Blackwater's Erik Prince: Iraq, privatising wars, and Trump | Head to Head



it may very well be one of the most controversial companies in our country's history Blackwater USA is being called the largest private army in the world jury in Washington convicted four former Blackwater security guards in the 2007 my guest tonight is the controversial founder and former CEO of Blackwater Eric Prince you do admit that Blackwater personnel have shot and killed innocent civilians don't you I disagree that branded a war profiteer and a super mercenary by his critics princes firm made over a billion dollars out of the so-called war on terror it also highlighted the clear danger of using private contractors on the battlefield and yet now he's back on the scene trying to privatize the war in Afghanistan by offering to replace US and NATO troops there with his own private security force but will handing the war to print really help end it I'm Mandy Hudson and I've come here to the Oxford Union to go head-to-head with Eric Prince a former Navy SEAL and the founder of Blackwater I'll challenge him on war crimes in Iraq his plans for a private army in Afghanistan and his loyal support for president Donald Trump tonight I'll also be joined by Sean McFate a former private military contractor former officer in the US Army and author of the book the new rules of war gave Abdul Ahad an award-winning Guardian journalist from Iraq who's covered conflicts across the Middle East and Colonel Tim Collins a former commander in the British Army and founder of new century a private military consulting company [Applause] ladies and gentlemen please welcome Eric Prince Eric Prince is currently the deputy chairman and executive director of Frontier Services Group a Hong kong-based security and logistics firm thanks Eric Prince thank you for joining me on head-to-head makes you're having me your back in the news with a new plan to privatize basically the us-led war in Afghanistan but you were the founder and CEO of Blackwater perhaps the world's most notorious private security firm which during the Iraq war became a byword for violence corruption lawlessness and yet you've never apologized for any of it I think that's the unfair characterization the company did exactly what the US government asked us to do which is to protect diplomats reconstruction officials visiting UN or or other congressional delegations we did more than a hundred thousand missions no one under our care was ever killed or injured and people try to characterize the company as as overly aggressive less than 1/2 of 1% of all those missions resulted in a discharge of a firearm in an era when you had lots of violence in the capital I mean Baghdad really was the center of gravity of the insurgency and so we had you know 41 of our men were lost in action doing that mission so you mentioned there that the US government asked you to do a job and you did it you mentioned that you lost men on your watch what you didn't mention is that you also killed a lot of people you say what you know it percentages is great let's talk about individual cases in 2005 Blackwater guards fired 70 rounds into an Iraqi civilians car forcing the State Department to investigate in 2006 according to leaked pentagon documents Blackwater guards fired indiscriminately at Iraqi civilians killing among others an ambulance driver in 2007 Blackwater guards shot and killed 14 Iraqi civilians in what's been called the Nisour square massacre or Baghdad's Bloody Sunday that is the record that a lot of people around the world remember when they hear the name Blackwater sure and when you do a hundred thousand missions it's easy to take some things out of context but remember you had many thousands of insurgents actively trying to kill Americans and just American servicemen but the most newsworthy Americans their diplomats and with the State Department assets the people I'm mentioning weren't insurgents you killed me still square your men killed a mother and some on their way to an appointment and they killed a nine-year-old boy ahead sadly the insurgents don't wear uniforms they would drive ambulances filled with explosives they would drive soyou'll men with us they were shooting at insurgents a car bomb doesn't give you much time to decide there was no Cabo McMissile Square in 2007 actually right before mr. Square event there was their nice little square there was no callable excuse me less than five minutes before that event happened there was a large car bomb that went off where there was a protective team of ours protecting a USAID official and and sadly that that car bomb went off the team decided to move through there and a support team went to block the traffic circle so that the fleeing team can I move through smoothly and not be ambushed when the when the intelligence provided by the State Department the US government says be on the lookout for a white Kia yeah okay and all the other cars in the traffic circle stopped except for a white Kia sadly sometimes the guys have a split second to make that decision I'm blackpool to say the white Kia stop as you well know because you've discussed this far more than I have all of the eyewitnesses there say that there was no white Kia heading towards you the u.s. colonel who turned up on the day said that there was no enemy activity involved he said it was a criminal event and an excessive shooting a u.s. court of law in December prosecuted one of your men for first-degree murder for killing a bird rabbi and his mother and you swear yeah it's three other – hold on let me finish three other men were prosecuted for manslaughter four of your men murder and manslaughter in not Iraqi courts US Court that's right and they prosecuted them four times and they finally got a conviction the first time he was thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct Gill think it they filed up guilty no no the first time it was thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct the second time it was overturned the third time it was a mistrial the federal government finally got them in a DC sir in a DC jury on the fourth time the GC jury not a legitimate jury I would say a jury of your peers does not really compare to the rest of America no that's a okay okay so some juries illegitimate some not like so-called judges I've heard that language before but they were prosecuted for murder and manslaughter do you have any regrets for the people who died a nine-year-old boy shot in the head wasn't an insurgent of course we did of course we we hired as the company we hired the prosecutor that prosecuted Saddam to go find each of these families to pay Silesia to make amends as best as possible you ever reach out to them did I personally yeah I haven't no I haven't found all of them but we certainly apologized the ones I've ever and it's not just these killings and these killings are documented it goes beyond just guards as you know black would have got billions of dollars in US government contracts and that billions more than a billion dollars in US government contracts during that 12 years and yet a scathing US State Department investigation found that Blackwater quote was overbilling the State Department and manipulating personnel records its guards were partying drinking and even crashed an armored car and saw themselves as quote above the law pretty damning the US State Department is saying this but the company they're giving contracts to over billing and manipulating we never paid any fines for anything like that that's a fact you paid fines for a lot of things the only thing we paid a fine for was a night our violation I will give you an example the old you say the only thing you paid a fine for you paid 7.5 million dollar fine in 2012 to settle 17 criminal charges you paid a 42 million dollar settlement our eight department in 2010 for illegal arms sales 2012 had already sold the business I saw that in 2010 but the cases go back beyond 2010 the criminal charges raged all sorts of things that went back years including South Sudan you broke us sanctions to try and sell weapons to South Sudan no there's no weapons in South Sudan there was a proposal on the table you never put a proposal on the table to Salva Kiir as government 100 million actually the issue there was a satellite phone so you did put a proposal on the table to sell the kids government no no what the State Department complained about then that was back in 2005 ok was a my point is an actual a very dangerous satellite phone the same thing you can buy and heathrow duty we can argue about the fines let's just deal with this report the US State Department said you were manipulating personal records over billing the State Department and your guards were partying drinking and even crashed an