George Graham

Blackwater Horror Lifts the Curtain on “Merchants of Death”

I cannot convince my wife Sandra that wars are fought for money. She will not believe that human beings could be so cold-hearted as to send young men and women to their deaths just to make a profit. But everything I have read and heard about war leaves me convinced that if you really want to know the cause, follow the money.

A blatant example of war profiteering is provided by Halliburton’s enrichment from Iraq.  I have complained repeatedly about Dick Cheney’s former company, and the way in which it looted the American treasury. Now, the scab has come off the Blackwater scandal, and the horrors perpetrated by that company are being exposed.

princeIn its current issue The Nation reports that sworn statements by former company members accuse Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince (photo at right), of a long list of crimes, including:

Involvement in murder plots against employees who cooperated with Federal investigators

Illegal arms smuggling into Iraq

“Encouraging and rewarding the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Charges against the company include the wanton murder of civilians for “sport” and providing child prostitutes for mercenaries in Iraq.

The Blackwater scandal provides a glimpse of something even more horrifying than war profiteering for its own sake. Sworn statements filed in federal court say the company’s owner, Erik Prince, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” According to witnesses, Blackwater mercenaries modeled themselves after the Knights Templar of the medieval Crusades and used code words associated with that order to describe their activities.

So – in this case as in many others – the “Merchants of Death” have a convenient “moral” justification for their atrocities. They make money in a “righteous” cause.

Blackwater, which has changed its name to Xe following a series of image-shattering incidents, including the murder of innocent Iraqis, has made – and is still making – hundreds of millions from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SchakowskyRepresentative Jan Schakowsky (photo at left), an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, is trying to put an end to Blackwater’s military contracts. “There’s already enough evidence of gross misconduct and serious additional allegations against the company and its owner to negate any possibility that this company should have a presence in Iraq, Afghanistan or any conflict zone-or any contract with the U.S. government,” she says.

“I believe that the behavior of Xe, its leadership, and many of its employees, puts our government and military personnel, as well as our military and diplomatic objectives, at serious risk,” Schakowsky wrote in an August 6 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Given this company’s history of abuse and in light of recent allegations, I urge you not to award further contracts to Xe and its affiliates and to review all existing contracts with this company.” Schakowsky sent a similar letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

But the military’s love affair with Blackwater goes on. Since President Barack Obama took office in January the State Department has contracted with the company for more than $174 million in “security services” alone in Iraq and Afghanistan and tens of millions more in “aviation services.”

Much of this money stems from existing contracts from the Bush era that have been continued by the Obama administration. And a State Department official told The Nation that “we are transitioning them out.”  But transitioning? Shouldn’t that be “kicking them out?”

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for