Kerry Candaele's interview with Robert Pelton

The transcription of the interview below began once the camera was filming.

ROBERT PELTON: I had already been doing some work with them, with the coastguards, so they had contacts, so they said, do you need some help, so they-- they helped, they assisted the coastguard in lifting people off the roofs and moving things around and then later on they sent some guys down there just to provide basic security, to help out the law enforcement. And then they started-- literally people walking up to them and saying, 'You work for Blackwater? Who's your boss? Who can I call?' And they were getting business like that.

This is at a time of looting; this is right first three or four, seven days of the event. And since they-- pshew-- (Inaudible) the aviation division, boom-- in come the people.

KERRY CANDAELE: You know this, there was some reporting about uh, they took over some apartments downtown--

Yeah the reporting was bullshit because essentially that was Shannon Campbell, my friend talking to journalists-- they were staying at the same hotel. So the journalists came in, they were staying at the same hotel as the Blackwater guys, and he said, I think ABC News-- he said, 'Hey you guys are Blackwater, you know, da da da, can we hang out with you?' and he said 'Sure.' They made a phone call and he said, his boss, 'cause we got some journalists there-- which we do-- he says, 'Oh, whatever they want. Just hang out. As a matter of fact, I'll come and get them because I'll take them on what we're doing, I'll put them in a helicopter-- one of our helicopters-- and I'll fly them around and I'll show them what we're doing.'

He didn't do that part but they basically took the pictures of Shannon and his buddy and wrote a story about missionaries and (Inaudible). I mean I can point out the lines where Shannon says things, and Shannon's in my book because he was on the Bremmar(?) detail, he just got back from Afghanistan.

Let's step back and--

Okay. Let me sit up straight. (MOVES ON CHAIR) Is this gonna make sounds?

This guy who'd work for Blackwater and I was like, Wow these guys-- those guys, I don’t' mean like Blackwater, uh contractors, 'cause I'd been with the CIA group in Afghanistan during the war, special forces. And I was intrigued by the whole way they were doing the war and as I got to know more and more about it, this guy just happened to be the first security VP for Blackwater. I started to realize, Geez, there's a shitload of these people over there. People that I knew from the military started working with these like on the Karzai detail and stuff like that. And all of a sudden this little small group of people started floating around, you know setting up-- not setting up but basically being this industry. And then they just (makes exploding noise) exploded.

So it went from being sort of a closed-mouthed secret to a giant industry.

Why was it a closed-mouthed secret?

Because there's sort of a... how you say... there's a tradition amongst special operation soldiers, it's called the quiet professional, right, um, and that actually comes from the fact that a lot of those guys go into intelligence work, so they don't want their picture taken, they don't want their names published, they don't brag in bars that they jumped into this place and shot all these guys, because essentially they get picked up later as paramilitary contractors-- green badges or blue badges-- so they keep quiet so when they do the security work even though it's not the same, they still don't talk about it.

So you had all these people working in, I wouldn't say they're covert, they're classified, but they're doing things that are classified level. But it's very mundane stuff, just providing security. They just talk amongst each other 'cause they all know each other.

And so when somebody was looking for a gig they'd say, I need five guys for this detail in such and such a place, takes one round of emails to basically contact everyone. Nowadays, it takes a lot of emails to contact everyone.

But there's still that sort of little drum circle, that jungle drum where you don't actually see or hear about it, but if you ever intercept one of those emails, you'll see hundreds of names of contractors on there.

So, how's the squeaking problem?

When I talk does it squeak?

A little, it's not too bad. I was just gonna say, why such a dramatic growth from the first time you met this small crew, in where was it-- Afghanistan, right?

Well I should tell you the whole story because I was just chatting, but my basic area of interest is conflict. I go into areas that I think are unusual, different, sort of trendsetting. The last book I did was called Three Worlds Gone Mad, which was about three tiny little places: Chechnya, Bougainville, and Sierra Leon, that had sort of birthed new forms of warfare and conflict. One was about mercenaries and diamonds, one was about a giant mine and sort of an autonomous, indigenous movement, and the other one was about jihadites and sort of the independence movement that was squashed as a war on terror.

And tried to talk to both sides and I tried to figure out what is...

Right so my area of interest has always been emerging trends and conflict, and players and things that maybe people aren't paying attention to but I think are sort of important. And I try to look at how they are created and how they affect our version of conflict, because conflict is no longer people staring at each other across trenches, one wears red one wears blue. It's a very complex process. So in these three areas I came across all types of players.

You know, mystical hunters, jihadis, mercenaries and so on and so force. And then in the war on terror, I was in the Special Forces team that fought on horseback, they were with General Dosdem, and I had been invited by General Dosdem to join him during the war. And I got to see the world of the CIA and CIA paramilitaries and also Special Forces operating in a capacity very similar to the dirty wars in Laos and Cambodia where they were inserted behind enemy lines, they worked with the local indigenous-- what they called 'G Chiefs'-- which in this case were legitimate guerilla groups.

And I saw that morphed as they went into the south where they basically had to create proxy armies even though none existed in the poshtoon eras. And I also saw how they brought in contractors. Now, normally the CIA is a very robust what they call SAD-- Special Activities Division-- and they have a security division and they have operations and when they go into a country, security's very important.

Well, after September 11 they basically ran out of people so they had to hire contractors. Contractors who weren't working for the emb-- for the agency at the time but were sort of (Inaudible) or hired as part-time people. They had to have classified clearances. I just happened to bump into one of these guys on the border, I was looking for Bin Laden along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and I was with Taliban and I just happened to bump into this guy and he was with-- I think at the time it was called Task Force 11-- which is what they call OGA-- Other Governmental Agencies-- made out of different like Navy Seals, Special Forces, Delta, other people. And they were tracking activities and people along the border.

And I was surprised that we were hiring private security people to provide sort of muscle for this group. And so I got to know him and I started to learn more and more about him and I was intrigued by this that we were basically outsourcing the war on terror, I mean from my limited perspective. And this was back 2 years after the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. And so after I came back and started to look into it, I realized that there were more and more of my associates who had been in Special Forces units deploying with companies I had never heard of like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, Dine Corp, and I started looking into it.

So what happened is I began to write a book which is called License to Kill, which essentially tracks the growth and history and evolution of this entire industry specifically in the war on terror, which is obviously starting at 911, going forward.

Can you describe what you thought was troubling or odd or just intriguing about this privatization, outsourcing of this kind of 'muscle,' as you put it? Were there any problems that struck you at the time that you--

Well you have to understand I've been with mercenaries for many years, some of my best friends are mercenaries. I know that there are a lot of ex-military people who once they’ve served their time in special operations divisions, special forces, have a hard time readjusting to the real world so they tend to cluster together and they tend to take jobs either doing security work, sometimes working as mercenaries. One of the first things I did for the media in 1998 was travel around with a mercenary who was an ex-special forces guy and we went to Afghanistan, Sudan, whatever. So it's a very common environment for me.

So what I was intrigued to see was more of a legitimate form of this where somebody with specialized military skills could work in a security capacity, not in an offensive capacity but in a security capacity, a defensive capacity for the U.S. government or even for corporations that were working for the U.S. government. And what surprised me was first of all how much money they were getting paid, 'cause--at that time if you had a compartmentalized security clearance, you could make $1200 bucks a day. Anywhere between $750 and $1200 a day, depending on your skill level. You were an independent contractor which means you wouldn't work for somebody, you took your cash and you went home, you could do 90 day rotations, you could do 6 month rotations.

My friend who on the Karzai detail, signed up for 2 back to back 6 month rotations at 650 a day. It's good money. So these were guys who were now making 4 to 5 to six times what they were making in the military and telling their friends, 'Hey check out this gig I have, I'm working in the compound Karzai. I'm making this much money I get to go to Bangkok every 90 days and so on and so forth...' so they started pulling their friends to form teams out of the military.

Well what troubled me about that was everybody understands the quality level and the commitment and the focus of somebody who's been in the military for let's say 20 years and has been trained for very specialized combat. When those people just leave and become essentially glorified security guards, they're basically throwing away millions of dollars worth of training but they're essentially doing something for a private client and they're making a lot of money doing it.

Almost every one of my friends had that magic moment in which he says, 'Okay I'm making 650, 850 a day, I need to get a job. I need to get back into the merry-go-round.' You go in for 90 days you come out for 30 or 60 days, you gotta get back in. Well, I was looking at the friends that I knew that were mercenaries and well, this huge polyglot of people who have specialized skills, where do they go after Iraq vanishes? Is there any future employment for them that's going to be as exciting, as profitable, and as thrilling because they like it, they have what they call combat PSDs or Private Security Details, where they go to places like Hilla, Fallujah, Vermati, and you know you're gonna get shot at but people like it 'cause it's, to them, it's what they were trained to do.

So. All my friends who were mercenaries are the same kind of people. Essentially people who like the focus, they like the thrill, they like the comaraderie that comes from working with other skilled people. And I just wanted to know where it would go. So that's why I launched into my book, to find a--

Let's come back around to some of the questions we were talking about. Can you talk a little bit about, since we're focusing on Iraq for this film and Blackwater specifically, can you talk little bit about what a day looks like for these guys who are Blackwater. Can you tell us about their characters, about some... pick a few or a couple of them...

Well--

What a day is like running with Blackwater forces and the Greensam.

Well the folks working in Iraq are essentially the second generation of contractors. And most of them tend to be Marines, small town cops, some are former special forces some are Navy Seals, but they're essentially basically working guys that train up, they do a course in which their skills are judged and then they get shipped off to Iraq. They work on a daily basis, typically on anywhere from a 90 day to 6 month rotation. They live in a bunk house which like a frat house with guns. It's sort of a crowded, all-male place where people have bunks and they have their little storage area.

You roll out of bed sort of eightish, nineish, nothing too early. You have a couple meetings, one is the just general house business what needs to be done, do you need to order anything, so on and so forth. The second one is essentially a briefing, you do a briefing every day before you do a run, and you have an intel guy who gathers all the information from the military and from open source and puts together a list of things, a list of attacks, list of things to look out for... and in many instances we were actually told that there was going to be a certain vehicle being ready to detonate. Sometimes we were given the license plates, sometimes a color, sometimes a photograph of it and we were told that at this time they're gonna go on (Inaudible)...

And then we would go over sort of standard convoy procedures-- who's in front, who's in back-- we would review some recent incidences. At that time, it was literally the most dangerous time to do the route Irish because they were averaging I guess 16 attacks in a 48 hour period or 48 attacks in a 16 hour period I don't know which-- it doesn't really matter-- because we got a car bomb almost every day. We had numerous incidences as we went back and forth. Then essentially you suit up, you get your gear on, you wear armor you wear a helmet, you had a weapon you had what they call a Rhodesian rig, which is a-- carries up to 8 megs for an M-4 and then you put two for the glock on the side. Some people carry their pistol here, some people carry it down on their thigh.