armored car that was a State Department investigation in 2007 look we employed thousands of people and I would never say that the men were perfect we didn't employ angels we employed veterans who volunteered their serve their country again at a very dangerous place and like I said 241 of them paid the ultimate cost and hundreds more were seriously wounded it's a moment when you say we didn't employ angels we employed veterans but right now you want to do it all again that's the problem is it not well here's the thing after after 17 years of war okay where the United States is spending more than the entire UK budget defense budget and just this year and still losing in Afghanistan I think it's time to look at a different way I want to talk about Afghanistan but just before we get to your Afghan plan I just want to get to what drives you when you kind of come up with these plans to do private security especially a lot these Muslim majority countries because you yourself have referred to the people your men were fighting in Iraq as barbarians who crawled out of the sewer you say in your memoir these were the chanting barbarians American troops had been sent to liberate sure if you if people that think it's okay to drive a car bomb into the middle of a square into the middle of a marketplace while to attempt to kill an American and in in doing so they kill dozens and dozens of civilians absolutely that's barbaric which is true I think if you're vegetarian call them whatever you want but you said these were the chanting barbarians American troops have been sent to liberate you weren't sent to liberate terrorists sounds like you talking about Iraqis certainly look they're all words from your memory the decision the decision of Iraq the the us decision to go to liberate rock from Saddam Hussein who did a lot more horrid things than we can even speak of here that was certainly the intent I certainly had no role in that policy decision okay but you don't refer to you don't believe Iraqis are barbarians no but I believe that terrorists that cranked off car bombs into City Square certainly are okay you're proposing now to privatize the us-led war in Afghanistan you've suggested replacing almost 50,000 NATO troops and private contractors with 2,000 u.s. special operators and 6,000 contractors and you want to cut spending there you think by 30 billion dollars a year which sounds great and I think you and I one thing we can definitely grown as we both think the afghan war is not going well and has been a bit of a failure but given a hundred and forty thousand nato troops couldn't control that country or defeat the Taliban back in 2011 what on earth makes you think that a few thousand contractors are gonna do it now under your command because after 9/11 I take you back in the five days after 9/11 happened when President Bush had a war cabinet meeting up at Camp David the Pentagon the best thing that the most expensive military in the world came with was some missile and some bombing strikes and then a conventional invasion via Pakistan the following April ok so literally while the headquarters of the Pentagon is still smouldering the best the US military came with was the most conventional and most cumbersome approach it was the CIA that said money authorities the right people you will get after the Taliban and that worked ok less than a hundred special operators CIA case officers paramilitary guys and SF guys backed by air power and they smashed the Taliban animators topple them but that's fine you topple them yes controlling a country requires more than 6,000 people sure correct but then the United States repeated the Soviet battle plan so it's I'm not a battle plan that six thousand people can do what 140,000 couldn't sure I'm not an expert on math but that seems weird well here's the thing you have 15,000 US troops there now there's about 7,000 NATO and another 30,000 contractors so I'm not advocating a privatization of advocating a rationalization at his significant cost savings the way the US has been deploying there they send a unit for seven or eight months based the first two or three months getting to know the area and then a couple of months they're very productive and the last month they're ready to pack up and they lift and shift and they go home okay and then you you rinse and repeat and you do that again and we've done 30 plus rotations of troops like that you know so you have no continuity instead I would take the same Special Forces veterans that have been working there from the US from NATO and they all say uh not angels these are the same people the US military and NATO has been spending sending there for the last 17 years but the difference is as a contractor they can go and attach to the same unit and live in the same Valley and live and work and train and fight with those guys with Afghan counterparts month after month for years so they have that continuity is it the second ISM the Afghan government they don't like your plan they say it's a non-starter they said under no circumstances will we allow the war to become a quote private for-profit business to format Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he vehemently opposes your proposal it's a non-starter I think you would say differently if he asked him now I literally asked his office on Friday and they said they're dead against it well I've talked to other people is I've talked to other people his office who would disagree with that okay okay any current Afghan government hears they've changed their position as well they said in October under no circumstance that Ashraf Ghani will will win in the next election I'll see you waiting for change of President to get your plan signed a hook look here's the thing if they don't do a plan like this if there is not a skeletal structure support supporting the Afghan forces the next president's going to wind up like Najibullah did the problem is the way you pitched it is do you think was helpful to tell the Afghans we're gonna be like quote the East India Company which violently ruled India on behalf of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries was it wise to talk about having a viceroy in charge of the country I mean you're not hiding the fact that this is a colonialist project when you use language like that but here's the thing the United States has no one person that's in charge of Afghan policy there's nobody that the president can turn to and say why is Afghanistan after there's a special anyway zelma Khalil said yeah sure that doesn't help he doesn't control the military he doesn't roll the intelligence funding he doesn't control policy I agree with that do you think mourning someone a vice or in charge of East India Company is gonna go down well with brown folks look for 250 years that security model largely worked of mostly local forces with a few professional mentors only acting as a skeletal structure support but the difference is I'm not there as a colonial power these these these mentors right the contractors the Special Forces veterans are serving as adjuncts in the Afghan forces accountable to the Afghan Ministry of Defence and of course the president if they're flying aircraft we actually found two-seat aircraft where the contractor never makes the weapons release decision it is always the Afghan but he flies the paint safety pilot sure okay in 2004 in Afghanistan a Blackwater pilot flying a plane with US soldiers on board flew the plane into the side of a mountain he crashed the plane into the mountain killing six passengers on board including three US soldiers the captain's last words this Blackwater employee flying the plane his last words what I swear to God they wouldn't pay me if they knew how much fun this was you were paying him Eric Prince he had only been in the country two weeks have you or your employees learned any lessons from that horrific incident before you go back into Afghanistan sure we operated 56 aircraft there safely for many many years we flew tens of thousands of missions safely the difficult thing is when the DoD your customer asks you or tasks you to change your route so that the colonel on board could go view a an enemy area on the way to as a deviation from the plan navigation accidents happen that's right it's a dangerous engine safety board and the US military both said the Blackwater provided insufficient oversight and guidance to the pilots involved in the crash the widow of that colonel says that there was gross lack of judgment in managing this company who was managing the company at that time in 2004 had you sold it then the former operations officer of the former operations officer of TF 160 the most elite helicopter unit in the world so yeah people that definitely understand aviation were ensuring the National