Blackwater author visits Holland

Analysis:

This story was based upon a Press Conference and public talk by journalist and author Jeremy Scahill in Holland, Michigan on May 19. The article cites Scahill several times but ask yourself whether or not the comments sourced provide readers with substantive information. For example, when Scahill states “This is a company that has recruited mercenaries from countries with some of the most questionable practices on the planet,” there are no details or specifics about these “questionable practices” even though the author mentioned them in his talk. The Press writer says “He wants to educate the public about the impact that Prince and other private contractors are having on the Iraq war.” Again, the article does not provide any information or details as to how Blackwater is impacting the war in Iraq.

The short article spends a fair amount of time talking about where Scahill spoke during his visit and the only other source cited was an quote from an Erik Prince column that appeared in the GR Press on May 16. This writer was at the public lecture by Scahill so there was a great deal that the Press writer could have addressed, such as details about the role of Blackwater in Iraq, Blackwater’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the company’s recruitment of former military and intelligence officers to work for the company. Scahill also mentioned that Blackwater is expanding it’s US facilities beyond North Carolina, that includes Illinois and maybe the west coast. The author also mentioned that the west coast facility may not happen in the proposed location because over half of the small town has signed a petition against Blackwater having a base camp in that area. The other omission in the story is the religious right connections that Blackwater has, not only in West Michigan, but the role this ideology plays in the direction of the company as it has grown into the largest private mercenary army in the world.

Story:

Intensely private like his late father Edgar Prince, Erik Prince has moved into the national spotlight because of a best-selling book about his elite private security company known as Blackwater.

On Saturday, Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” made his first visit to the community where Erik Prince grew up as the son of the owner of the Prince auto parts company. Scahill came at the invitation of the Democratic Club of West Michigan.

“I’m neither Democrat or Republican. I’m a journalist,” Scahill, 32, told a crowd of about 100 who gathered on an indoor soccer field to hear him speak. Scahill says he tries to accept all invitations to speak but does not take money from private organization’s for his appearances.

In addition to the 4 p.m. speech, the Democratic club had Scahill do a 3 p.m. press conference, 6 p.m. dinner in Holland, 8 p.m. talk at Saugatuck’s Uncommon Grounds cafe, and another event in Holland today.

He wants to educate the public about the impact that Prince and other private contractors are having on the Iraq war. The “cowboy” behavior of the hired military contractors are endangering lives of U.S. troops, Scahill said.

“I’ve had a lot of people who tell me ‘I’ve read your book and it is a lot worse,’ ” said Scahill, whose reports on Blackwater began as articles for The Nation magazine.

Prince’s longtime ties with conservative causes and his deep pockets set his firm apart from the 180 firms in Iraq doing armed security. So does Blackwater’s reputation as an elite security contractor.

“It’s sort of like the Maserati of the industry,” Scahill said. “They are being tasked with some of the most critical missions in Iraq.”

Attention from Congress

Scahill’s in-depth knowledge of Blackwater operations are generating calls from Congress. Two weeks ago, he spoke before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense.

Erik Prince had said his firm is being wrongly labeled as mercenaries by journalists.

“Blackwater professionals do not engage in offensive missions. You would be correct in calling them a team of bodyguards, but very wrong in using a description of them as a private army. Clearly, the mercenary label is intended to polarize the discussion and craft the most negative image possible of Blackwater,” he wrote in a statement printed in The Press on May 16.

Scahill contends Blackwater is the definition of mercenary. The firm hires contractors from countries including Chile, Colombia, Poland and Bulgaria. “This is a company that has recruited mercenaries from countries with some of the most questionable practices on the planet,” Scahill said.

Erik Prince declined Scahill’s repeated requests to interview him.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org