You get in the vehicles, you head off and then it's like a football game: you leave gate 12, there's usually a sniper at the-- (Inaudible) as you head out on your right. You come up over the overpass. Usually the overpass is littered with bits of cars because that's where the car bombers come out and they blow the hell out of themselves and they usually-- the car usually blows off the bridge or they push it off the bridge. And so they're usually down there.

Then you start rolling towards the airport and the lead car's calling off what's in front, you know, fast move around the left, somebody on the right. And what's interesting is that some days there's nothing going on: no traffic, nothing on the side of the road, you just go to the airport and back. Some days, it's a circus. I mean, you'll see a guy under his car pretending to fix something and you know damn well that he's a lookout. You see a kid standing there and you're like, why is a kid standing there? You'll see people crossing the roads, you'll see a guy just talking to somebody over there and then-- you're doing this at high speed, of course-- and all of a sudden BOOM, and you see a big donut shape, you know from the car bombs--

Then you realize that you just were lucky that day. So typically six, seven minutes depending how fast you drive, you get to the airport, there's 2 flights a day, so you wait for the plane to come in. You drop off your passengers, you pick up your passengers, you arm them you give them armor, you go back in the vehicle, you go red when you leave the airport, everything's safety off, you know loaded, and (laughs) the way back is actually more interesting because they track you going in so they know exactly who's in the airport and they know you have to come back on that road, so most of the attacks are usually on the way back and--depending on the timing, sometimes the roads can be closed because there's just been a car bomb and they close the road. Sometimes a car bomb will happen behind you, sometimes you'll see it, I mean I think the closest we ever up on a car bomb was I think 60 seconds. And then when you get to gate 12 it's a little bit hairy because gate 12 is the big sort of funnel area in which everybody comes into the green zone. There's a little traffic circle that people like to blow themselves up in, so you get jammed in the traffic.

And then some days when there's already been a car bomb you just go out the other gate, but then you're driving through heavy urban traffic. And that's actually hairier than doing route Irish because you're just surrounded by the people. Typically you had people stay back at least 200 feet, 200 yards depending on how bad the traffic is. If they come up on you too fast, you're allowed to fire on them and if they continue coming up on you then you're allowed to fire on the vehicle, and if they continue then you fire into the driver and typically a car bomber or a guy driving with what they call VBID, Vehical-based Improvised Explosive Device, would be driving a white sort of Japanese import-type car.

And their tactics will change from either pulling up in front of you and stopping or they don't usually come up fast from behind anymore or just being parked by the side of the street and just detonating, having somebody box you in to get you closer to the impact. So, they change all the time.

But it's a-- it's the kind of thing where after the first three or four days, it becomes rather routine. Even the car bombs are sort of, 'Oh, there goes one.' Even when you're drinking at night up on the roof, you're hear like a boom, and sometimes you can hear the first explosion and the second explosion is usually a small detonator explosion you can hear, and then the big one like BABOOM.

And then mortars, you'll sit there and everybody'd be drinking and suddenly you'll stop and, 'z z z z BOOM,' okay. Then you go back. So that's-- it becomes mundane.

From what I can tell, or is this just a website rumor or what have you, but the Blackwater folks seem to have some type of reputation. You see this reflected in some kind of the cartoons that are written about them, or what-- tell me a little bit about the reputation of these guys that you worked with. There's always the discussion of the cowboy type, the--

That's--

I have remind you, just so our audience knows what we're talking about, if you could mention Blackwater folks so we'll know who exactly you're referring to.

Okay. Well the men that work on the security detail on specifically, let's say Blackwater, don't just invent how they look or how they act, I mean they're trained that way. So the typical gear that a PSD operator will wear is essentially an outgrowth of the special forces look, or let's say the Navy Seals look--the sort of casual, half casual have military look. The demeanor is actually straight out of the state department because that very aggressive stance, in other words pointing your gun at people and yelling (Inaudible) 'Get back,' is a permutation of the military rules of engagement in an urban environment, blessed by the state department and then carried out by security contractors.

Now there are two schools of thought and to understand why it's important is the British methodology which basically comes from Northern Ireland and working within similar environments, is what they call low-profile. That's where people say, what they say is they put a (Inaudible) on your head and they sit in a standard Sedan with their vehicle below the belt line. The American way of doing security is much more in your face. Like, look I've got guns and if you mess with me I'm gonna use 'em.

You see that in our military as well. So the demeanor is very, would appear to an Iraqi to be very hostile and the attitude is very American, with the sunglasses, the shaved heads, the goatees and whatever. But that's an outgrowth of our philosophy on how we deal with people. It's not something that Blackwater invented.

No military person can wear a goatee and sport all kinds of other gear that's not specifically required by the military..

Correct, but you have to understand something. There's the military, which is the rank and foul military, and then there are the special operations community and they have what they call is 'relaxed room,' and that look, that sort of 'aren't I a badass' or 'look at me I have a beard,' is sort of an elitist view that comes from, I don't want to say from the Navy Seals or the special forces, but it's a-- it's almost a uniform now and it's been modified obviously for the private communities so that now-- I remember a very humorous conversation between two middle-aged men talking about whether you should wax or shave your head. I mean, but they're terrified to not have sunglasses, to not have that goatee and that shaved head.

But for every guy that looks like that I can point out a guy that's got just a regular haircut, that speaks very softly. I just think that look is more of like a guy from the Marine Corp going into what he thinks is sort of an elite unit then sort of over-doing it. I think the aggressive tactics come from being condoned by the people who are really in charge, which is in this case, the U.S. military and the state department as a show of force, to keep people back, to make them think twice before they do something.

I think that has a very negative effect. I mean I'll be the first one to admit that if I was driving my car to work and a bunch of guys with shaven heads and tattoos started firing their guns at me because I didn't stay back, yeah I'd be pissed off. So I don't think it's appropriate and I think the British are learned that the more violence you use, the more violence you project, the more violence comes back on you.

In that specific instance, I think some PSDs are a very negative influence on pacification efforts like Hearts and Minds. And the best example that was in Fallujah and also during the Zapata incident where the Marines were trying to keep a very low profile and keep it quiet, and there were PSDs shooting up the town-- I don't think it was the Zapata crew that did it but somebody was pulled over and somebody was disciplined for disturbing the peace.

Since you brought it up--

Well I'll tell you the specifics on that because there's two things that work, right. You say these guys are really aggressive, which they are, they're really aggressive sort of in your face, shooting guns at people and they look like thugs, and then you have fact that okay, but there's nothing you could do about it and that's where this whole problem is created.

Because I'll wait 'til he's gone but you have to understand the fact that, like I explained, our government condones and supports and encourages that activity. It's not like they just invented it. Like I'll take you out with Triple Canopy or Heart and they just sit there, they use Iraqis as drivers, the guy will sit in the back with the little dish-dash on, he'll just keep his AK like this, and they'll never crack a window, they'll never honk a horn. And when they get attacked, they don't even shoot back, they get attacked by the U.S. army a lot because they look like you know, Iraqi thugs because the drivers are this big with a little (insinuates big mustache).

Is he gone?

Yeah he's gone.

Okay. Go ahead, ask me the question again.

So, I just wanted to get at the nub of this problem, being put in a situation where they can fire (Inaudible) ...they're supposed to be-- they're supposed to fire back. If they get fired upon, they're not under military control, they're not under-- they're not private individuals--

The reason my book is called License to Kill is because it started with the entire concept of George Bush saying, 'Go kill these people' and then needing to use contractors because he ran out of full-time special activities division people. When that expanded into Iraq, the companies that were operating in Iraq said, 'We're not gonna be subject to Iraqi laws because there are no Iraqi laws. There's no Iraqi judiciary, there's no Iraqi police force.' So Bremmer actually issued an edict that absolved them from local law enforcement, local liability. He did mention in the back that you're still subject to these sort of international laws that govern the military.

But the effective message was, 'You better behave yourself because if you do something wrong, there's no penalty for it.' Now what happened was that as Iraq became a sovereign nation, you can judge it any way you want but I don't think it is, that was handed over to what they call the Ministry of the Interior. Ministry of the Interior was supposed to license and regulate all these private security companies, all these weapons they use, well the problem is the Ministry of the Interior now runs death squads and is basically stopped either registering or controlling or whatever, private security companies. So there's a myth out there that there's 20,000 of these guys operating in Iraq--that's bullshit.

There's over 70,000 and that's just a rough estimate. There's over 720 members of the Iraqi government that have security detail just to get them to and from work. That's just the government, that's not business, that's not warlords, that's not criminals. So the problem is you have a huge problem, you have thousands and thousands and thousands of people who can drive to work with guys with guns hanging out the back, and they all have unmarked vehicles and they all wear sunglasses and they all point guns at you and you have no idea-- is that the Blackwater, is that the Triple Canopy, is that a Heart, you know-- so what's happened is it's, once again, become unregulated.

And to this day, no single person working for private security company has ever been charged or convicted or even accused of committing a crime. Even though people shoot at people all the time, bullets hit them-- you've seen from the Eges video-- it's a normal part of a PSD operation to fire weapons at people and obviously they hit a lot of people and they don't stay around to see well did you get injured, did you get a flat tire, you know are you dead...

So I couldn't find a single governing authority or record keeping activity or anything that would tell me that these people are all perfect. So I'm not saying that everybody's bad, I'm just saying this is still an unregulated free-for-all in Iraq right now.

Can you-- you described to me earlier-- how many people have been killed by these private security guys, your experience of knowing, one, that this happened, and two that there's absolutely no information.

Well once again, when... let's just take an example. In any particular run, going from Point A to Point B with a private security detail, weapons are used as the secondary method of keeping people back. So the first method is a sign or some you know, device. Second one is a hand warning or physically throwing a water bottle at someone. And the third one is firing your weapon. Now you fire that weapon into the ground in front of the vehicle and that is supposed to you know, by flicking up stones or seeing the impact, that's supposed to make the person slow down. If they continue to drive to close then you fire into their vehicle.

Now right off the bat you have property damage and that's a very very common occurrence. If they continue to come at you, or that warning shot, and you know they practice shooting at speeds but it's an inexact science, hits someone in the car, they have no way of knowing that. And if somebody really comes at you and you lay into them and they smash, they crash their car or they get hit, it's not their job to stay behind and to render first aid.