Transportation Safety Board criticized your company's role in that accident and they reinstated us and we were flying missions again within five days of that incident gray needed a very good job Bush administration that's got nothing to do with the culpability that your company had for the deaths of those US soldiers they didn't die at the hands of the Taliban they died at the hands of Blackwater they died at the hands of an accident made by a pilot flying in a very difficult area I'm Blackwater executives were emailing each other at the time the email came out it said by necessity the initial group hired to support the Afghanistan operation did not meet the criteria identified in email traffic and had some background and experience shortfalls overlooked in favor of getting the requisite number of personnel on board to start up the contract you're saying it internally your own company's admitting to each other these guys aren't experienced but we need to get the contract up and running is this what you want to replicate in Afghanistan now the pilots flying the mission that day had come from Alaska they were they were literally high country bush pilots these are not people that are flying in the over the swamps of Florida they were flying over your executive emailing each other saying that we have experienced shortfalls but we need to get the contract up and running why were they saying that because the transportation because the Army Materiel Command was demanding the missions to support the missions here's the thing amis fault no no no no trying to serve a customer in a very difficult place we flew tens of thousands in hundreds of thousands of missions after that safely and no incidents okay let's go to our panel here in the Oxford Union Sean McFate is a former private military contractor former officer in the US Army a professor at Georgetown author of the book the new rules of war Sean you've said US generals have laughed at Eric's plan for Afghanistan you've called it unworkable and even magical thinking why Blackwater if this was a job interview Mercer Mercer I would not give you the contract because Blackwater was simply a bodyguard shop in Iraq you've never raised or deployed a military like you're advertising now I have in places and it takes all it's a lot more sophisticated than just mentors in the field it doesn't quite require up to political leadership in Kabul and they've already messing this is a dead deal my opinion well and that you're mistaken because we built the entire Afghan border police it was 15,000 people we did all the recruiting the training the vetting and we actually had mentors that went in the field with them and the success rate of these units when our guys were allowed to go with them effectively is training wheels they're their success rate went very very high and it worked okay so okay they you know I guess I'm the only guy that can say I've had 56 in my own aircraft in-country do that kind of work for the US military okay Ghaith abdul ahad is an award-winning Guardian journalist from iraq you've covered conflicts in Iraq Afghanistan Yemen and Beyond Gate how did the Iraqi people remember Blackwater and Eric prince in your view I mean it's amazing to kind of sit here and listen to Eric and speak about Blackwater and the services they did in Iraq because the word Blackwater is synonymous with the worst of the American occupation of era there is not a single Iraqi that I know I mean I'm one of those barbarians that was liberated by your country but there is not a single Erica who would you just mentioned the word Blackwater – who would not say corruption violence and I'm not talking only about the Nisour square kind of massacre but I'm talking about the whole ten years of the existence of his mercenaries and I think part of the failure of the American project in error was due to the to the losing of the Contras is it now isn't a major problem that you could concede that even if your plan is a good one you shouldn't be the one doing it given the legacy you've left behind with so here's the thing your math is a little skewed because the US didn't invade Iraq till 2003 and I sold the company in 2010 so that's certainly not ten years the company the company trapped up in yet we tracked we tracked all the vehicles where everybody was moving okay and there was dozens and dozens of times that it was brought up there was a Blackwater event here Blackwater event there and we didn't have people within 200 kilometers of that location the sad thing is Blackwater became like Kleenex it became do you know why because you became this because because we were the largest one doing no because your home it's the reason I mean you gave them well I mean an era now or in Yemen and we are these places they don't use the word contract or something gives Blackwater in Yemen in in whatever in Somalia they don't use mercenaries okay if you've been in Afghanistan reasonably if you're reporting do you think Afghans will welcome this plan that Eric is putting on the table I've met administration officials high security officials of the current urban administration's opposition and some of your own friends in Afghanistan and all agree on one thing it's all going to work and I agree with you totally the 17 years have been too go to waste they followed you know copy the the Soviet to a plant this is something we agree on however you're not meeting government officials you're not talking to the Ministry you – you're mistaken I meet with dozens of Afghan officials both in and out of the government from all over the country be they Tajik who's back Hazara and posture and the Warlord's right all the people that are going to be voting in the Afghan one more panel who needs to come in colonel Tim Collins is here Tim you once commanded British troops during Iraq you gave that famous speech to a lot of us remember in 2004 you quit the army and founded new century a private military consulting company how would you evaluate what happened on on Blackwater's watch what's this whole different thing I think what we have to remember and indeed I've discussed this with that many times with the US State Department the US military asked for services they encouraged they were enthusiastic to a point of hysteria that Blackwater go and do these missions when it went wrong they ran a mile and so you have to look at those people and say at a point where there was Chairman's of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were visiting the facility and encouraging more and more of these services to be privatized and their eyes and when things went wrong they turned their back on are you saying that Eric Prince and Blackwood have a scapegoated by the US government well I think that as a result of the rather expensive court case that you've been through I think that was the conclusion and the end is that the the criticism I as a contractor would level is that Blackwater and the organization probably grew too fast there was people who went initially who were of the highest Delta Force teeth the SEAL Team six task force 160 some of the people who are coming in at the end had nowhere near that and it's a question of who's supervising that because the people when we look at them who were in court and convicted were not of that quality were not of that hue how did they get there how did they get there why were you hiring poor quality Cheryl towards the end of your beard in Iran well because there's literally not enough Delta Force or SEAL Team six or even seals for that matter to do that mission you go to marine infantry or army infantry the one fair characterization that I will say is Blackwater did two types of missions we work for the State Department they dictated you must drive a polished waxed suburban okay big SUV armored 11,000 pounds lights and sirens down the road and when you drive the same route every day that the State Department tells you to it's very easy for the enemy to set up an ambush you keep saying engagement ambushes just to be clear for the audience one study found that you black hole to open fire first in 84% of the shootings it was offensive because we're fired first okay but it's not just a matter of the enemy opening fire with a firearm to attack they open fire with a trigger switch when they drive up to you and destroy you okay I mean literally but missile civilians drive misses nine year old children you should see a particular ways to work whether it's Hamas in Palestine in Pakistan Afghanistan Iraq bad guys low like ambulances with explosives and kill innocent people but not in the cases I cited we're gonna take a break in part two we're gonna talk to Eric Prince about some of his work in China and his relationship with the Trump administration and we're gonna hear from our very