Betsy DeVos, current chair of the Michigan Republican Party, has a little known connection to war profiteering and private security forces in Iraq. Betsy DeVos’ younger brother, Erik D. Prince, is the founder of Blackwater USA, a private security firm currently working in Iraq.
Blackwater USA received some press attention back in late March when four employees of the company were killed and dragged through the streets of Fallujah. However, DeVos’ connections to the company were never reported in West Michigan, which is not particularly surprising given the DeVos family’s status as major supporters of Republican causes and the local media’s continued reverence of the DeVos family. The Holland Sentinel printed an article on April 2, 2004 reporting that Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince back in 1996, but did not disclose the Betsy DeVos connection. This connection was first published in an article (“Founder of Blackwater Part of Wealthy Family”) in the Winston-Salem Journal earlier this month.
Blackwater is typical of the new “corporate military”–an army of private contractors who are being used in increasing numbers–with an estimated 15,000 private contractors doing “security” work in Iraq. Blackwater currently has “millions of dollars in contracts” to provide security in Iraq, including a 21 million dollar contract to provide security for the Coalition Provisional Authority and L. Paul Bremer.
While questions about legal accountability of privately contracted mercenaries were raised back in late April, the question has taken on new significance with the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, some of which is reported to have been committed by privately contracted individuals. In countries such as Colombia, where private contractors are being used to fight guerilla forces, contractors have been used to circumvent the Congressionally imposed limits on the US military’s actions. In addition, Blackwater has been recruiting soldiers from repressive governments–including former Chilean commandos trained under Pinochet.
- The Far Right in West Michigan: Erik Prince
- The Far Right in West Michigan: Betsy DeVos
- CounterPunch: Contractors and Mercenaries–The Rising Corporate Military Monster
- AlterNet: Mercenaries ‘R’ Us
- New York Times: Blackwater Mercenaries Take Risks for Right Price
- Salon.com: The Private Contractor – GOP Gravy Train