In the secretly recorded speech Blackwater founder Erik Prince delivered recently, which was obtained by The Nation, Prince addressed a wide range of issues, many of which were addressed in my initial post on this. I will continue to post other excerpts over the next day.
During his speech, Prince addressed the court-martial of a US Navy SEAL accused of punching an Iraqi alleged to be the mastermind of the brutal 2004 ambush and killing of four Blackwater operatives in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Tuesday, a jury was convened at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia in the case of Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe. The 24-year old SEAL pleaded not guilty of assaulting Ahmed Hashim Abed, the accused Iraqi. Two other SEALS, charged with covering up the assault, were acquitted in trials last month in Iraq.
In the speech, Prince was asked by an audience member about the prosecution of the Navy SEALs and the impact the court-martial could have on morale of troops in the field. "The same thing that happens when you put your hand near a hot wood stove," Prince said. "It makes you pause because I have many friends that did amazing things to defend their country, taking terrorists off the streets, capturing them so they can't plot to kill us any more. And for them to have to spend half their time and paying out of their own pocket for lawyers to defend themselves against work their country asked them, needed them to do is bad."
Prince, himself a former Navy SEAL, also revealed an allegation that does not appear to have been published before, namely that the Iraqi suspect had broken free from his cuffs while being transported. "He was in a helicopter," Prince said, "and he slipped out of his restraints and was free on that helicopter and that SEAL did the right thing and punched him and restrained him. It was not an interrogation situation, it was a prisoner restraint issue. And that's a case of, I believe, too many lawyers being out there. Unfortunately some senior officer along the way didn't put a reality check on it and just stop the whole thing."
The families of the four Blackwater men killed in Fallujah sued Blackwater, alleging that the company had cut corners and sent the men into Fallujah without adequate weapons, vehicles and preparation. The case was moved to private arbitration. Some of the family members of the Blackwater men killed in Fallujah, including Katy Helvenston-Wettengel and Donna Zovko, mothers of two of the men, have offered their public support for McCabe and the other Navy SEALs.