patient audience here in the Oxford Union join us for part two [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] welcome back you're watching head-to-head on al Jazeera English my guest today is Eric Prince the founder former CEO of Blackwater also a big supporter of and donor to president Donald Trump Eric I want to talk to you about your relationship with President Trump in a moment but before I do just very briefly you're currently executive deputy chairman of frontier services group FSG a Hong kong-based security and logistics firm that you found it why is FSG opening a training center for security guards in of all places Shin Jang Province in China we're up 2 million Muslim we Gers are being held in basically concentration camps right now there's a lot of MIS reporting on that the company is not opening any training facility up there that was actually discussed at a board meeting the the reporting got it wrong the only there was some kind of memorandum signed for construction services not training the company doesn't do any training of any police or security forces why did I say that why did your company say it was establishing training facilities it was gonna it signed an MoU for construction press release March the second with your name on it for construct not my name in for a contributor names on the press release your names on the press release several times and it says I've got the press release quote here Shin Jang China establishing training facilities and buying security equipment and vehicles again it was for construction services this training facility if you look at the actual translation from Mandarin to English it was a construction service okay the only weeds later you'll cease your companies English press release will be the only training services the only training the company does is for people like Bank of China employees or China Airlines employees because they travel the world and they go to dangerous places inside any people in Xinjiang No so the press release was wrong there is the company has zero footprint in Shenzhen China so it's not establishing the training facility it said it was establishing on March the 2nd 2018 in an english-language press release the board has discussed this twice and there is not one dollar or RMB allocated for anything like that ok and you've got nothing to do with what's going on with the weaker Muslims in Xinjiang zero ok but you do have a lot to do with the Chinese government so for someone who sees himself as a great American patriot veteran ex-navy seal America first Donald Trump supporter isn't it odd that you do so much security business with the Chinese government which is seen by many including by President Trump as a major geopolitical adversary of the United States and that weird is not a conflict again the company doesn't do any security per se it does some training for people to avoid being a victim of a terror of a terrorism incidents there is no black water I'm sorry no no FSG you sold black coat you're right there is no no FSE employee that's armed doing that kind of security while working in China your Hong kong-based the majority of your shirt company is a Chinese owned is it not it's well it's retail investors everything from you to science and the Georgia Chinese owned yes on it I don't know if its majority but there's a lot of Chinese ownership sure how much deputy no it's it's publicly listed and it's all publicly disclosed tell us the fact is the the company does grocery delivery trucking all through Southern Africa we do medevac with the biggest medevac provider but there's no conflict between working for the Chinese and working for the US as you want to do now in Afghanistan you don't think there's a conflict there a lot of American patriot X veteran look America is a big trading partner of China and helping China connect its logistics lines for better trade I think countries that trade together tend to not fight together ok again Sean McFate is a former private military contractor former officer in the US Army professor at Georgetown University author of the book the new rules of war Sean is there a conflict of interest yet is there a concern do you think in Washington DC where you're based yes there's a big interest so last year the national defense strategy which is the Pentagon strategy for the world shifted the first time in years away from counterterrorism counter insurgency into the threats of Russia and China and we all know that China uses its economic instruments of power to you know to look at they did to Sri Lanka they took over a port as if they were a Mafia don so it's not just economic trade there's also a darker aspect to it and many in Washington see you as one of their sort of weapons of war you are you a Chinese weapon a fool absolutely not because we're not doing any kind of training building their tactical what about the leopard showing about the fact is what does the company do now it does trucking and transportation from southern Africa okay you can deliver groceries from Cape Town all the way up through the DRC we medivac we fly people all over the continent and we do significant air operations out of Malta supporting hopefully oil operations and countries like Iraq or Pakistan or the hydro dams look countries around the world the China shows up with a lot of money a lot of people to do infrastructure projects the Russians are showing up with muscle and weapons in the United States is largely missed the boat the one positive change the Trump administration is made is they change the law changed last October for OPEC the overseas Private Investment Corporation the only part of the US government that actually makes money and now there they've shifted a huge budget away from the State Department's OPEC so that it is managed and it allows more investment also a trade war with China which might put you in two different camps at the same time let me ask Colonel Tim Collins this question is here your famous officer in the British Army now you're chairman of your own private security consultancy new century how do you respond to critics who say when you run these private for-profit companies you're only loyal to yourselves or to your bottom lines you're not loyal to a national government and that's a problem that's that makes you conflicted what's your response to people who say that well the end of the day there's a thing called international law and nobody does anything outside and if they do and then they they must be held accountable the difficulty is the only people who will subject to and allow themselves to be regulated all the good guys there are mercenary activity all over the world the reality is that many people innocently in this room don't realize that many governments in the world particularly in Pakistan India Iran Middle East Mint in people who they pay and deploy as contractors and and these are people who are committing atrocities they won't be regulated okay so let me put that very briefly Sean very briefly what's your response to the point about regulation do you think companies like Eric's right as regulators as they should be well I'm a little bit more skeptical about the power of international law in general about mercenaries because the thing about you know who's gonna go into Yemen and arrest all those mercenaries the UN and if so the mercenaries can shoot back right they can kill your law enforcement and I'm not suggesting that Eric's that would be Eric's plan but Eric is part of a broader trend of the rise of mercenaries where does this end you know private wars wars without States that's and what if the u.s. partakes and us let me ask you this you're a big supporter of Donald Trump you've been questioned by special counsel robert muller over the russia gate investigation he's looked at your laptop and your phones I believe you've also testified to Congress in November 2017 you told Congress under oath that you played quote no official or really unofficial role in the Trump campaign what you didn't tell Congress is on August 3rd 2016 you were at a meeting during the campaign at Trump Tower with Don jr. Trump's son with Stephen Miller than a campaign adviser to trump with Jorge Nader a former Blackwater colleague of yours who acts as a back-channel to the Saudis the Emiratis he also happens to be a convicted pedophile and also Joel's Amal an Israeli expert on social media manipulation how come you didn't mention that meeting to Congress given it so relevant to their investigation I did as part of the part of their investigations I certainly disclosed any any meetings at the very very new I don't in the congressional testimony you gave to the house we went through it you didn't mention anything about August 2016 meeting in Trump Tower they specifically asked