Transcript For August 04, 2009
OLBERMANN: The slaughter of civilians for sport, weapons smuggling, destruction of evidence, wholesale corruption and finally murder. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, a full-fledged criminal enterprise executed by the military contractors known formally as Blackwater, according to the sworn testimony of two of its employees. "The Nation's" Jeremy Scahill, who broke the story, joins us in a moment.
The details come straight from two sworn affidavits filed late last night by persons who identities have been sealed to protect their identity, men who have previously cooperated with federal prosecutors in the criminal inquiry into Blackwater. From John Doe number two, a former member of Blackwater's management team, quoting the affidavit, "it appears that Mr. Erik Prince, Blackwater's founder, and his employees murdered or had murdered one or more persons who had provided information or were planning on providing information to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct. On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."
John Doe number two also stating that Mr. Prince, pictured here, smuggled unlawful weapons into Iraq, including sawed-off, semi-automatic machine guns with silencers and illegal hand grenades. The affidavit also says that Prince, quote, "views himself as a Christian crusader eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe. To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the crusades. Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game."
Striking similar allegations made in the affidavit of John Doe number one, a former U.S. marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq. He alleges that incidences of unjustified deadly force were initially videotaped and watched in a session called a Hot Wash. Blackwater, now known as XE Services, spelled XE, maintains that Mr. Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and performed their duties on behalf of their employer, the State Department.
Joining me now, as promised, the contributor to "The Nation Magazine" and author of "Blackwater, the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," Jeremy Scahill. Good to see you. Thanks for coming in.
JEREMY SCAHILL, "THE NATION": Thanks for having me back, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As horrific as all this sounds, it's just part of what you described in the piece today. Flesh it out for us.
SCAHILL: Obviously to hear the term murder and Blackwater in the same sentence is no great surprise, particularly to people who have been following the history of this company. It's been at the center of some of the worst violence of in Iraq, killing civilians repeatedly. Five of its men are going to be tried on manslaughter charges for the Nisr (ph) Square Massacre in Baghdad in September '07. Another one pled guilty.
The Congress is investigating. The IRS is investigating. This is a scandal-plagued company.
What is explosive about what's happened here-and you just went through some of the most explosive of these details-is that you have two former Blackwater officials. I have learned from sources that's John Doe number two was actually in Blackwater management and was privy to some of the inner workings of the company.
Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, remains the sole owner of the company, no matter that he stepped down as CEO and founder of the company. He micro-manages every aspect of Blackwater's operations and that's been well known.
On the Christian supremacist angle, let's remember that Erik Prince viewed Blackwater as a neo-crusader force and has from the beginning. This is a guy who comes from the powerhouse of the radical religious right. His father was a major bank roller and gave the seed money to Gary Bauer to start the Family Research Council, James Dobson, Focus on the Family.
And then we have his force employed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade. What we have here, Keith, is a confirmation from insiders at Blackwater that, in fact, Erik Prince did have a neo-crusader agenda, and, most explosively, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were intending to or did cooperate in the federal government's criminal investigation of Blackwater.
This is deadly serious.
OLBERMANN: To the murder in a second. But you mentioned something in here that strikes an obvious question. How could the Bush administration's State Department have missed this crusader element here, or was that what they were looking for?
SCAHILL: Missed it? I think it was considered a plus in the Bush White House. Remember, Keith, what we had here was the Bush administration essentially create a force that acted as an armed wing of the administration, not subject to the military command, not subject to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, that reported directly to George Bush's secretary of state and then to the president.
These were his men, his private force in Baghdad. And the allegations that they were running around shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally, as is actually what one of these individuals said, is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of Constitution, law or human rights.
OLBERMANN: Some specifics, to what you know about them. This is a strong term murder in court documents. This is under oath. This is not somebody throwing something up against a wall to see if it will stick. Are we talking about something related to the 2007 Baghdad Massacre or something here?
SCAHILL: It's unclear but I will tell you what I do know about this, Keith. The fact of the matter is that these individuals, in these sworn depositions, provided those depositions to lawyers, Susan Burke and the Center for Constitution Rights, that are suing Blackwater on behalf of Iraqis killed by Blackwater operatives in Iraq. They are suing them in civil litigation.
What we do know is that these same individuals say that they gave this identical information to the federal government, one of them in Grand Jury testimony, as part of the on-going criminal investigation. When I called the Justice Department and asked specifically, are you investigating Erik Prince on allegations that he was involved with murder, the Justice Department interestingly said that they would not confirm or deny any action that they may or may not be taking against uncharged individuals.
