers to write a strongly worded threat to her, which said in part:
“Your statement to [the Independent], which imputes commission of a crime, is per se libelous,” the letter from Prince says, adding: “Your malice cannot be questioned. You have a multi-year history of making derogatory comments about Mr. Prince and his former company, Blackwater. You have abused your Congressional power to request that Mr. Prince be investigated.”
But Rep. Schakowsky is not as easily intimidated as other Blackwater/Xe targets might be. Today she made a statement on the House floor about it, saying:
Schakowsky has introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act since 2007, as a way to phase out private contractors like Blackwater. “While the problem applies to other private contractors,” she said Wednesday, “there is one company that has become
synonymous with misconduct: Blackwater.”
“Recently,” she continued, “Mr. Prince has launched a video game, called Blackwater, glorifying the discredited company he started. And now, Mr. Prince has adopted yet another heavy-handed tactic: attempted intimidation of a member of Congress.”
The letter from his attorneys, she said, “characterizes my efforts to urge investigations into Mr. Prince as a violation of Congressional power, and describes possible legal action if I persist.”
“I want to make it clear to Mr. Prince that I will not stop working to end our reliance on private security contractors and to investigate any and all allegations of misconduct,” Schakowsky said.
The full text of Schakowsky's remarks and Prince's threat letter to her are here.
Erik Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos and son of Edgar Prince and Elsa Broekhuizen, two of the highest-profile right-wing families in Michigan. It comes as no great surprise that he would go after a progressive member of Congress for speaking the truth, but he should also not be surprised to discover that she isn't easily intimidated by his bluster.
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