you what context do you ever knew didn't answer that I don't believe I was asked that question you asked whether any communica formal communications or contact with the campaign you said apart from writing papers putting up yard signs no that's what you said I've got the transcript to the conversation here sure I mean I might have been I think I was at Trump headquarters or the campaign headquarters probably August 3rd 2016 usable an Israeli dude a back channel to the Emiratis and the Saudis Don jr. Steve Millen were there to talk about Iran policy are you there to buy Iran policy you think that something important to disclose to house antennas committee while you're under oath he did you didn't we just went through the testimony there's no mention of the Trump Tower meeting August 2016 why not I don't know if they got the transcript wrong they got the transcript Trump's if we could I don't know I remembered I remember certainly this is the problem because we know that Robert Muller he hasn't been able to establish collusion yet but he has got a lot of guys for lying to the authorities and not telling the whole truth is that a problem now even if you accidentally didn't tell them that could come back and haunt you I fully cooperated I haven't heard anybody I haven't heard from anybody in more than nine months I mean I mean members of Congress after they discovered this media have talked about certain witnesses not telling the truth but you believe you told Congress about this meeting even though it's known in the transcript just to be clear I believe so yeah okay um you had another meeting which they did talk to you about in the seychelles on 11th January 2017 a week before Trump's inauguration where good old George nadir was there again on behalf of the Emiratis as was top russian oligarch Kiril Dmitri of a close ally of Vladimir Putin's the Emiratis saw that meeting as a as a way of creating a back channel between Putin's guy Demetria and Trump's guy you didn't they I don't think so I was there to talk to the Emiratis about Somalia and some of the other problem areas that we'd helped with before was also about you're wrong no and it was so how did you end up with a with a Russian oligarch who runs the Russian direct investment fund and is seen by the Emiratis as the messenger to Putin they call him well as I recall the Emiratis were investors in that fund and any fund matter fun any fund manager tends to travel to where their LP their investors needed them to be but what were you chatting about with the Russian dude I talked about it in testimony and that's all I'm gonna say but it was just a kind of accidental meeting yes even though Georgia Nader you're forecasting like I've said before it lasted one beer which doesn't take me very long so you flew halfway around the world to a secret meeting in the Seychelles to have one beer with a messenger I was there to see the Emirati leadership that's not what Georgia Nader seems to be telling the Muller folks right now does that worry you the natives country III think it's amazing for you to try to view into the Mueller testimony that's uh it's my depression too I mean okay that's that's what that's what's being reported okay and I just want to bring in you mentioned Iran interestingly enough but I'll bring in very briefly before we move on it I know the audience awaiting gaze Abdul Ahad is an award-winning Guardian journalist from Iraq we've covered conflicts across the Middle East when you hear about the Emiratis and Trump and the Saudis and the Israelis what is that all about I mean Eric mentioned Iran is this all about Iran I mean of course we are living kind of people say it's a cold war it's not a cold war anymore between the maratti Saudis of Israelis and the Iranians on the other side and and what the amorites are doing for example in Yemen and I think you worked with the Iraqis and your advice that at one point they are actually implementing your understand plan so if you see the Emirati war in Yemen it is tens of thousands of mercenaries local hired forces with skeleton troops from the Amorites a war that is being forged so viciously with no accountability whatsoever within the big art of fighting the Iranians who didn't exist in Yemen have you advocated using privates private contractors to take on Iran to the Trump administration no you have people have accused you that became that in the past you've talked about using private contracts to confront Iran no I see no role for a Blackwater slash FSG in any relation to Iran now okay just to check before we got the audience I've got us one quest last question you are part of a group of high-profile Trump supporters including Steve Bannon Sheriff David Clark and others who are planning on raising private money to build a wall along the us-mexico border you even have a GoFundMe page what I don't get though is I'm pretty sure I heard Donald Trump say that Mexico would be paying for the wall don't discount Mexico actually paying for the wall I think most of us have but yes more news on that look there's a lot of places where it's federal land and in a in a gofundme individual effort is not possible but there's a lot of places where US ranchers or US land owners own land right up to the border they're sick of their their farms effectively being massive transit spots for drug and criminal activity and so they would welcome that the guy who started that is a triple amputee okay military veteran who started it and he's raised more than twenty million dollars and in the cost per don't you for people for money when when Trump told us more than a hundred times people have counted that Mexico would pay for the wall so why do we need you and this guy and his GoFundMe page from lied tool because I again don't discount Mexico actually paying for part of the element there are things that that may happen that Mexico will end up paying out of the wall didn't say hey Mexico's gonna pay for Paul to the wall are very explicitly said if Mexico will pay for the wall the last chapter is not written on that mark my words so Mexico will pay for the wall so then why are you fundraising you won't have it both ways there's to raise money there on because people are frustrated they're sick of not frustrated that the president can't get Mexico to pay for the wall two years into his presidency after claiming there it is a national security issue when you have thousands of people crossing the border with a lot of drugs look America has a huge opium academia and you know the majority that's come through legal points of entry I'm talking about the funding Trump said Mexico from the wall did he lie to people when he said that what used to be a bipartisan issue the Democrats have made up did he lie to us when he said Mexico pay for the war given you're now trying to get Americans to pay I don't believe the president is lied and like I said the last chapter on Mexico paying for the wall is not done yet mark my word we'll wait for some more okay in the meantime Americans are gonna pay for it through your fundraising let's go to our audience who've been waiting very patiently I'm gonna go to the front here and then we'll go to the back gentleman here with the beard being originally Iraqi and having spent some time in Iraq I've seen how Iraqis still shudder at the name Blackwater reminded of the endless aggression the use of weapons as car horns or even the use of tear gas car traffic control do not think that black water has a role to play in perpetuating violence in Iraq as well as laying the foundation for education of al-qaeda and Isis there's a hundred and ten thousand Iraqi civilians have died after Blackwater ended any involvement in Iraq Blackwater was not the problem in Iraq a very sectarian government dominated by Iranian securing units that have been pounding on the Sunnis and now pounding on the Kurds is probably the thing that led to the that outcrop of Isis even if that's part of it most military experts including US military experts agree that high profile incidents whether it's Abu Ghraib or others did help act as a recruiting sergeant for groups like Isis that didn't exist before the u.s. invaded Iran so something like the Nissel Square massacre that is still remembered in Baghdad may well have done helped people say you know what I'm gonna go join an insurgent group now that's how Americans treat as private contractors shoot nine-year-old kids in the street shoot mothers with their children I think massive unemployment and in an Iraqi government that is you know when I'm not disputing that I'm agreeing with you discount the Nana Rakhi sitting at home seeing the Nissel Square massacre doesn't think you know what I might as well go join the insurgency if this is how Americans treat as innocent people no