Erik Prince, according to the lawyers suing Blackwater, could be eligible for murder charges in both Virginia and the state of North Carolina under this existing law. That's the argument they're making in their motion that was filed late last night in the Eastern District of Virginia.
OLBERMANN: Jeremy Scahill, who has been the watchdog on Blackwater, now Xe, of "The Nation," who brought this story to everyone's attention today. Great thanks for doing so and great thanks for coming in.
SCAHILL: Thank you, Keith.
Update - MSNBC Broadcast August 05, 2009
Blackwater Founder's Visions of Christian Supremacy in Iraq
Two individuals, a former employee and a Marine who used to work as a security operative, allege that Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, may have murdered or assisted in the murders of individuals who were helping federal authorities investigate his company.
What’s striking isn’t that Blackwater and murder is in the news. Blackwater has a history of being linked to allegations of murder (for example, the Nissour Square killings on September 16, 2007).
The most salient part of this news are the words written in a five page declaration by a former member of Blackwater’s management team, who is being referred to as “John Doe #2” because he fears he may face violent retaliation if his identity is found out.
Doe #2 alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe":
That Erik Prince may have been involved in murders of people cooperating with investigations of his company isn't as important as the fact that if this is true he murdered because he felt compelled by a higher power to do so.
Jeremy Scahill, a journalist for The Nation and the man who broke this news story yesterday, discussed Prince’s Christian supremacist ideology on Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann yesterday night.
When asked how Bush could have missed the “crusader element,” Scahill rightfully explained that Bush viewed this as a “plus” and did not miss it.
Scahill said, “These were his men, his private force in Baghdad. And the allegations that they were running around shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally, as is actually what one of these individuals said, is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of Constitution, law or human rights.
Robert Weitzel, in an article titled, “U.S.’s Military Crusade for Christ,” writes that “Prince envisions an evangelical “end time” role for his warriors, “Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.””
Prince has served on the board of directors of Christian Freedom International, a “crusading missionary organization operating in the overwhelmingly Islamic countries of Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Prince is and has been one of many leaders who have been using forces and violence because of what they believe. When considering other crusader elements that have played a role in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the entire “war on terror,” it becomes more apparent that the U.S. is waging violence in a calculated manner similar to Islamic jihad and many are doing it for religious reasons like Islamic jihadists, aiming to advance a Christian supremacist agenda.
In 2007, Operation Stand Up planned to send “freedom packages” to soldiers and Marines in Iraq that would have contained Bibles and “the apocalyptic video game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” where “Christians carry on warfare against people of other faiths.” (The Military Religious Freedom Foundation prevented the packages from being sent.)
Campus Crusade for Christ (known as “cru” on college campuses) has been providing weekly “God’s Basic Training” programs to the U.S. Air Force Academy so that “‘government paid missionaries’ can complete their training.”
Televangelist John Hagee, a pastor of a 16,000 member church with millions of viewers a week, preaches “that in order to bring about the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of true believers, Islam first has to be destroyed.”
Bush once thanked Hagee for “spreading the hope of God's love and the universal gift of freedom."
If you recall, in May, GQ got a hold of “briefing covers” showing that briefings from Rumsfeld and elite Pentagon strategists on progress in Iraq came illustrated by “victorious quotes from the Bible and gung-ho photographs of U.S. troops.”
The latest news from Iraq reported by the Jerusalem Post is that Iran’s Fars news agency is claiming the CIA and Mossad have been “actively promoting Christianity in the Kurdish region of Iraq.”
The agency claims Americans and Israelis have been “offering $1,000 to any youngster willing to convert to Christianity.”
To those who have read the opening chapters of Reza Aslan’s How to Win a Cosmic War or for those familiar with the core ideas of his book, you know how dangerous it is that American foreign policy is so entangled with Christian supremacist forces in America.
Aslan argues, for the most part, that the way to win a cosmic war (how he characterizes “the war on terror”) is to not fight it. But, Christian supremacists acting based on what they believe about end times will never choose to not fight.
So long as people like Erik Prince and others with views similar to him influence foreign policy or play a role in carrying out America’s foreign policy goals and objectives, Americans can count on hearing more news of torture and abuse of Muslims, more news of murder and mass killings of Muslims, and more news proselytizing and attempts to convert Muslims.
We can count on a bloody war on Islam to continue under the guise of the "war on terror."
For additional reading on how Christian supremacist ideology is transforming the U.S. military, check out Jeff Sharlet's article from Harper's, which was published in May of this year.