U.S. investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill has exposed the content of a speech in which Erik Prince, the owner of the notorious mercenary company Blackwater, praises Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

Interviewed on Democracy Now!, Scahill described the remarks recorded secretly earlier this year at an event from which Prince had banned media coverage:

“..I had contact with someone who had the opportunity to go to this private event that was hosted by the Young Presidents Organization and Erik Prince was giving a speech in front of all these entrepreneurs. It was a private gathering. And they had ROTC cadets from the University of Michigan- the commanders of ROTC there. And in fact, at one point during his speech, Erik Prince stops after he had been bashing some NATO countries and saying that some of the U.S. allies in Afghanistan should pack up their bags and get out of the country, he singled-out about Canada as a positive example of a force that was doing a good job in Afghanistan, he stopped and he said, ‘I just want to make it clear everything I’m saying here is off the record in case any journalists slipped into the room.’ Let’s remember this is a man whose company does ninety percent of its business with the federal government. Taxpayers fund this man’s corporation.”

And not just American taxpayers. Last month, it was reported that Canadian Forces had been receiving training from Blackwater:

“The National Defence Department has spent more than $6-million having its troops trained by the controversial Blackwater security company, whose own employees have been accused of needlessly killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, documents show. The department sent a succession of personnel to Blackwater’s Moyock, N.C., training compound from 2005 to as recently as April2009, some of them learning tactics for working in dangerous settings, records obtained through access-to-information legislation indicate. The work continued even after the U.S. State Department cancelled its pricey security contract with the company in Iraq amid mounting criticism of Blackwater’s actions.”

This story should be at the top of the nightly news in Canada. Especially given the ongoing torture scandal involving Afghan detainees, this connection with Blackwater is deeply disturbing. Here’s Prince sharing his views on the Geneva Conventions:

“They are there to kill us. They don’t understand – you know, people ask me that all the time, ’Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in dealing in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan?’ And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t even know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there. [LAUGHTER]”

As Scahill notes, the remarks showcase both Prince’s disdain for international law and his ignorance of its history, “It’s interesting that he misuses the term convention there because it wasn’t a convention in the sense of a meeting, but a convention in the sense of an international agreement that was brokered that governs now, international affairs.”

Prince’s rhetoric about “barbarians” is reminiscent of former head of the CF Rick Hillier’s describing Afghans opposed to NATO as “murderers and scumbags”.

Blackwater claims to be the world’s largest private military contractor. The exposure of their mercenaries’ involvement in the murder of Iraqi civilians and other crimes has damaged the company’s reputation to the extent that they have recently changed their name to Xe Services LLC.  

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. He served as rabble.ca's editor from 2012 to 2013 and from 2008 to 2009.