that's not you know look there is a a justice of process that served there was actually an accountability lots of investigation for that but like I said if a Rakhi sitting at home sees the Nissel Square massacre you don't think that might incite him to join in a surgery there's no logically of course bad news travels fast and it irritates people the bad news is what this gentleman is suggesting but we did not create the hundred and ten thousand Iraqi civilians that were murdered okay didn't all of them and by hashed ashabi and the iranian psychiatry let's go back to the audience gentlemen here in the red tide i'd like to ask what you think some of president Trump's greatest foreign policy achievements have been thus far and what he should focus on over the next two years to secure reelection well you know the president he campaigned against endless wars and the Pentagon looked there is a real military-industrial complex but he's trying to stop that he is trying to move or reduce US presence in Afghanistan and in Syria he's been getting the North Koreans to the table and if he can action negotiates a an end to the Korean War it'll be a magnificent first step and I think if that's if that's the case then the US should be willing to pull all troops out of South Korea and and the US presence in Korea which we've been which we've had for 17 years you're not a fan of Iran as we just got briefly should II negotiate with Iran – why is it Iran is the evil regime nobody should talk to them but North Korea I send him love letters he sends me love letters to my knowledge I think there certainly is still back-channel negotiations with the Iranians as well but you know they continue to do you know questionable things in Syria okay let's go let's go to the lady here and then the gentleman there hi this is also with regards to the August 3rd meeting of 2016 you said that you mentioned it in your testimony to the House Intelligence Committee I have the transcript right here of the testimony on the 30th of November 2016 you didn't I could read from it if we don't have time for you to read the transcript so why didn't you why why are you saying you did when you don't have another go answering this question why didn't you mention it in your shirt it was nothing not all the discussion that day was twist transcribed and that's a fact okay your answers to the questions suggest that there was no involvement that they asked you for example have you had any meet any meetings with a UAE delegation prior to the official meeting and the August 3rd meeting was prior to the session we think Georgia neder is a representative of mdz like I said not everything was transcribed from that discussion you weren't there you've been very kind of I admire you'd be very forthcoming to that on this issue you're very don't want to say much are you worried are you worried about Mullen nope not at all no ok let's go back to the audience let's go to the gentleman there I was caught up in this risk we're going back to my hotel covering a story at the time it's May and as you know and we saw people getting killed my own driver was injured may we discuss this with you before Gary well just going back what lessons have you froman's and we have done things differently then if he knew what you know man sure I wouldn't have I wouldn't ever do security for the State Department again it just wasn't worth it it wasn't worth the damage or the the hoard of the company if we were gonna do it I would have insisted like we did for any NGO work that we did is that we have cameras okay because the camera serves as a third party neutral observer because it's very easy to second-guess something that happens you know days ago or weeks or months ago but it's very different when you have to make us you're saying cameras that the implication being that you don't accept you did anything wrong there have there been cameras your men would be vindicated is that is that what you're saying you want to be explicit about that look because they've been found guilty in American Court I know the court you don't like but they've been found guilty in American courts after the fourth time trying okay they've been found guilty in American code and we had numerous other incidents where there was a shooting and we were accused and when so Square and we believe your men did anything wrong and when law enforcement authorities view the tapes okay there was no you believe in this so square you man did anything wrong it's a very simple question in hindsight sure if it's an innocent civilian every innocent civilian that's killed is a tragedy is a horror and we tried very hard to avoid that that's why 41 41 men died doing that mission shielding other people from enemy bullets who were trying to kill them and slaughter them or hang them bridge and burn them like some more questions lady there with a hand up do wait for the microphone to come to you yes I was a US television journalist in Iraq during and after the invasion I saw Blackwater people humiliate and terrorize Iraqis they were hostile to journalists and they were hostile to NGOs why should you get a contract to do the same thing in Afghanistan first of all how did you know that they were Blackwater personnel because they very very clearly walking around not just driving cars walking around they were Blackwater as journalists we knew who Blackwater was let us know they were not soldiers they were Blackwater it's a very literally to tell em I'm sorry there was hundreds and hundreds of companies employing us NATO and other country veterans the difference between between Blackwater and NATO I'm sorry but III don't think you're that sharp that you can tell the difference between a Polish guy a French guy or you're that sharp to tell the difference well carry on with the audience we'll go to the judge with the tie in the suit so Afghanistan be in war since 2001 fighting 20 international terrorist groups since 2014 the Afghan National Security Forces has been doing this by themselves so how do you justify that you will get a contract and go and do the war in Afghanistan given that you're making money out of this business and you'll ever want to conclude this business there and one point please do us a favor and have a boat line between death of mercenaries of that and democracy and it's totally after the people of Afghanistan to decide who was their next president Thank You ru Afghan yourself yes and you believe that Afghans don't want never like that's definitely but deal with the first question about this you have a self-interest in perpetuating the conflict cuz you get paid here's the thing of the sixty-two billion dollars right now the u.s. spends five billion dollars supporting the Afghan security forces 57 billion is the cost of the u.s. presence there that's going away okay the support for the Afghan security forces is the airlift the medevac which is wholly inadequate right now because Afghan soldiers are dying at a rate of thirty and forty per day if there's not a skill to support supply provided to them Hamid Karzai I'm sorry Ashraf Ghani himself said the Afghan forces will collapse in less than six months I say it's more like six weeks okay so there has to be some kind of capability to keep the Afghan security forces upright and able to function so that Afghanistan can actually have a free election to and they should be totally free to choose their next leader I agree let me ask you this despite all the things you and Blackwood have been accused of some of which we've discussed tonight but there's so much more you said in 2007 quote I sleep the sleep of the just I'm not feeling guilty just wondering is that still the case today you still have no regrets no guilt no ruin sleep at all over all those innocent lives taken by Blackwater employees none look the fact is the company did what it was asked to it was asked to protect we saved thousands and thousands of people we saved many many wounded US soldiers well beyond the scope of the contract okay we did what we were asked any any injury any civilian that's injured in a car crash or solar exile or nine year old children shot an ad correct and instance since long after Blackwater has involved a hundred and ten thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed in that same conflict by Isis so by incompetents our from so when I have George Bush on the show I'll ask about his sleep I'm asking about the people your guys killed does it keep you awake at night we were asked to do a job and we performed very very well we'll have to leave it there thanks to our audience here in the Oxford Union thanks to our panel of experts who have come tonight and thanks to Eric Prince for joining me on head-to-head that's our show head to head we'll be back next week you [Applause]

