Following the September 16 shootout in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left 17 Iraqis dead, private security firm Blackwater USA has come under intense scrutiny and criticism. The Iraqi government wants them out of the country, the FBI is investigating them, and CEO Erik Prince was forced to defend the company before Congress last week.
But not everyone is jumping on the anti-Blackwater bandwagon. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), for whom Prince once interned, is so supportive of the company that he believes Prince “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was”:
“Erik Prince is doing everything he can to help his country,’’ Rohrabacher said. “He could be making ten times the money without anybody calling him names.’’ […]
Rohrabacher did not attend the Blackwater hearing last week before Rep. Henry Waxman’s oversight committee. Rohrabacher is not a member of that panel.
He did watch it on television, and he likened it to the Iran Contra sessions at which former Col. Oliver North testified during the Reagan administration. Rohrabacher was a Reagan speechwriter.
“Prince,’’ Rohrabacher said, “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was.’’
Oliver North — Rohrabacher’s point of comparison for Prince — was found guilty of obstruction of justice and destroying documents after arranging arms sales to Iran and diverting the profits to the Contras in Nicaragua. His conviction, however, was overturned on a technicality.
Though Rohrbacher claims Prince “is doing everything he can to help his country,” the actions of Prince’s company have actually been a “detriment to the mission” in Iraq. In a report released two weeks ago, Brookings scholar P.W. Singer demonstrates how “the use of private military contractors appears to have harmed, rather than helped the counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”
Here are some examples Singer provides of how private contractors like Blackwater “undermine” U.S. efforts in Iraq:
– Inflamed popular opinion against, rather than for, the American mission through operational practices that ignore the fundamental lessons of counterinsurgency.
– Participated in a series of abuses that have undermined efforts at winning ‘hearts and minds’ of the Iraqi people.
– Weakened American efforts in the ‘war of ideas’ both inside Iraq and beyond.
– Revealed a double standard towards Iraqi civilian institutions that undermines efforts to build up these very same institutions, another key lesson of counterinsurgency.
– Forced policymakers to jettison strategies designed to win the counterinsurgency on multiple occasions, before they even had a chance to succeed.