Their job is get their principal to wherever he's going. Now have I seen shootings? I've seen the discharge of weapons multiple times per hour against civilians who don't see, who were coming or moving or whatever. Have I seen somebody shot in a lethal capability in which I knew that person was dead? No, because you're travelling so fast and you're watching so many things that you really don't care, you're firing a weapon at someone and if it hits their windshield, you really don't stay around to see if that person has been injured. So I would be the first person to say that I have never seen anybody deliberately-- I'm talking about private security-- I've never seen anyone deliberately try to injure a person except if that person was trying to kill them or driving too fast. But could I, without doubt, say that every time a weapon has been fired into a house or a vehicle and hasn't injured or killed somebody, I have no idea.

And I would hope, as an American citizen, that somebody does keep track of that, but they don't.

The question of military morale comes up in a lot of the literature about these private military corporations (Inaudible) about others. About what it means when private companies such as Blackwater put these guys out there that are actually in close proximity to soldiers. I'll ask you directly if you've seen this kind of conversation go on, that we've heard it from other soldiers that there are certain-- that whether they're approached or whether it's just in casual conversation, the discussion of money comes up. The idea that one can leave the military or when one gets out can transfer to a private company and make a hell of a lot more than they were making in the military and not be on the same kind of restrictions as the military, the demands, has suggested to some that it is a demoralizing fact undermining military efforts in Iraq. Can you describe that process?

I don't think it's fair to say that the existence of private security contractors is demoralizing to the military forces in the same theatre. My experience has been that every time I'm in a PSD and I pull up to a checkpoint usually with Marines, they're in awe, they're like, 'Dude, you guys work for Blackwater? How much money do you make? Can I get a hat? You know, so an so forth. It's like you're a rockstar. At a higher level, at the office level, at the planning level and the operational level, I've heard many complaints that these guys are cowboys, that they shoot up this, they cause problems, they gotta deal with it because as I just mentioned, let's say one of these guys drives by at 70 miles and hour and bursts-- hits a car, those people will typically go to the military to complain.

And they won't go to the security office or the head of the corporation. And the military has to deal with that. Now let's say there's a real problem and somebody did get killed and now there's anger and there's gonna be revenge, that person, that Iraqi for example, doesn't care if the blows up a military compound, convoy, or blows up a security detail, he's just pissed at America. So absolutely it does create problems, it does go counter to the Hearts and Minds program and you would be hard-pressed to find any private security company who is involved in any Hearts and Mind activity because they're there to make money, they're not necessarily there to save Iraq, or to carry out the orders of the Commander in Chief, which is, you know, President Bush.

It's interesting that your example of the reading of the troupes with the Blackwater folks, it suggests to me that it's precisely the way I've described it, which is, yeah, you're a rockstar, you've got big money, a big cool car (Inaudible) ...which, in America, a lot of people want to be rockstars. I guess it's not, I wonder about that, were we privy to discussions about this kind of thing between private guys and military about money-making, description of jobs.

Yeah, well okay let me set the standards here. First of all, not everybody in the military can be a private security contractor. You need special skills. You can't just be Joe Dufus and say, Hey, I'm gonna work in small squad operations. Typically, they look for people with some type of advanced military skills. Second of all, those guys are ex-military. The guys in the private security companies used to be in the military, so when you say do they have this whatever, no, there actually is a bond between them. For example, if you need stuff, you sneak over to the Marines. If you need grenades or rocket launchers or whatever, you don't buy them on the black market from Iraqis, you go over to your buddies in the Marines and you say, 'Hey buddy can I get a couple of those frags or whatever' 'Yeah sure, what do you got?' 'I got this and that...'

So there's no animosity at that level, at the squad level, at the enlisted man level. There is distinct animosity at the general level because I've been in conferences, I've been in discussions where a senior member of the U.S. military who is in charge of carrying out certain orders in a certain area with civilian populations and insurgences and ongoing violence... doesn't need a wild card thrown in that mix.

You know, he's got enough of a problems just trying to deal with this little area right here. Now the fact that it's criss-crossed by 15, 20, 30, 50 security details all working for government officials, corporate guys, I mean, it's nightmare for him. Each one of those convoys that criss-crosses his area of operations is protecting the guy inside that car. That's their soul liability and concern.

So if this guy shoots at this guy and that guy shoots and that guy, that's counter to this guy's mission, it's not in support of this guy's mission.

Just curious about your time with Blackwater because this is, again, another subject that comes up in a lot of literature is that there doesn't seem to be a chain of command or a regular one or fairly precise one, or even a influential one in these private military companies, and it doesn't seem to be oversight of what exactly happens and what these guys do. And I wonder if you saw in your time with them, is there an attempt in a company like Blackwater to say, 'Well let's debrief, let's go over rules of engagement, let's go over who did what to whom and let's assign responsibility for it.' As one would, with the military at its best, its theoretical most--

Well let me set up the framework for that, because you're not gonna-- you're describing something that would be more typical of a large corporation or military structure, you know (makes downward pyramid motion). The private security is like that (makes straight line motion). These are all individual. The basic business unit as an independent contractor, you know Joe Blow, Fred whatever... he comes in, hopefully with certain skill levels, works for 90 days, comes out, he's replaced with this guy. Now, you have a contract that needs 50 of these guys.

So you hopefully get your people up to a certain level of quality. Let's say one guys screws up. This guy here likes to drink a lot and shoot his gun at Iraqis. Well what do you do with that guy? These guys over here are going to complain to their boss and say, 'That guy is a liability, I'm not going out with him' so he gets sent home. Now that guy shows up at this security company over here. There's no reason to regulate or discipline within the ranks because you're an independent businessman. You can just get fired. It's like at a construction site. A guy shows up to work drunk, (snaps) you send him home. You don't sit down, have a big pow-wow about what we're gonna do. It's just like, you pull that business unit out, and you put a new one in.

I think I've got that, I've got at complete sentence. I guess, where were you... you were talking about this whole problem of oversight, or lack of it.

Not a problem, I'm just explaining how the business works.

It's a problem.

You see, this is my basic beef with a documentary that starts out saying this is a problem. The thing that I find over and over again is that there are invisible forces at work and I'll be happy to talk about them if you ask a question related to that. But what is the ultimate regulatory influence on these people? I'll be happy to tell you what it is. You want to know?

Yeah.

Okay.

Let's start over with it--

Okay, so I'm just saying that the basic business unit of this industry is the independent contractor, the guy out of the military, has been trained up to be a private security guy, is either liked or disliked by his people, but basically rotates out. He's a gypsy, he's a ronin. You know, the word 'ronin' means men tossed about by waves. It's an excellent term. So a company tries to attract as high a level as they can, but within the same pay skill. One thing people forget is that they're essentially a very democratic class of people because whether you work for this company or that company, the contracts all pay the same.

So you try to create a group of people that are great. Now if you have a problem, you have internal pressure which is the guys on the team are saying that guy is a liability, get rid of him. He can be knocked down to static, which means he just sits in front of a building, doesn't actually ride and shoot. He can be sent home and not just picked up again. The second level is corporate performance. You were doing a contract, people forget this, you're actually working for someone. So let's say your client is the U.S. State Department. And the U.S. State Department is subject to a number of pressures. If they feel that you are being too aggressive or you're not being aggressive enough, or your standards are slipping or your people, you know, just aren't up to snuff, you have a contract manager that goes to the corporation and say, 'Here's what we don't like about you.' When that contract comes up for bid again, you don't get the contract.

So there is-- there are market forces, and more importantly, there is a problem with the entire use of privatized force, because it's more of a necessity. It's not like somebody sat down and said, 'Let's create and entire army of private militias that guard everything.'

You know, it just came about because there wasn't enough military might or police force or to create safety. So that's why these people are there. They will disappear. They will appear other places but Iraq is sort of the gold rush, it's the big money game right now. But market pressures are pushing people's salaries down, the number of people that are required is lowering standards in a lot of cases because you would never think of hiring a small town cop, all though they're very well suited for the job because everybody would brag, 'Oh we're all Delta Force, we're all Green Berets, you know we're all Navy Seals.'

Well that's not true. They're mostly Marines and small town cops. So the type of person working at the job changes and ultimately our use for them will change. Our government, which hires most of them because of the reconstruction and the various concerns they have for safety allows this to happen. But if they had their choice, they would all be full-time government employees working as diplomatic security specialists or within the companies that are doing jobs over there. So it's just a temporary operation.

This is an interesting, point which, I'll make a comment now about and ask you a question about it.

And when you get into Blackwater's private army, I'll be happy to take it up from there are tell you how that all fits together.

There's money to be made, and once you have that--

For who, I'm sorry, for who?

Well for private military--

The individual or the companies?

The companies.

That term, by the way is contentious because Blackwater says, 'We're a private military corporation.' Most companies will say, 'No, we're a private security company.' Big, big difference.

Doesn't matter to me at this point.

It should.

It doesn't.

Okay. Brand 'em all! (makes branding motion and noise)

No, no I'm saying--

That's like saying a ballet dancer's a stripper. They're not the same thing.

Okay. But I guess the point is that once these companies start making a lot of money... there seems to be a logic about it that would make them protect their own interests in a political way and to lobby for their own interests in a political way and to try, I guess to ensure in some fashion that it is to make sure that this--

If they propagate, I mean it's the function of every organism to propagate itself so it would be obvious to assume that if you had a corporation that hit boom times, that you would look for ways to perpetuate what you do even though the demand was diminishing. Companies like Blackwater are very aggressive lobbyers. They have a vision. They almost see themselves as the fifth arm of the U.S. armed forces. They see themselves as the FedEx to the government's Post Office.

Eric Prince is a very bright young guy who seems to get it even though the government doesn't get it. He is a, when I was talking to him the thing that surprised me the most was that I said, 'Who's your hero?' he said, 'Alfred Sloan.' Alfred Sloan was the guy who built GM into a huge international corporation. His goal, as pure as it sounds and as strange as it sounds, is to make our military-- the U.S. government-- more efficient.

In other words, there are certain things the U.S. military should do, and there are certain things it does very badly. So if a private corporation can come up with a solution that saves money as a fixed cost and has monsterful benefit, why shouldn't we outsource it? So that's his logic, and it's a great piece of logic because it's what, I mean the government tries to perpetuate itself as well. So would you rather send your package via FedEx or the Post Office?

Well most people would choose FedEx. The problem is when you're talking about lethal force, there's other concerns besides efficiency and profit. I think nobody wants an efficient provider of lethal force, but the point is that his vision, I think, is good. He's trying to do what he calls 'Fourth Generation Warfare,' asymmetrical warfare, in which we no longer have the older World War II enemies, we have an insurgency, we have something that is ill-defined and small and pervasive.

So he's trying to come up with solutions for that, and I think that's good.

One of the problems that people talk about is that once you do privatize a military operations, you, let's put it this way... suppose... we live in a democracy, democracy that essentially is... a people that is supposedly-- has ultimate control over who they have conduct foreign policy and conduct the affairs of the state.

