Opinion

Commentary: Fun in Abu Dhabi with Blackwater, Xe's Erik Prince

Trust Erik Prince to keep things interesting. These days the former Navy SEAL who presided over the former Blackwater company in Moyock hangs out in Abu Dhabi, playing the role of International Man of Mystery. What's his game? The New York Times, in an exhaustive piece of reporting, says it's providing a mercenary commando force for the United Arab Emirates.

Is that legal? No one has said otherwise, although the State Department, the Times says, is checking. Blackwater, of course, is up to its neck in legal issues stemming from its guards' shooting of Iraqis in Baghdad, and has paid $42 million in fines for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries. About a year ago, Erik Prince relocated to the UAE. It turns out he went in search not just of a more hospitable climate but a major business opportunity.

His new company goes by Reflex Responses - R2. It's being paid more than $500 million to recruit and train an 800-member battalion of foreign fighters, many from Colombia, some from South Africa. (The report says Prince doesn't believe Muslims can be counted on to kill other Muslims, although it's hard to see where he got that notion.)

For several years Blackwater kept folks guessing about what was going on in the fields and swamps near Moyock in far northeastern North Carolina, in a region loaded with national security and specialized military operations. The company's rise and fall can be measured in its name changes, from Blackwater USA to Blackwater Worldwide to Xe Services. The Moyock facility is now operated by a subsidiary, U.S. Training Center.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.newsobserver.com.

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