32 thoughts on “Blackwater's Erik Prince: Iraq, privatising wars, and Trump | Head to Head

  • With all due respect to Human Rights, I do have a different opinion.
    The moderator is a bit biased, I can tell, and has come to the show with a fixed mind. He is not giving Eric time to fully explain his points but keeps interrupting him whenever he tries to make a clean point to redeem his company's name. He's all about the nine year old boy and the mother.
    Having been a law enforcer, I will give my professional view. During enforcement of law and order, misadventure (legal term), occurs often times. Misadventure is when law enforcers for example, are in an operation and some innocent civilians happen to be victims by injury or death; might be through stray gun fire, stampede etc..
    Peace comes at a price; Black water lost their men but no one is talking about it. No one is talking about the millions of civilians rescued by them. As Eric is explaining, in a failed state insurgents come as innocent civilians, they don't have uniforms to distinguish them from the rest of the public.
    A vehicle for instance coming into a protected convoy may as well be suspect of VBIED (vehicle bound improvised explosive device) If a driver sees clearly that this is a Close Protection Operation and keeps coming into the convoy they he risk being mistaken for a VBIED attacker and being shot even though innocent. Do you expect the officers to negate the threat after the VBIED or Suicide vest has gone off?
    Lets agree, Black Water just like Eric said is not made of angels. We have had cases of atrocities committed by police officers while on duty in our states and many other government officials. Point is, there could be some rotten elements in our society, but they do not make us entirely discredit our organs. There were prosecutions of such elements who were found guilty in Black Water. So justice was served.
    We may have a racist police officer in service… this does not mean all police officers are racists… We still are proud of the police entirely.