You're not talking about this country are you? (laughs)

Well in the textbook-- what happens when you outsource the critical function of doing the military business that has something to do with, supposedly, the democratic oversight and control and you give it to corporations to do it.

First of all, you're naive. This country has been outsourcing war since it began. The inital founding was wealthy landowners hiring militias to kick out the British. There's nothing governmental about that. It's a pure, aberratious power play to make more money because they didn't want to be taxed by the representation... is a beautiful model for a lot of owners, I think private owners and private security companies are also-- like if people fight wars like in the Crusades by putting together bands of men to go and fight for like-minded ideals, why can't you do that now? Essentially you do it anyway, when you pay taxes it pays for military and so on and so forth, but we have been fighting proxy wars through the central intelligence agency and through other covert agencies who essentially take a big bag of money, land in a place like Afghanistan, say, 'You, you're in charge. All you people there, you're mercenaries, you go fight a war. Call yourself the uh, Eastern Alliance. And go fight these Bin Laden people.'

Well, that's outsourcing war right there. Except you don't hear about it and nobody really puts the money train together. When you talk about companies like Blackwater and Dinecorp, they're not fighting wars. They're not arming men to go aggressively into foreign nations and conquer them. They're acting in a support capacity, they're filling capability gaps. They're what they call surge, they're dealing with surge problems. And the trigger pullers, the people on the ground that are ending lives in aid of our foreign policy are still soldiers that swear an oath of allegiance, are still subject to the military code of justice and so on and so forth... that's where we are now. Now could this change in the future?

In other words, I told you that we do fight proxy wars, we do spend-- we did spend $70 million in Afghanistan in the early stage of the war hiring people to fight our wars for us. So why couldn't a private corporation step in and do that? Well they can. And they probably will. So when we do this, we have to kind of sit down and say okay, what's good about these companies and what's bad aboTu these companies? In order to know that you have to have some kind of measuring stick, and there is no measuring stick.

So remember I told you about the basic business units, well, what's a good operator, what's a bad operator, you know? Who's a good contractor and who's a bad contractor? What's a good company, what's a bad company? I've been in this area for, I guess 4 years now, I can kind of tell you. But if I check back with a company that I thought was shit-hot 2 or 3 years ago, I kind of meet their people and go, 'Hmm, you know, things have changed.' They might say, 'Well you know we don't get 650 a man anymore, we get 450 a man. Or we hire Chileans instead of Americans or we hired South Africans instead of Canadians.' Whatever.

So it's a rapidly changing market right now, there is no way to measure performance or talent or skill.

You mentioned Eric and his vigorous campaign for his division. Can you describe that a bit more as you understand it?

Eric Prince is a son of a wealthy industrialist who made his fortune with the lighted visor for cars. At that time, the automotive industry used to create most of its products in-house and they began to outsource and so, his father, Edgar Prince, invented a visor that when you pulled it down, it lit-up. And that was a big hit. So he sold millions of those. Maybe even billions, you know, I never counted.

His father became wealthy, his father passed away in the mid-90's, Eric was a Navy Seal, he was in Bosnia on a carrier, he saw how peace-keeping operations were conducted, he thought had a better idea: he could privatize some of those things and so he began with a 6,000 acre shooting range in North Carolina. And he called the company Blackwater because of the waters that ran through the creeks there, it was stained with tannons and there were also bears on the property so he used a bear paw and the sniper scope.

And he's a bright guy, because if you look at a map, you've got the farm, which is wear they train the CIA and it's just north of there, you've got a huge Naval base, you've got Navy Seals, you've got military with no place to practice or shoot. Most people don't realize that you can't just go out and practice on a range, you have to have sort of very specific conditions. So he built this massive, massive facility. And then, after 911, one of the people that worked for him used to be with the CIA and said, 'Hey, we can get business. You know, they hire people.' So his very first contract was guarding the Basage Shkin, which was on the border of Pakistan, here's Miram Shaw and here's Shkin here. People might no Shkin because that's where Hiraldo was blown up and that's where people said, 'Oh that's the most evil place on earth' but that's basically the CIA forward operating base.

Which actually, Eric worked at. And that sort of began the need for private security contractors in that arena. The secondary thing was the Karzai detail, which was Dinecorp, but the bottom line is that Eric has a vision because of this, in saying, 'I can take the inefficiencies of the U.S. government or military, I can come up with solutions, I can provide a privatized solution at a fixed cost and I can make things safer, better, cheaper, faster, and so on and so forth.'

He also knows that we're gonna have cutbacks, we're gonna look to save money, so there will be a need for efficiency. The problem with his vision is that he takes it even further; he has what they call a thousand man army, which is a brigade in technical terms, which he wants to deploy for peace-keeping. And it's a brilliant idea because here's a thousand men, trained, equipped with aviation support, using what they call third country nationals who can jump into Rwanda or Darfur, you pick a hot spot-- lock everything down until the NGOs come and they can deliver the food and so on and so forth.

The problem with that model is that it looks very much like executive outcomes and it almost has the same toy as the U-727s and the locals and so on and so forth. And to us, it looks like they're going there to save lives, but to the locals, it looks like a force of mercenaries are landing.

So, there may be some very dramatic side effects or blowback from having an armed peace-keeping force that jumps into countries around the world. That is what he gets pushback on from the state department. Because he also-- the state department is Eric's biggest customer, and they hire Blackwater to guard diplomats at various facilities around the world, which is very common now, but if Eric was to provide a private army with the blessing of the U.S. and he also guarded the state department officials, that would all of a sudden make our government guarded by mercenaries around the world, and that's a very unpleasant position for us to be in.

So his motivation's pure and it's good, his execution is a little sort of off to the right. His intent is off to the left, you know he wants to do something positive and well-meaning, and it has yet to be proven that this could actually be a good thing. But it probably will be deployed at some point. Don't be surprised if at some point you hear about a thousand men. The first time that was actually deployed was in New Orleans. Eric Prince's first peace-keeping operation was in New Orleans.

Because he sent down some of his aircraft and some of his people on a voluntary basis. He had a contract down there with the coastguard so he already knew people he could link up with. He did some humanitarian work, and the second his men hit the ground, they were contacted by individuals, industry and so on and so forth... 'Can you please provide security? Because the police force is gone, the National Guard's not here.'

So he-- essentially has tried his concept out and it's worked.

Back to Prince of a second. His-- do you have a sense of how he's managed to so what is a very effective job of getting himself contracts?

He makes-- I mean, Eric is above the trench-line. There are other companies that you probably never heard of that make more money than Blackwater does. Blackwater is a sleek, glossy, fast-moving sportscar in the world of private securitiy companies. He's not the biggest by any sense of the imagination, but he's definitely the most forward-leaning.

Big, dumb companies like General Dynamics and Dinecorp and Pacific Architects and Engineers get government contracts all the time in the area of security and-- same things that Eric does, but Eric is pushing his visions. He's a one-man band, he's a very wealthy guy, he can create toys, he can go do things that other people have to get backing for. So when you say he gets a lot of contracts, yeah, but he also loses a lot of contracts. I mean there's a constant churn. Right now there's a contract called Worldwide Protection Services, which is the big pot that the embassies dig out of the the CIA digs out of to protect embassies around the world.

There's 3 companies in that pot. And that's Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and Dinecorp. That doesn't necessarily mean that the state department's happy with those three companies, that just means that those are the three that they've chosen. Now next year, Blackwater could not be part of that. It could be somebody else.

I wouldn't say that he's successful at all. I mean successful in getting contracts in the way that you sort of presented to me.

I just said he was successful at getting contracts, I didn't-- I guess my question was-- he's done pretty well-- I mean if you look at the trajectory of the company--

Yeah and he goes from zero to $8 million in what, five years.

I'm wondering-- I don't think that happens just, because. It doesn't happen by accident. You say he's a smart guy, he's very strategic about his decisions, it seems like he was very strategic about who he hired and how he connected.

Well yeah he's not dumb right, so hiring Cofer Black is in his mind a smart mood because Cofer is a well-known person in the counter-terrorism business, he's an ambassador, he's polished, he's-- he knows everybody, he's a well-known proponent of action-oriented solutions. He can pick up the phone and call just about anybody. Yeah, of course that's a smart move.

And that he's completely in line with everything Eric wants to do. Eric's got a lobbying company, he's got-- whatever. Whatever it takes to bring that business across. But, he's got pushback because it is not the goal of this country to privatize everything the government does. They understand there's a line between getting a job done like getting your grass cut and taking care of things like healthcare or you know, the military, whatever.

So it's just how much can you nibble away. In other words, how much does the military give you and can you be there fast enough. In my experience, I've heard of a number of solutions which I think are great ideas. Like in other words, keeping route Irish safe, going after bombing groups that are not picked up by the military. 'Cause it's (laughs), it's-- there is serious conflict between the military conflict and the entrepreneurial private industry thought process.

Just to clarify, when you say he's successful, if you were to look at the list of companies, I mean look at Khaki and Titan, they're like vanilla companies that just like, all of a sudden they're supplying interpreters to Aba Gray, why? I mean that's not even their business, you know? Those people are far more successful at schmoozing and getting contracts.

Blackwater actually sticks out because of the violence and because of the news coverage and because of Eric's vision and stuff like that. But he's been rebuffed many, many times. He's, I mean, I only know him socially. But I would vouch for the fact that he has no ill intentions. He's not Lex Luther in a cave pulling levers, trying to take over the world. He's actually looking at a business problem and saying, 'How can I solve this and how can I make money at this and how can I benefit my country?' I think he's got sort of a good political agenda that says, 'I want to do something positive for my country.'

The problems that I bring to it is that fine, you let him do everything he wants and you get blowback because a private industry or privatized militia in the aid of peace-keeping or whatever, creates secondary problems that nobody's really thought through. And the Fallujah incident was a perfect example of that, where I don't think Eric got out of bed and said, 'Let's destabilize the entire city of Fallujah' but four of his employees caused that. So that's the problem with the great idea and then the execution.

...race car driver business for four years, and I've been talking to everybody in the industry, and I'm telling you that when you say the words, "private military company," it communicates something, okay? Drug dealer, pharmacist - there's a big difference.

When somebody says, No, we're a private security company, it means, No, we're not one of those people.

Yeah, it's just that--

You think it's semantics, I'm saying, No, it's not.

...I'm simply trying to connote by, or denote by what you're saying--

If chosen--

It's of no great interest.

Well, it is if you use the term incorrectly, you will get roundly criticized, because it is used for a reason.

Yeah, yeah.

That's all I'm saying. So when Erik Prince says, I'm a private military company, what he's saying underneath all that is, I'm offering you lethal force.

There's a big difference between saying, I'm offering you security, which means I will stand around and guard things, versus I will go into the jungle and find your enemy. There's a big, big difference, because think of the impact in terms of our foreign policy.

