Blackwater…peacekeeping mercenaries

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Blackwater, the notorious US security firm whose trigger-happy mercenaries were involved in civilian killings in Iraq and elsewhere, is expanding its lucrative business pitch into UN peacekeeping missions, hiding behind a mystique, off-shore affiliate called Greystone.

“In his most ambitious moments, [founder and owner Erik] Prince has set out a vision in which his companies would act as for-profit peacekeepers, working with the UN and other international organizations in conflict areas around the world,” the US magazine Mother Jones reveals in its March/April issue.

Prince, a former Navy SEAL, is repositioning his mercenaries as peacekeepers and relief forces.

(Book on the subject:  Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

After his South Carolina-based security firm gained world notoriety over involvement in dozens of unprovoked civilian killings, Prince, a former Navy SEAL, created a new subsidiary, Greystone Ltd., and registered it in Barbados.

The new affiliate registered with the UN’s procurement division, allowing it to compete for international peacekeeping contracts.

The company has also been quietly seeking to win peacekeeping and security work from aid organizations and foreign governments.

Greystone’s managing director Christopher Burgess, a 40-year-old ex-seal who was Prince’s colleague in the Navy’s elite unit, told the magazine his company has been hired directly by “foreign governments and private sector clients.”

He didn’t specify clients “due to operational security concerns,” except to say that Greystone has worked “in various Middle Eastern countries.”

Established 10 years ago by Prince, a right-wing son of a multi-millionaire, the security consulting firm has grown into what US investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill describes as the “world’s most powerful mercenary army.”

Riding machine-gun mounted utility vehicles, Blackwater’s armed contractors have gained notoriety for shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later.

Last December, 17 Iraqis were killed when Blackwater mercenaries opened fire in a crowded Baghdad neighborhood.

An ensuing US congressional report discovered Blackwater has been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005, mostly unprovoked.

New breed

With such a bad public image Blackwater would not have been able to move into new territories and hence came the need for Greystone, a mystique company quietly founded in 2004 as the firm’s “international affiliate.”

“Blackwater has a sexy name and people pay attention to it,” Chris Taylor, a former Marine Recon soldier who until May was Blackwater’s vice president for strategic initiatives, told the Mother Jones magazine.

He admitted such a high profile “may not fit the proposed mission.”

While nearly all of Prince’s 20 or more companies are US based, Greystone was incorporated in the Caribbean tax haven of Barbados.

“As far as I know, they were the same company with different names,” said security contractor who worked for Blackwater in Iraq.

Though being managed from Blackwater’s headquarters in North Carolina, Greystone has managed to keep a low-profile and stay out of the public limelight.

It remains a mystery even to industry insiders.

According to one contractor who saw Greystone managers arrive to claim their office space at Blackwater’s Baghdad headquarters, they were a different breed from Blackwater’s “yee-haw cowboys” trademark.

“They didn’t talk to the other Americans,” he recalled.

“They had different bodies, different mentalities, and used different language. They had a different professional attitude.”

According to its website, Greystone offers clients full protective details staffed by special operations, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel “for any threat scenario around the world.”

It is prepared to train indigenous forces “in developing a capability to conduct defensive and offensive small group operations.”

Blackwater has tried to train south Sudanese forces who have long engaged in a conflict with the Khartoum government.

Last year, the Sudanese ambassador to Lebanon said Blackwater had sought permission to enter Sudan under “a different name”-Greystone.

Global army

In addition to prospecting for contracts in new fields, Greystone has become Blackwater’s primary recruiter.

On its website, Greystone says its operators are drawn “from the best militaries throughout the world” and represent “numerous nationalities.”

Blackwater and Greystone have built recruitment networks reaching deep into the paramilitary milieus of the Third World, especially Latin American and Asian countries such as Chile, the Philippines, Nepal, Colombia, Panama and Peru.

Applicants, favorably those of military background, are asked to check off their qualifications in weapons such as rifles, machine guns, and shoulder-fired weapons as well as skills in specialties like sniper and door gunner.

Blackwater and Greystone are maintain a small fleet of aircraft, including Little Bird helicopters, commonly used in Special Forces operations.

Blackwater has also sought to acquire at least one Embraer Super Tucano fighter-a lightweight plane used by several Latin American governments for counterinsurgency, pilot training, and monitoring.

“They have the ability to do whatever tickles your pickle,” one private-security contractor told Mother Jones magazine.

“They have services literally from A to Z. Aviation. Special operations. Rescue. Ransom. You name it. If you got the money, they got the honey,” he added.

“You can hire 17 James Bonds with Arnold Schwarzenegger in charge.”

Source: Agencies

Publication time: 26 March 2008, 15:22

6 thoughts on “Blackwater…peacekeeping mercenaries

  1. I’m 17 and interested in being a mercenary. I love to hear gun fire and guns themselves. I am very smart, so i can think of something in tight situation. The BAD thing is that I have no military training. I have never shot a weapon before, but wanting to. Good thing is that I have good endurance. I ran cross country, if that helps at all. If I put my mind on something that interests me, I can do it well. Anyways, my question is if it’s possible for someone my age to do something dangerous as a mercenary. I know the danger that may be face, and even death. I’m just curious as to if it’s possible. Thank You.

  2. Everything is possible.
    I would rather have you firing the neurons in your brain than a AK-47.
    If you like to be a warrior then learn martial arts, learn to fight blindfolded and become the perfect archer always hitting the target although you are blindfolded.
    There are great masters out there that can jump on a 4 meter high wall, fight 8 people at once and they can push people from a distance etc.
    Mercenaries and soldiers are just being used as cannon fodder.
    Life is a gift.
    There are always greater realities waiting for you.
    There is so much more to life than what society tells us.
    I wish you a great life.
    All the best.

  3. Hi there
    Im from South Africa and need information. A friend of mine was working for greystone in Iraq and was involved in an attack in MOSUL a few days ago. His name was JAN DE WET also from South Africa. I just want confirmation of his death please. Apparently he was attacted and rolled his vehicle,he was taken hostige by the enemy. He was a good friend of mine and i need to know what is the situation.
    Thanks
    SOUTH AFRICA

  4. Hello Heinrich,
    What makes you think that I know the answer to your question?
    At the moment I would say that he is not held hostage by anybody and that he is alive.
    Let me know if you hear from him.
    (Only the body can experience death, the soul and the spirit never die.)

  5. Thanks for your reply.The reason for my question is because we get 2 stories from over there. Some of his collegues say he died and have pictures to prove it and the next call we get is that he is alive,was captured and freed but injured by the accident (he over turned his vehicle)and is in a hospital in Madrid. Surely you must have records of your employees and what happened to them. I hope he is alive and would rather believe the second story.

  6. Hi,
    I have just focused weather your friend is still alive or not.
    I do not have any employees in dangerous situations.
    I am just posting interesting news on this blog.
    That is why I asked:
    “What makes you think that I know the answer to your question?”
    Then I thought that you might have read my answer to Jeff Lee and concluded that maybe I can ‘know’ something about your friend, which is possible, it is called Remote View and it works.
    I am not saying that I am right about this, but I really hope so.
    All the best.

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