  • today 25% of the World is and live by Muslim rules. Why do you think that is?? The rest of the world life by rules of equality but you dont??

  • How many of you think that US government/politicians/anyone linked to their government in any capacity are disgusting liars??? They really are, and so proud of it! My god!!! It makes me so angry!

  • 'Look d d d d' STUPID criminal. Why can't we just make the world a peaceful place where we all have equal rights? What do we have to lose?

  • Like many repulsive swines in the corrupt establishment, Erik Prince should be dragged into the street and hung from the nearest lamppost.

  • You know, if you’re not going to fully listen to the Blackwater president then why even have him on the show? In the military while Obama was in office there were military members that raped and killed innocent people so are you going to blame and question Obama like Eric? Doesn’t make much sense does it you biased moron?

  • Hey Mehdi, can you invite Dr Mahathir next. Would love to see you unravel his dictatorial past. <3

  • I think have private companies to fill the role of our military is the worst thing you can do, it opens the doors to abuses and profiteering from war which then opens the doors to even worse things

  • Everyone on the audience should start of any question with.. " hi.. I don't know anything about fighting in a war but I feel like I have an educated opinion despite my utter lack of experience with war."

  • In war there are seldom Angel's without blood stained wings. And in war the spectators will almost always attempt to make a spectacle of those who dare to participate… They will horde together like jackals to scavenge and heckle, unaware of there own monstrous form….

  • "Issued in April 2016, the memo again focused on remittance payments to Mexico, and threatened the following action on the first three days of a Trump presidency: the United States would impound the $24 billion that flow to Mexico annually from Mexican nationals unless Mexico contributed $5 billion to $10 billion to wall construction." In addition to the three-day plan, the memo also outlined other options discussed previously in the immigration reform paper, including tariffs, the canceling of visas for Mexican nationals, and increases in visa fees. Also Mexico is already curbing illegal immigration from their southern border because of the political pressure. So yeah, Mexico is indeed paying for a part of the wall.

  • Today we have private armies in Iraq, tomorrow we will have private armies in the USA.
    Fascism has no limits.

  • I am from Pakistan.. and in Pakistan i am from Peshawar.. the city that has been war zone from 2001 till 2016.. and while going to uni i have seen Black water mercenaries roaming around.. i wish i was at this show.

  • I agree that a company like black water provides higher paying jobs with a bit more stability and higher incentives. What i dont agree is that it feels like E.P. Never set the bar high as far as ethics are concerned

  • I love how Eric Prince believes that America belongs there or has some sort of legitimate purpose there in someone else's country. What a scumbag, just like the USA at large…

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