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Blackwater quietly expanding its reach Print
January 21, 2009 - Mike Papantonio
Most people know the basic facts behind the story of Blackwater, the private security firm that has profited so handsomely from the war in Iraq.

They may have read a few facts about how that mercenary organization was started by a phenomenally rich multimillionaire inheritance baby named Erik Prince.

For decades, Prince's daddy wooed all of his political friends by spreading millions of dollars around to conservative think-tanks and ultra-right religious organizations that helped shape the now floundering neo-con revolution.

Today, the Prince family's private army numbers about 25,000 strong. They have their own inventory of aircraft, tanks, helicopter gunships, amphibious assault craft and ammunition stashes that rival the armies of many Third World countries.

Soldiers enlisted in the U.S. military get paid about $70 a day to put themselves in harm's way, while Mr. Prince's private soldier gets about $1,500 a day for facing the same risks.

The number of Prince-family mercenaries has mushroomed in these last eight years. All of them know they cannot be court-martialed when they break the law. And to this day, the lawyers for the Prince-family soldiers are still arguing that these mercenaries can't be prosecuted under traditional criminal and civil U.S. statutes.

Dwight Eisenhower made it clear on numerous occasions that no military machine should ever be allowed to gain independent, unchecked power in America. Eisenhower developed his fears of unchecked military power at a time that he could not even visualize an entity as creepy and unregulated as this Prince private army.

Private armies were rare in the United States during Eisenhower's service as a soldier. And that was at a time when America's public military had shown that it was capable of winning two world wars without the help of American mercenaries.

As you might expect, the congressmen and advocacy groups that are trying to shut Blackwater down are being branded as un-American, unpatriotic liberals by the Prince-family loyalists. But they would need to roll Eisenhower into that list of unpatriotic objectors.

They would also need to add the names of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to their list of un-American types. Both of them warned us about the unchecked expansion of a military of any kind, public or private.

Washington put it this way: "Overgrown military establishments under any form of government are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."

As I write this column, Blackwater is using part of the billion-plus dollars it has been paid — in mostly no-bid contracts — to expand what it calls its domestic operations division.

That part of Prince's private army will be able to defy the 130-year-old policy of posse comitatus that says a standing military may not carry out active operations on U.S. soil.

More than a few of those so called un-American members of Congress have voiced concerns that Blackwater has reached a level of overgrown and unchecked power that makes it capable of overpowering the military of many of the world's governments.

Blackwater spokesmen tell us that their mercenaries operate under a pledge of strict loyalty and patriotism. But take time to follow the story about this mercenary group, and you will wonder who or what entity actually benefits from that loyalty pledge.

Mike Papantonio hosts a nationally syndicated radio show on Air America Radio and is the founder of GoLeft.tv. He is a partner in the Levin Papantonio law firm in Pensacola.
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