You have to guard you house, private security company. Private military company. Well, private military company is going to leave your house and go out into the jungle and kill the people who are trying to attack your house.

So the private security company is going to sit there and if they get attacked, they are going to fire back.

But who's he saying that to and for what purpose?

He's saying that to the Pentagon, to the CIA, to anyone who will listen. He's trying to propose the idea that military people, once they leave the military, they didn't lose the same ethics and training and skills they had when they military. You gave them the ability to use lethal force there.

So if the US government approves it, if the host nation approves it, why can't you put together a private army that will deliver lethal force on your enemy, on your country's enemy? Have you got a good argument against that?

'Cause we do it in the CIA. We do it in the CIA all the time. We use proxy armies to deliver lethal force to our enemies. We don't have Americans pulling the trigger. But we've got this little Afghan guy, who's been trained to pull that trigger by a Special Forces non-com. and he's being paid by the US government.

You see what I'm saying here? So when a private military company is making presentation in front of world leaders, and they're saying, We would like to field a private army, what they're saying to them is We can solve your problems. And as long as the US government blesses us, let's talk.

I just want to continue with the Erik Prince--

Sure, we'll go back to your thing.

Because...it's certainly interesting to me, and it's certainly interesting to others. The vision you describe of Erik Prince as an entrepreneurial wonder. If you leave it at that, I think you're missing something very important, or at least--

Wanna change seats? And you can tell me, and I can--

...this is just a lead-in, because he seems to have an ideologically vision that comes from, not just Adam Smith, but from another place.

He's never mention Adam Smith to me.

Well, he went to school where he learned a lot of it.

Well, he went to a libertarian college. He's not a libertarian.

Well, anyway, there also seems to be part of his background is outright hostilities to government and of course he's part of the funded Christian right groups, which is part of, certainly very important to him--

Now, you gotta be careful, because Erik is a Roman Catholic. A lot of people brand him in his father's religion, but he converted to Roman Catholicism. He is a family man. When you talk to Erik, he'll talk more to his wife on the phone than he will to you. He's not like one of these Ross Perot guys, you know, launching raids into Iran and stuff. He's a very levelheaded, normal guy.

His political vision, I think, is like anybody's. There's the government here, and he's right of that. And there's people to the left of it. But he's not saying, I hate the government. He's trying to change the government, trying to make it more, I guess you could say, he's libertarian in his viewpoint, but he's trying to make it more responsive and so on and so forth.

He does fund, and his family does fund Republican, or what you would call, Right Wing Republicans candidates and programs. But I would not say he was one of the neocons. Because I went through that process. He's not a supporter of George Bush in the way that, let's say, that this outgrowth of PMCs is somehow directly related to the political leader right now.

He will be around long after Bush is gone. And don't forget, Clinton is actually the one who started the move toward privatization of the military. It was not George Bush, who did it.

Yeah, I don't think he does like those neo-cons, that's for sure. A simple question, which I forgot to ask you, is important. How much do these Blackwater people make doing their job in Iraq?

Well, there's different tiers. There's Tier One, Tier Two.

Again, if you could--

Sorry, when you work for a private security company, like Blackwater, there are different tiers. There's a similar system in the military, but Tier One is your compartmentalized, security-cleared, ex-DEVGRU, or Delta Force, or Special Forces Black Ops guy, you know, cream of the crop special operations.

Tier two might be Vanilla SF, regular teams. And next level down would be like, marine, forward recon. And your pay grade is actually matched to that. The very top of the food chain within, let's say, the Blackwater spectrum, you might make $750, and it varies depending on the contract.

Most people make between $450 and $500 a day. That's the regular nut right now. If you're doing static, which means you're just one grade above a Third Country National, you might make $350, $450 a day.

Then what you have is what you call a TCN, that's a Third Country National. That guy might make, if he's lucky, $250 a month, you know? $1200 a month, depending on if he's from a very poor country or whether he's trained up. Blackwater has a number of, for example very well trained Chileans, who were Pinochet's bodyguard.

He's a very, very crack soldier, so he makes a good amount of money. And the lowest pecking order is what they call the HCN's - Host Country Nationals, and these would be Iraqis, obviously, when you are talking about Iraq. They make so little I don't think I even paid attention to what they said they made.

Just wanted to go to the theme that you described, we've seen this footage, and we're wondering if it's Blackwater folks that's on top of the building and the one guy is firing--

Yeah, [inaudible, sounds like Najov].

Could you describe what that is? Because we were thinking about using it, but we weren't sure we could confirm it. You sound like you were there--

No, I wasn't there. I know some of the people, who were there, but the scene--

...simplest terms...[inaudible]

That was the Spring that Muqtada al-Sadr's militia rose up against Bremmer, so they surrounded the Governess, the places where the US military and where other people were working out of, and they told them to go home. And then they continued to have demonstrations. And at a certain point, it started to get violent.

What happened that Bremmer was also under pressure not to show this level of violence, to show that things were under control, so he refused to send US reinforcements into these two areas. One was Al Kut and the other one was Najov.

So the only people left in these governants were the contractors from Blackwater, if you speaking specifically about Najov, you had people from the Bremmer detail up on the roof. You had a guy that was in charge of the armored car sales, you had a marine, you had a security guy, I mean, it was a very small group of guys firing into the crowd, shooting at what they thought were the Mati Army, you know guys that wear black, and there guys firing from the crowd, of course.

The US refused to send in helicopters, one of the marines was wounded quite badly. Other people were wounded. So what happened is Blackwater has these "little birds," they're helicopters that are used in the State Department details, that they chose on their own with the clearance of a marine officer to bring in more ammunition and to bring out the wounded marine.

To the Blackwater guys, they're former 160th, they just think it's a day at the office. What that did was put contractors in to combat. That was a very important day in the history of the private security industry, because it showed that in Najov, for example, it was only the Blackwater contractors, who were the defending force - it was like the Alamo for lack of a better word, I guess the Mati Army, and they held.

In Al Kut, you had triple canopy, you had control risk groups, same basic scenario, and the Ukrainians, were the Coalition of the Willing, wouldn't come to their aid, so it was up to the Coalition of the Billing" to hold off the hordes until they could hold off the hordes, until they could escape. And in both those instances, you saw immediately that the last line of defense, the thin red line, were paid contractors, not US soldiers, so to me, it was a very interesting event.

And if you use the footage, by the way, the interesting thing to me, and this where you view of contractors come from, if that was the US military, there would not be people filming them. But because they were contractors, there were two guys filming them, with a video camera and they were taking pictures.

And it looks like, like at what, one of those carnivals where they have one of things where the things go around and you shoot at them, it looked to me like some kind of game, like some kind of video game or carnival game. And it's almost the same thing when the see the [inaudible] video, where they put together all these rear camera shots of shooting at Iraqis, like it was a game.

I think that's what disturbs people the most. Taken out of context, and just the cruel, calculating way that they are shooting people, it just makes you wonder, who are those guys? So your interest is justified.

I'll tell you a little funny aside. One of the guys on the roof was named Ben Thomas, who, not only got an agent, but consulted on a game called Mercenary 2, which was a video game about using mercenaries to invade Venezuela, which Hugo Chavez went ballistic on, because it looked like he was a map on how to do this.

So here you have this bizarre scenario of private contractors shooting at the Mati Army, and then all of a sudden, these guys parley this into sort of a little mini-Hollywood career and create another monster, which is the Mercenaries 2 game, which is mercenaries invading Venezuela. Stranger than truth.

Is he the guy you mentioned--

Yeah.

We should talk to him. Tell me, Robert, what am I missing here? What have I missed?

Well, I don't know what you're covering, if you're covering specifically Blackwater, I think you have to put Blackwater in context. Blackwater didn't just jump out of a hole and start sending armed men to Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a demand for that. Why was there a demand for it?

Because somebody consciously said, I think we need to outsource these various functions. What they're doing has been done before in the past. Whether it was DynCorp’s set-up to deal with the additional assets after World War II in the aviation industry, or whether it was just people working as mercenaries in Central America after the Vietnam era. These are all just outgrowths of needs and demands.

When that demand goes away, the question is, are the Blackwaters of the world still going to be in business? If there's no longer a need for 800, 1200 in armed men in Iraq, because we're not in Iraq anymore. What my investigation has shown is that there will be a greater need, because it's going to be somewhat like the early part of the British colonial empire, in which you have to do business in hostile areas.

There's still going to be oil coming out of Iraq, there's still going to be phone lines and cell towers. There's still going to be government officials driving to and from work, and there's still going to be people shooting at them.

Essentially, what we have done is we have stepped one, sort of, shade into the black, which means, instead of being welcomed in to environments that are not hostile, that accept our political agenda, that don't really find us to be crusaders or evil or whatever.

We're now prepared to have more of what they call a transformational foreign policy, as Condoleezza Rice calls it. We're going to go into places where we aren't wanted, where people don't want us there, they don't like us sort of projecting our brand of democracy.

And we will use these companies to protect our proxies, our officials, our reconstruction efforts. And that bothers me. I always feel that if you aren't welcome in a place and it's not criminal activity, you really have to think twice about why you're there.

Africa has been like that for centuries, where in order to do any business you have a ring of steel around your installation, but what typically happens is that income goes directly out of there into the guy who runs the country. It bypasses the people around there.

Do we want to get into this sort of neo-colonialist way of doing business where we can protect our interest, protect the source of income, have a proxy government in place, and basically forget about all the people in the middle.

Now that's a futuristic scenario that I see happening, but I see the seeds of it in that we've created these industries, we know they work, whether they're under the label of peace-keeping, or stabilization, or support, there's a need for them, and they exist. So you can just dial a phone number and you can have a number of people show up.

The other worse case scenario, which I cover in my book in detail is the coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, where you take the basic components of what was a private military company, which is essentially low-paid vets from the 32 Buffalo Battalion in South Africa, a core group of white officers that went into Angola and Sierra Leone, and you say, Wait a second. We don't need a client. We don't have to knock on doors and say, Hire us to do this peacekeeping job. We can look a country, like Equatorial Guinea and fund ourselves, we can run that country.

It's a completely mercantile venture, which is almost identical to the East India Company, where like-minded individuals, captains of industry, can sit around and say, You know, what if we into this country, ceased those assets, set up a proxy government, and ran the thing. And brought in education, and human rights and lights bulbs or whatever.

That's already happened in Equatorial Guinea. Iraq is a much more monstrous version of that. So I see that secondary horn of the dilemma. It becomes very easy solution to send these proxy armies, but they're privatized and in most case, self-funded.

That's a great point. What's intriguing about it is it isn't a point that Erik Prince has not considered. Now, I only say that, because when you emphasize this entrepreneurial venture, it is not just entrepreneurial - it's political--

It's zealotist. It's zealotist. Let me explain how this works.

