05-15-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
When things got a little dicey for Blackwater, the mercenary army with loads of “security” contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, founder Erik Prince renamed the company Xe (pronounced Zee), stepped down as the CEO and finally sold the company in December, 2010, to USTC Holdings. Prince had moved to Abu Dhabi ahead of Congressional investigations into allegations that Blackwater personnel had been involved in several incidents of killing unarmed civilians. Not content to lounge on a man-made beach or one of those man-made, palm-shaped islands writing his memoirs, Prince entered into a contract with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, to create an 800-man mercenary army to allegedly protect nuclear power plants being built in the oil-rich Emirates, provide cybersecurity and act as a deterrent against Iran. Sheikh al-Nahyan is the defacto head of the United Arab Emirates, a confederation of 7 small countries each headed by an Emir or Sheikh. The Emirates provided Prince with over half a billion dollars to get his army trained and launched and built an extensive training base for him.
Prince has gone to great lengths to hide his involvement in this operation. His name does not appear on any documents or contracts between his new company, Reflex Responses, and the Emirates and he is referred to within the company only as “Kingfish.” Three former employees have blown the whistle on the operation.
The New York Times has extensively investigated the new mercenary army and reported on it in a very long article in their Sunday, May 15 issue. According to the whistle-blowers, there is a secondary, unofficial plan for this army – put down any attempts at democracy protests.
The Emirates are monarchies with enormous wealth. They are also countries in which over 80% of the workforce is foreign, leaving the native population to get along as best they can. There is a welfare system, just as there is in Saudi Arabia, intended to give the impression that the people are sharing in the wealth generated by the natural resources of their land. This inequity in opportunity is one of the reasons Osama bin Laden was able to recruit educated Saudis to fly the planes on 9-11. The presence of so many foreigners taking all the decent jobs is a major source of the seething resentments on the Arabian Peninsula against both the monarchies and the foreigners. No amount of welfare compensates for the feeling that one’s life is a worthless, aimless trip between birth and death.
Seven families are sitting on a combined $20 billion a year in oil revenues. They want to retain the status quo and are willing to create an army to do so. The excuse being offered for the mercenaries is that the Emirates own army is inadequate to the needs of new warfare. It would probably be more accurate to look at the experience in Egypt and Libya and the rumors in Syria about members of the army joining the revolution. The only unforgivable sin in Islam is the killing of another Muslim. This is the reason the regimes in Libya and Syria have engaged in such aggressive propaganda campaigns to convince the population that they are fighting an invading foreign army rather than killing fellow countrymen. The Emirates are choosing to do the opposite – hire men who will have no religious injunction against killing Muslims.
Mercenary armies are the tool of medieval despots – from Italian princes to German kings to the Vatican. A few countries, like Hesse, built their fortunes on their mercenaries, retaining them right through the 18th century. They are armies that have no personal stake in the conflicts and only care about the body count. So far, the mercenary army is heavily drawn from Latin America. It is, nonetheless, a very dangerous situation for America. Even a few European faces in that army will feed into the prevailing belief that the United States is the latest in the series of invading and occupying armies. After all, we’ve already invaded two countries without good reason. Our supposed allies in the Emirates are putting us in a position of having a new anti-America recruiting tool handed over to the terrorists rather than entertain the idea that it might be time to start making reforms.
Way back during the Cold War, the United States funded a propaganda tool called Radio Free Europe. It broadcast into Eastern Europe. We also funded Radio Marti to broadcast into Cuba. It might be time to look at an upgrade – multiple methods of broadcasting into the Middle East a simple message – we are not invading you, not now, not ever.