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Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Founder Creating Private Army of 'Christian Crusaders' in the Persian Gulf

The United Arab Emirates has secretly signed a $529 million contract with Erik Prince’s new company to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries.

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AMY GOODMAN: Who are they?

SAMER MUSCATI: New York University is one. We have the Guggenheim. Sorbonne University, whose—one of the lecturers, Nasser bin Ghaith, was actually detained and continues to be detained by the UAE authorities. We’ve written letters to these institutions, asking them to take a stand and not to be complicit in the crackdown. The response we got from Sorbonne University, unfortunately was, you know, they tried to minimize Bin Ghaith’s relationship with the university, as opposed to promising they’d actually voice their concern and demand his freedom. And we haven’t received a response back from the other institutions, who are eager and happy to take money from the UAE, but unfortunately they haven’t been vocal about this latest crackdown, even though the Guggenheim, for instance, has been vocal in China when an artist has been arrested. But closer to home, in the UAE, they’ve been very quiet. And if these institutions don’t speak up—I mean, there in excellent position—then who will? These are institutions that are partnering with the government.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And, well, as Samer talked about, the issue of the UAE military confirming this arrangement with Blackwater, the spin on it was quite interesting in the official statement, because while much of the attention that’s been focused by the New York Times on this issue has revolved around the potential use to suppress an internal rebellion inside of the UAE, the statement from the military there actually praised the work of Prince’s company and other Western companies that have been working with the military, because it’s enabled them to engage in, quote-unquote, "successful" operations in other theaters of operation, like Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Now, this is interesting because there is a ripe opportunity for mercenary forces to engage in Libya, either on contract with some form of a rebel government or alliance there. And so, if Prince’s company is involved with an arrangement through the UAE that somehow involves Libya, that would be the subject of quite a bit of interest, I’m sure, on Capitol Hill and in capitals around the world, because I think it’s just a matter of time before we start to see an incursion of special operations contractors going into Libya, if they’re not there already.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jeremy Scahill, the timing of Erik Prince moving to the United Arab Emirates, what’s happening here at home, and then if you could also comment on John Ashcroft in his new position?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, Erik Prince put the wheels in motion to go to the United Arab Emirates almost immediately after the five Blackwater executives under him were indicted on a range—a 32-count indictment, felony indictment, for weapons violations, allegations of bribery, of lying to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The United Arab Emirates does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. It’s not—I think that Erik Prince knows where so many bodies are buried that he kind of is in pole position in terms of being indicted himself. He’s been grey-mailing, what they call it, the U.S. government by leaking details of operations he’s been a part of, as a way of saying, "If you come after me, I’m going to go Ollie North on you and blow the whole thing open." And so, I think he more—in terms of strategic viewpoint regarding the investigations and indictments of Blackwater officials, Prince is trying to make it very difficult to be questioned in these matters. And the UAE is a safe place for him to operate.

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