I'm just saying, the guy's not naive, he knows...

Oh, I know, but I have to put context in there.

What you're saying is that at some point is going to be the case. You're hiring an army, a private army, to do neo-colonial business in your orders, and he knows that.

Okay, we still flying?

I won't touch on any of this.

But I don't think that private military companies are evil, I think that they can be used for evil purposes. When you're ready I'll talk about this whole vision.

So here's the thing. I been around the block. I've been to [inaudible] I've been with the rebels that Sandline hired to kill. I've been in Liberia with mercenaries, Sierra Leone, so far and so forth. And I've seen both good and evil in the use of the privatized violence, or security - that's the PC word.

I know that every time you talk to someone, he doesn't state it clearly, but he has a underlying moral compass. Now, when you talk to Erik Prince, and you talk to his senior staff, they are all American citizens, most of them are ex-military, most of them are very successful, decorated veterans of special operations units, they don't stop and say, everything we talk about is only under certain guidelines that it has to be endorsed under the US government, that it has to be ethical and moral. They just assume you take that for granted.

Now, one of Erik Prince's models is Executive Outcomes. Executive Outcomes was a group of ex-South African men, who went to in to Angola to put down the Unita rebel movement and brought stability to Angola.

They then went into Sierra Leone, and they put down the RUF, which was essentially a group of mercenaries that came in to destabilize the country. Those are the two classic models that the private military industry uses as Why can't we do that.

The problem was those two models, once you investigate them, once you do it, like I do it and actually go on the ground and see who's still there, had a shadow above them, and that shadow was after the fighting was over, the owners or the backers of these companies had significant vested interest in the resources of those two countries.

Now, if you look at the Sandline model, which was Sierra Leone and Bouganville, same scenario, in which violence, or exported violence was used to gain entree into a mercantile market, both of them were resource driven.

One was a guy who tried to get his $10Million worth of rights back, the other was the mine [inaudible] that the rebels had shut down. So Erik has either not study that or he hasn't really delved into this world. In fact, he hasn't read my book, which goes into this whole sort of thing, so I sent him a copy. But the locals know this very well. When an Iraqi sees one of these people cruising around, and you say to him, Why are these people there? He'll say, He's a mercenary hired to take our oil. In other words, he's not right, but he's got this image of them being these sort of opportunistic thugs, who have been hired by the government, because their own people don't support them and are just there to separate them from their riches.

He's not that far off. Because when you look at a US soldier, you can't say that. But when you private military contractor or security guard, he is in affect a mercenary. He's not fighting a war, per se, it's a passive aggressive type of war. But he's preventing you from forcing your political or military will on the occupying government.

When you take Erik's vision further out, and you say, Let's go into this country and stop these two groups from fighting, two things come into play: Well, maybe these two groups should be fighting. Maybe this group is the oppressed group and these are the oppressors, and because state department says you go in between these people. Maybe you are supporting corrupt regimes.

Second of all, there has to be some sort of mercantile benefit, because you are charging money. So there has to be a payback. Why would we invest billions of dollars in Columbia or places like that, if there wasn't some eventual payback.

That part is not addressed by Blackwater. They don't sit down with huge political science and strategies. They simply say, If Rwanda or Bosnia happens again, we can provide a force of people that can get between the two parties, stabilize the area and let NGOs work on it. They don't go past that point.

That could be the single most destructive event that occurs, like in Somalia, where you go in on a humanitarian mission, you inject American citizens or even maybe a Third Country National in there and they start shooting at each other, and then what happens?

Well, people say that never happens, but look at Fallujah. Fallujah was probably the most innocuous drive you could make, but they ended up in the middle of the city, they were assumed to be CIA spies, they murdered, they were disfigured, they were videotaped and filmed, and our country went from a laissez-faire approach to Fallujah to one of destruction and revenge, which ended up killing almost 600 Iraqis.

They were wearing Fallujah t-shirts in Somalia - it became a symbol for the insurgency. That was caused by four guys working for a security company. People say that'll never happened, No, it has happened. There is blowback. There are consequences for putting privatized, armed men on the ground.

Every time you hear one of these ground Power Points or presentations about how good this thing is, you have to say, Yes, that's great idea, but what happens if this happens if this occurs. And that's what nobody has answered yet.

Could you see the point at which, if this plays out on the basis of the profit motive, that one day, I don't know if it'll be Blackwater or someone else, but being paid at the likes of name your enemy, or name your friend, who's an enemy tomorrow. It's a troubling thing to do from my perspective. What's your sense of it?

Once again, take a look at these basic business units, forget Blackwater and Erik Prince and the CEOs, they will always have checks and balances on them, because they have such vested interested in their state department contracts, so they're not about to go against the wishes of the US government, but look at the people that work for them.

Let's say a guy works for Blackwater, he's out on patrol, he gets a phone call that says, Hey, let's go overthrow a country, if you're on a plane in two hours, we've got a gig for you. And that person gets arrested and thrown in jail for the rest of his life, because he tried to overthrow a country.

Well, sure, yeah. That did happen. That happened in Equatorial Guinea when one of the guys that came of the Steel Foundation detail for Aerosteed landed in South Africa, was having lunch with his wife, got a phone call that said, We got a gig for you. Can you get on the plane in an hour? That plane took off and was about to pick up weapons and was about to overthrow the country of Equatorial Guinea.

There were another two guys on the plane, those two guys were working for mediory tactical services in Iraq doing private security work. They told their boss they were going to go buffalo hunting for two weeks, and once again, ended up arrested in Zimbabwe for being on a plane full of mercenaries trying to overthrow a country.

So once again, all these worst case scenarios have played out, and they do exist, so my theory is not so much the corporations. No major corporations with huge US contracts is about to go invade another country or do something silly. But the people that network that within those companies have vested interest in keeping their mortgage paid. And they do have skills.

And if somebody says to them, Hey, I got a gig in Columbia or I got a gig in Sri Lanka, you guys want to come down and train the rebels. You have a labor pull to choose from that you didn't have before.

What is the vested interested that the company left?

Well, just like the...

If you could just--

The vested interested of a corporation is to perpetuate itself and to make a profit, so if your major client at this moment and time is the state department doing business Iraq, so that is what you direct your efforts toward. If Iraq shuts down tomorrow, you're going to start calling some Third World dictators.

Even though they talk a good game now about supporting US interests, they still have a payroll to meet, they still have obligations. They're going to go to the next level down, which is essentially working for oil companies in places like Columbia and Nigeria, working to train troops in foreign countries. Now, there is some control.

If you go off to train some evil dictators troops, the state department calls you up and says, If you ever do that again, you will never work for this company. There's some pushback there. But in my experience with mercenaries, that's exactly what happens.

They do the good, clean stuff when that's available, but when that trickles off, they do everything from asset recovery to mercenary work to private body guarding. I see this industry morphing over the next ten years into a more mid-80s type structure, where loose-knit group of people who know each other and have skills move around the world doing various gigs around the world.

Just as an aside, one of the things that one of the people mentioned [inaudible]-

They have two different philosophies by the way.

On the specific issue of controlling...pulling individuals out, they make their own decisions, act on their own self-interest, are driven by money and adrenaline or whatever it is. To get those people in control in places where it matters where a group threaten to revoke citizenship--

Who did that?

No, that would be one strategy to use against...for people who care about it.

Yeah, once again, you have a very keyhole view of this whole thing.

But here's what happens look. What you have now is a big money contract, you're paying $1200 a month, more people come into the market place, it drops to $650, then it drops to $450, your Tier 1 guys aren't interested in that, they go off to guard Saudi sheiks guarding them in Cairo.

Then what you do is you get your next level up, and these are not Americans. These are what they call Third Country Nationals, people from Chile, South Africa, whatever, and they aren't going to revoke their citizenship.

So what the point is that you are pushing the [inaudible] forces downward, so the people you're talking about are no longer Americans. That's my point. We always think it's an American problem, that it's America's control over these things. No. This business morphs.

If you find people who are breaking laws, shooting people or whatever, you can find two things that match up. One is that aren't paid a lot of money. In other words, it's typically a detail that you aren't getting Tier 1 or Tier 2 money.

And secondly, these are the dregs of the contracting world. When those people disappear, they just bring up the lower dregs. There is a secret blacklist of people you aren't allowed to hire in Iraq. You aren't supposed to be working here.

Everybody knows about it, but nobody's actually seen it. And that's when the military and the state department say, Okay, you were involved in an incident, and we know you did it, but we aren't going to prosecute it, but you aren't ever going to work in this country ever again. So there is that [inaudible]

There's no control. There's literally no control. There's plenty of laws. Like for example, David Pizzaro is the only contractor, he was a CIA contractor working in Afghanistan, who allegedly beat an Afghan to death with a flashlight, and he was charged under the Patriot Act, because that gives you jurisdiction over rooms that the military is operating in around the world.

But there's been no contractors been brought up on charges of shooting at Iraqi citizens or doing anything illegal. I don't know how you're going to push down that...because that group doesn't exist yet.

Why hasn't there been anybody prosecuted?

Because it's in the best interests of this country to look the other way.

If you could--

Sorry. The reason why you don't see a whole bunch of people up on charges for shooting at Iraqis or discharge weapons, whatever, property damage, because it's in the best interest of this country to look the other way. There's a reason why there's a Hands Off, there's a gap between our government and privatized security contractors.

It's the same reason the CIA uses proxy armies. There's deniability. It's outsourcing liability and political responsibility. If I hire a private corporation, and they get killed and chopped up, I can say, Well, they weren't working for me. Even though they were technically, because the money flowed down through a variety of contracts, but they gives you this level of deniability, even though it happens in plain sight.

The government likes it that way. And I'll be shocked when the government reaches out to some American contractor and says, You are going to jail for some reason. Because all of a sudden all those guys making $450 a day are like, Dude, I'm not operating in this environment, because to be fair, they're being shot at by everybody. There's no laws over there. There's no rules.

Do you stop when a policeman says, Stop. And all of a sudden it turns out they're militia members or death squads. So there's no rules there and it works both ways - there's no rules for them, there's no rules for the insurgents.

And yet, what you see taking place actively is the lobbying by Erik Prince that they do want to regulated, that they do want the government involved, but they want hands on control.

That's like saying, strippers should have standards of quality. They're still strippers. There's no way that they are going to enforce anything with teeth. Because ultimately they don't control their standards, the government does. It is the person who signs the check who ultimately decides if that company works for them or not.

When Doug Brooks stands up and says, Oh, we've got our code of conduct here. I say to him, Great. Can you give a name of somebody who has breeched that code of conduct. Uh, no. They're all perfect, well, that's great. And Peter Singer makes that point very clear, he calls them Stepford Wives.

