Growing up in the post-9/11 era, Blackwater has (unfortunately) become synonymous with gun-toting mercenaries patrolling the streets of Iraq and the Middle East who escalated to deadly force far too quickly. Over the past decade, perhaps no other company has provided such a large service to the United States while simultaneously being subjected to so many brash and unfounded criticisms by Congress and the American people.
If only those criticisms were true.
From liberal media distortions of reality to plain ignorance on the part of the American people and the government, Blackwater has become a undeserving scapegoat for the failures of the war in Iraq. It’s time the truth about Blackwater became known. It’s time the numerous contractors who served their country are given the recognition they deserve. The truth about Blackwater is, as Erik Prince explains, “exhilarating, rewarding, exasperating and tragic.” It’s time the American people saw Blackwater in that light.
While most of my college-aged cohorts were opening up their new Xbox Ones (or whatever other new gadgets hit the market this holiday season), I opened up a small package containing a book titled Civilian Warriors, written by none other than Blackwater Founder and CEO Erik Prince. Between my interest in American policy in the Middle East and general interest in the War in Iraq, I was eager to get started on a book that would prove both thrilling and enlightening.
As a former Navy SEAL, Prince saw the need for a training center that would hone the skills of law enforcement and military. Partnering with his military connections, Prince opened a world-class training center in Moyock, North Carolina that would soon lead to more. Drawing on the talents of numerous military and law enforcement professionals, Blackwater trained thousands of personnel in tactical maneuvers that inevitably made our nation well-prepared for anything that was thrown at us. In 10 years, however, Blackwater soon expanded to include private military contractors, or PMCs as they are referred to, that guarded the United States’ interests abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring the safety of thousands of U.S. Department of State personnel, military personnel and various support efforts.
The only caveat, however, was they served their mission under constant hail of gunfire and bombs. With that environment comes danger and the necessity to respond.
During the course of their duties, Blackwater lost 41 men and suffered many more injuries. But from Fallujah to Najaf, Baghdad to Kabul, Blackwater never lost a “principal,” or the individual they were protecting. To many, this would seem like a success. To others, it offered a large target for political retribution. While I won’t go into the details of Erik Prince’s battle with Congress and other Americans, I will say this: there was absolutely no logic behind the attacks on Blackwater. Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Jan Schakowsky brutally bashed Blackwater, making them a political scapegoat rather than a public benefit. Among their claims are attacks of inadequate management, beating the government out of money, and “war profiteering.”
If only those claims were true.
The reality of the situation was this: Blackwater consistently put men in harm’s way to ensure the success of the American mission. While it cannot be disputed that they did, in fact, make money during their work, that was never the driving motivation of the company: Blackwater’s goal was to help others. At the same time, Blackwater continually bid lower than competitors, refusing to follow the “cost-plus” contracting mentality (or, more money for going over budget) of their fellow federal contractors that cost the federal government billions of dollars.
If that wasn’t enough, Blackwater continued to go above and beyond the expectations of their contracts and never hesitated to help a fallen comrade. If an Army unit was pinned down with causalities and there was no Army support in sight, the men of Blackwater flew in, rescued their fellow Americans, and provided a medevac so the wounded could receive the help they so desperately needed. They risked their own lives doing something that was never expected of them because they knew it was the right thing to do.
I could go on, but the point is this: Blackwater proved to be a great benefit to the United States of America. Without their dedicated, professional, and successful work, our country’s mission in the Middle East would have been drastically different and met with further bloodshed and death. Blackwater provided a cost-effective alternative for protecting our interests abroad. They were not war profiteers, but rather were Americans doing what Americans do best: protecting their own and serving their country. While it cannot be disputed that Blackwater had many bumps along road, their successes far outweigh their failures.
It’s time people come to understand the reality of Blackwater and stop making unfounded accusations against their organization. I encourage you to read his book. The stories are real. The situations are thrilling. The truth is powerful.
Hank Prim | Hillsdale College | @HankPrim