When Erik Prince says, I want legislation. When Tim Spicer says, Transparency and regulation and accountability. You say, Let's go for it. Gives you the video, let's find out who shot it, let's find out who these people are you shot at, and let's find out who needs to go to jail. Boom. Gone. Never happens. Never sees the light of day.

Tim Spicer blames the US government for burying it, but other people say, No, that's bullshit. Tim Spicer was never going to deal with that. There is no accountability. I mean, how can there be?

Because you are asking people to operate in a lawless environment, and you are not going to scare them off, every time you drive down the street, you have to account for every bullet you use, because if you are being fired at by a bunch of people in the shadows, are they civilians? Are they insurgents? Should you shoot back? If you kill one, did you just kill a kid? Nobody is going to do that job.

Yet the military can do it, and the military at times is [inaudible]

I got to make one thing really clear. The military has the mission. And that mission is to pacify That country or whatever. And they have 1000's and 1000's of people and billions of dollars of resources to bring to bear.

Private security detail is just driving from point A to point B with somebody they have to keep in that car alive. They don't have any grand mission. And they get paid X amount of dollars to do that.

That's like saying, the guy in front of Wal-Mart's in charge of our national security. No. To put that burden on them is ridiculous.

We like all answers with Wal-Mart in them.

Okay, more Wal-Mart answers. They're the Wal-Mart of...Actually, the only funny thing about Wal-Mart is when I was with special forces guys, the on-going joke is that 20 years in special forces allows to be a Wal-Mart greeter, because killing people for a living doesn't give you any skills, but that. That was the constant joke they used.

Nick, anything I'm missing?

NICK: Do you wanna talk about the Fallujah thing? How come there was two in the car? Why was there not three?

ROBERT PELTON: The Fallujah incident was very interesting. First of all, it was the first time that I think contractors were shown on TV, as a critical part of war coverage. Up until then, you kinda saw these guys walking around Bremmer and stuff, but you didn't know what they do.

They story behind the Fallujah incident is interesting, because it goes back to the concept of the log cabin. The logistic support concept that Dick Cheney created in the 80's. The US military in order to change from the Cold War threat to become more efficient and more responsive and smaller and so on and so forth.

They came up with this idea that you would contract out certain key logistical needs to private corporations like DynCorp or KBR. Those people would be called civilians on the battlefields, or contractors. They were not to carry guys, they were not to wear uniforms, they were to be kept away from the actual battlefield.

And when they did travel around, they were to have a military escort. When KBR performs many of its duties, it has a military escort. The problem is that KBR contracts things out, it's a giant machine that contracts out various things.

So the Fallujah guys were actually going to pick up a lot of pots and pans and a military base, but they were sort of three layers down from the log cabin, and once you get off the log cabin, you don't have to the US military guarding you, so you have to provide your own security.

At that time, Control & Risks Groups actually had the contract, but they were transitioning over to Blackwater. The idea was there were very specific specifications for what you needed. A certain number of guys, an armored vehicles, you didn't move unless you had this group of people and they'd done it in advance. In other words, they'd done the route before and they'd went out and did it for real.

None of that happened in the Blackwater situation, and the reason for that is I can lay out the fact the sort of entrepreneurial nature of Blackwater. They wanted to show they were gung ho and they were on the job.

To their credit, to the four men who died credit, they had a choice of not going out and letting this convoy go out by itself, or they could show that they were out here and they can provide security. They made that decision and it was a fatal decision.

Second of all, there was one guy who was supposed to be on that detail, but he didn't show up for that detail, so they sent Scott up from Kuwait to cover that slot in. Well, right off the bat that is a flaw in the logic, because these guys have to train and work together.

The second flaw was that they went with soft skins, and if you don't know this, but the Pigeros are the same vehicles used by the CIA. They use the soft skin Pigeoor with certain government officials.

The third thing is sending two guys out in a vehicle is not a security detail at all, because one guy is driving, his weapon is not at hand, the other guy kinda has this view. The front and the side. You need at least one other guy to cover that rear quadrant.

When you go into a hostile environment, you got kind of a 360 view, plus you got two shooters - one shooting out the back and side and one shooting out the front and side, and the driver just hits the gas and gets away. They weren't actually even providing security, they were just driving the vehicle.

So when they were hit, what happened was they were supposed to take a certain route, they were confused as to where they were going. They hit a civil defense group, they waved at them and said, Follow us and we'll take you into Fallujah. They hit Fallujah, which has heavy traffic. A group ran out and shot the rear two guys through their car. Killed them instantly.

Two guys in the front, turned around, jumped the curb to help them, but as they turned toward the people who already dead, they got shot. And then the crowd went and so on and so forth.

It wasn't a security detail. It was sort of showboating. It was two guys, who were showing that they were on the job. You can make whether that was a profit-motivated activity. Did you save money but not having two guys and did they bill for four guys? I don't get into that. I get into the fact that that's not how you run security at that time in that town.

Everybody knew Fallujah was a tough town and if you did get shot at, you had no way to defend yourself. Because of that, tactics changed dramatically within Blackwater and within the community. Everybody went to hardskins, everybody was adamant about having a full company of people when you went out.

And they also gunned up. Just an M4 doesn't do much against the insurgents. There were some good things that came out of it and there were some bad things. But the one thing that did come out of it was the lawsuit from the families, who felt that based on the contract their fathers or family members had signed, they were let down.

It is my personal opinion that yes, they were let down. But in the spirit in the military background they had, rangers are used to doing more with less. If you said to a guy, do you want this convoy to go out without protection or do you guys want to jump in the car and go with them?

Almost every contractor would do that, even if they were short a man, so there's that balance you need to look at. What happened because of that is Fallujah went from a simmering, boiling hotspot that Americans didn't drive into to an exploding riot-frenzy place, in which the US President told the marine commander to go in there and get some payback.

When the marines were pushed back, because they weren't well prepared. They went in and performed one of the most violent campaigns in recent history, and in my book, I cover a very little known event that I don't think anybody knows about except the people who were there in which they commemorated that bridge and actually call it, "Blackwater Bridge."

That battle was because of four civilians went in and were killed. That is undeniable proof that these people will effect our foreign policy and our position in the world. I think it's a critical incident because of that.

I think that's it.

...the advice I can give you is that you look past the initial sense of outrage against Erik Prince, because he's a billionaire, but he's not actually a billionaire. And you think kind of forward and think, this guy has got some ideas that make sense, and let's look at what environment he's operating in.

Then you kinda look a little bit further past and it's the US government that we have to look at, because ultimately when the checks are signed, they come from the US government. So [inaudible] has some very good points that Singer doesn't catch.

I don't care that Erik Prince is a billionaire.

But what I'm saying that, I mean, I mean, these poor people killed in Fallujah, this rich guy, too much of his skinflint, that's not--

I don't, my personal opinion about him is that he's dangerous.

Really?

He's dangerous in terms of his ideological vision and that's something you don't--

But you don't know what his ideological vision is.

We sure do. He's not a neocon, he's far from that.

Have you ever read an interview?

No, he doesn't do interviews.

Have you ever read a policy paper written by him?

I know that he's--

I mean, I'm not defending the guy, but I'm just saying, I went through the same process when I wrote my book. Define Erik Prince, right?

I know that he's certainly--

He's been subject to a pogrom--

He's extreme Right Wing--

No's not! Jesus Christ, man.

Everybody knows he's...[inaudible and cut off]...which is quite different, you're talking about apples and oranges here, which is radically. You are talking about a revolutionary struggle against an empire in our revolution and now you're talking about--

He is not focused on that.

And conservatives and liberals, all of them will say, of course, we are an empire, we are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. No one's ever seen anything like it, we have projected our power across the globe.

That's not contested, what's contested is whether that's good thing or not. Now, the conservatives will say, that's a very good thing, because America is a very good thing, and we can protect our power.

You make several assumptions that you really have to think about. One, Erik--

...revolution against an empire part of it.

Erik gets serious pushback from the US government. He is viewed as someone who has great ideas, but we do that, you don't do that, right? We make policy, you support whatever we paid it. Second of all, you're branding him as being a sort of within a group of people who want to expand American empire.

Morally, I'll say, yes. But it's the execution of it that you're misjudging. He wants to do humanitarian mission, he wants to do peacekeeping missions in the Congo. I was part of a very important conversation about two large security companies who pissed, because they want to go into the Congo and they want to fix stuff.

They want to pick the most fucked up part of the Congo and they want to say, Look. Let us in. Let us lock down this little place. And you bring in all the food and aid in or whatever. Let's see if it works. Because it couldn't get any worse, right?

That's what he's manifesting. That's not empire. He's not saying, Let me take over Pakistan.

We're occupying. And this is your point, you make it very well. We're an occupying power in Iraq.

We're not fighting a war.

He is certainly not opposed to the war we're fighting in Iraq. He would like to see it be very victorious. What you don't do, it seems to me, is you separate out an entrepreneurial vision from politics, which you can't do.

He has a very selective, surgical approach to warfare. That's how he thinks. He's not thinking--

He's for the project. He's for the bigger project.

He's not saying, I want to occupy--

He's an American Christian Evangelical--

No, he's not not not! No, he's not!

He absolutely is.

No, he's not. I'll tell you what he is. He is a guy who came from a very strict Calvinist background--

You don't get much more conservative than this guy.

Exactly, I agree. He is a guy, who is a son of that, he's not Edgar Prince, he's the son of Edgar Prince. And he's got sisters and brothers, who are involved in politics to a greater degree than he is. But he is saying, this is my world, it's very small, this is what I know how to do, this is what I'd like to do. It's basically can I create an industry out of making the industry smarter and can I--

It's just an industry!

Can I assist my country? And I'll say, yes, Republican, Right Wing, whatever. But he's not saying, let's do empire. He's preaching fourth generation warfare, which is not empire.

To what end are you talking about?

To remove criminal and destabilizing elements.

...you're separating out this from a real vision for politics, you can't do that, you want to, but you can't.

Yeah, I can. I can.

You think you can get away with it.

I can explain the doctrine of special operations to you which is basically counter-insurgency, right?

It doesn't make any difference.

It does. It does.

Those are interesting, intriguing things. But to what end are those things being employed? That's the point that I think you're missing.

Blackwater is this big--

What is the project of the US and who's supporting it? Who's propping it up and who's for it?

It's the business of the US government...He's this big!

Erik Prince is not in the business of the saying we need to retract the American empire, stay out people's live, stay out of people's business, get out of ramming democracy and our vision of the world down people's throats. He's not against that, he's for it. That is being for the project of---

You're putting words in his mouth and I--

There's no way that that guy is, c'mon--

I've talked to him at length about this, and I'm telling you right now, that you are making him this big, you are making him Citizen Kane--

No, I'm not. I'm just being--

He's not Randolph Hearst.

I'm being forceful about describing him, I'm not saying he's the Darth Vader of the American empire....He's not Erik Prince running the world.

Look at Halliburton and DynCorp, and look at how big they are. And then look at how big Erik Prince is basically a boutique shop.

I'm not talking about how much influence he has.

But when you're talking about empire, what you're saying is--

I'm saying that he's for the project. You describe it very well, and I can tell you're very divided about it, because you have this sense of--

I'm not divided. I'm saying, Look, a mercantile empire that is, let's say you go to Columbia and we're gonna give you $20Billion, and you're going to spend $18Billion on Black Hawk helicopters, and we need people to guard those helicopters and to fix them and whatever. These are the dribs and drabs. These are the Blackwaters and various things.

But it is the US government that has this forward leaning foreign policy that says, You don't like us, but we're coming down there and we're going to do this to your oil industry and we're going to do this to your government, and if you don't like this, then we're going to put soldiers around, oh we don't have any, we're going to put these private security guys around. That is the evil part that you are talking about.

You talk about these Blackwater folks, they had a choice to make when they went into Fallujah, they made their choice. But when you talk about these guys like Erik Prince, the people that support the American government's project, if you want to describe it that way, that's fine, it happens to be a government that is run by the most radical government that we have ever had in this country. Most Right Wing, radical government, left or right, most radical, name a more radical government than this one.

This government follows polls - there's two shades of vanilla. You get to vote for a middle aged white guy that went to Yale or a middle aged white guy that went to Yale.

...if you read the neocons and what they said--

I can correct you in sort...the Democrats are the ones who started the privatization of the military.

...haven't seen this kind of radical politics in American history. Period.

Fine, but that's an argument separate to history.

Far beyond Clinton, you cannot say that Clinton--

To make you happy, I say one thing: the boom in the private security industry has come about because of the blind marching orders of the neocons to make Iraq a safe and rebuilt place, even though they haven't even finished fighting the war.

Fine. But when you talk about these guys that get into a Pigero and make a decision about doing that--

This is just working stiffs.

But you're saying at the same moment, that oh, Erik Prince isn't making a decision for supporting an American empire, he's just got this entrepreneurial vision, he wants to...you make American foreign policy into a neo-colonial enterprise, and you want to draw Erik Prince out of it as if he's just an entrepreneur and his politics, who cares what they are.

You are putting too much focus on the footman, and not the people who are at the head of the parade.

The footman have just as much agency and decision making power as Halivston and [inaudible], they can say, Yes or no. Yes, I'm for this. Or no, I'm not, and withdrawal. They can do that. They can choose--

That's an economic decision, I think, more than anything else. The one thing that I've found more than anything else in this whole thing--

Those guys are ideological from top to the bottom, from the top of Erik Prince's head to the bottom--

Oh, my god, it's a conspiracy.

No, it's not a conspiracy.

Erik Prince exists because our government had a big gaping hole in its plans and they rushed in to fill it.

Fine, but he carried in with him his politics.

But Erik Prince didn't make up that--

His politics we know, we know where his money goes--.it doesn't go to liberals, it doesn't go to centrists, it doesn't go to people. It goes to--

It has nothing to do with politics. It's business, baby.

No...he's a principled guy. Good for him. He's a principled guy. I don't have to share his principles or like him, but--

This is the typical thing that people say, these guys all sit around and say, If we invade Iraq, I can make money, and I can start this company and you hire me, and--

I didn't say that.

That's what you're intimating, that there's a cabal of industrialists.

No, I'm not intimating that at all. I'm saying, Erik Prince has an ideology that carries into his business, it carries into his politics. I don't think you can separate his politics out from what--

I can introduce you to a lot of people--

He's not sitting around going, Oh, let's figure out a way to invade Iraq. He took advantage of it based on his political interest and his economic interest. To make him just an automaton of libertarian ideas is to diminish him.

You have to read my book, because he gets pushback from the very people you are blaming for creating him. No, I'm just saying, the state department, if given the choice, would not hire the Blackwaters of the world. The US military would not hire all the people that pick up all the ordinance and blow it up.

They would do that themselves, because once again, these dynamic forces are all trying to propagate their own institutions, right? The US military will never say that a private contractor is a better person or a more professional person than somebody in the military doing the same job.

The state department will never say that somebody working for a private organization is a better person than they are, because they say, they're professionals, we do this for a living. When I go home at night, I can't just phone in sick and say, I'll see you next month. I gotta come back to work. I have rules and restrictions.

Erik Prince wants to change that. He does.

But those people did not say, Let's create this new warrior class of people who are sort of neo-mercenaries, and the neo-mercenaries didn't say, Let's push public policy or government activities to make us a new force. That's mythical.

You're absolutely doing that. You said, they lobby just like any company would do in their own interest.

So what? Tabasco lobbies to have their fucking Tabasco sauce put in MREs, that doesn't mean they created the empire.

The Tabasco people are not as dangerous in terms of foreign policy in the direction of the United States as these guys with these private concerns.

Okay, I defy you to show me an example in which a private security company has forced our political system to make a decision in their benefit.

Well, we'll have to show you the film.

And I'd love to see it, because I have not found that...

It's a brand new industry, people are just starting to pay attention to it.

In this country, it is.

The whole process of working this all out, in terms of corporate policy and who gets what and who doesn't, who gets their way and who doesn't. That's going to be worked out over the next 4 or 5 decades, and the reason why is so important, this film, other people's writings, because it is new. Your book, it's all terra incognito.

And I'm telling you, I don't have an agenda. I'm not right wing or left wing. I've never voted in any election. I'm telling you to characterize it as a cabal or an organized--

I didn't say cabal, I never said anything about cabal. I don't believe in cabals. It's not a conspiracy.

Let's say, people are dying of AIDS and you don't have enough doctors so you create a whole class of sort of nurse medical technicians, that's what these guys are. They're sort of stopgap replacements that they throw at the problem.

No, they're not just technicians. They carry with them a vision, which isn't just about economics.

Well, isn't that interesting.

You talk about these people like they want you to make them automatons. I'm telling you that, look, these people are principled people, at least you can say that much about them.

No, here's what I can say--

Erik Prince is a principled man. He just has the wrong, fucked up principles.

No, I don't agree with that. I think he does have the right principles. Because when he talks about his ultimate usage of his skills, it's not take over to [inaudible], it's to provide humanitarian relief.

Every person who has ever oppressed another person on the face of the earth will say--

That's not true.

...I am a humanitarian! I want to bring good! Marx said! Lennon said it! Trotsky said it. They all said it. The ends justify the means. We will kill millions of people, why? Because we want to bring happiness to the rest of the people. Mao said the same thing. We will kill millions of people as long as we liberate and bring happiness. It's a similar kind of thinking and logic that is revolutionary, and I'll tell you what, the neocons in office are revolutionary thinkers. Look at some of the people that come out of the neocon world. Trotskyists, the Communists - these people are revolutionaries.

I find that whole thing fascinating, but I have to say, even though my examinations into the neocon world were very fascinating to me, I did not see this phenomena being engineered or constructed like the Brown Shirts. Hitler’s Brown Shirts. And I really tried to see if this was an outgrowth of paramilitaryism.

It's not that at all! That's ahistorical as well. But every empire said they were bringing good, happiness, wonder to the oppressed people, to the servants of the empire that...the British Empire didn't say, Oh, we're bad and we're nasty, we're lousy. They said, We're bringing enlightenment to the Indians. We're going to bring civilization to the Indians. We'll civilize the brute.

Here's the difference. Roger Brook was asked by the UK government to go to [inaudible] and set up a mercantile opportunity. And he was allowed to hire his own soldiers as privateers, and then he handed over, after God knows how long of a time, like in the 40's or 50's, control of that region to the British government. That's the mold you're talking about.

That's like George Bush going to Erik Prince and saying, Will you to go to the Congo and claim that for me? And once you've established regional government and security, I will step in and make it part of our empire. That's kind of what you're saying--

No, no, it's not what I'm saying. That's not the way it works. It's too conspiratorial. There is certainly--

I never judge a man's beliefs, until he's told me his beliefs, and I'd caution you before you put words in Erik Prince's mouth.

Well, there's another saying, Follow the money. Erik Prince has put money into the most radical Right Wing people's pockets--

I don't argue with that. I don't argue with that.

Money doesn't talk. It swears.

I don't argue with you, but I am saying, there's two parts of a business model. That is the client and then there's the guy that provides the services. If the client doesn't like what you're saying or doing, you don't have that business model anymore.

If his vested interest is to promote a political agenda, I don't see that working very well.

You said, I was naive. On this question--

There are higher things--

On politics, you are naive.

But I never get into politics, I don't discuss politics.

THAT'S THE PROBLEM!

Lemme ask you this.

You should talk to him.

When you talk to me, do you say, that guy's got a political agenda? Do you sense I have a political agenda?

It doesn't even matter, you carry a political agenda, of course.

I don't sense that I do.

Everybody does. You can't escape it.

I'm not judging these people.

He's more ideological than you. You don't understand that.

When I'm on the ground with his teams, I'm not saying to myself toward the airport, What's the political agenda of these people?

But so what?

Because that's actually where the rubber meets the road. How are these people affecting our national interests?

They don't see themselves involved in a political universe where people make decisions and you're part of it.

But they do force, like Fallujah, they do force...

What I'm talking about is that they don't see themselves as part of the project of American [inaudible] in the Middle East. They wouldn't speak in those terms.

I'll give you one thing, which is profound--

...if you talk...one could easily say, they are part of that project, whether they like or not, whether they know, whether they care or not, they are carrying, in some way, the ball forward on that particular issue.

I'll say one thing that always kind of shocked me is that every time one of our elected politicians goes in to an area that we have liberated, he must travel with his huge security detail. And he has to sneak into Baghdad, which is a fortified, sort of crusader castle.

I'd have to say that sitting down on the ground with the Iraqis and having tea with them and watching this on TV, that is probably one of the most embarrassing developments I've seen in my involvement with this country.

People don't just walk on the street and press the flesh with the Iraqis, they have to be surrounded by this ring of steel. And I see that as a sort of metaphor for our entire political agenda now, where we're coming to your town and you'll never see us, you'll touch us, you'll never effect us, because we know have this sort of band of neomercenaries guarding us, who are not really mercenaries, they're just private security companies.

And we're doing nice thing to you, but these people are shooting at us, and we tend to separate the insurgency from the people of Iraq and we separate our use of force or sort of intimated force as the only way that we can enter and do business with these countries. I take that as a sobering lesson, not specific we like this guy, or that guy thought of it, but as an end result of our forward leaning policy.