Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Erik Prince Implicated in Murder: Breaking News

This is news that will bear watching from a number of angles. Huffington Post has just uploaded an article by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation announcing that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, has been implicated in murder. Prince founded Blackwater in North Carolina in 1997 to do military training and supply weapons.

Under the Bush regime, this mercenary group received one contract after another to supply hired troops to the Iraqi conflict to supplement American troops. The company made mega millions in this capacity, but has come under scrutiny after allegations arose that its employees had killed innocent civilians in Iraq. The Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has sought to inquire into these allegations and the activities of Blackwater in Iraq. The Committee concluded that this mercenary organization was "staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets."

The allegations about Erik Prince surfacing today are sworn statements by a former Blackwater employee and a former ex-Marine hired as a security guard for the company. These men allege that Prince may have murdered or collaborated in the murder of individuals cooperating with federal probes of criminal activities by Blackwater.

The testimony of the former employee states that Erik Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies have "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." The former employee also says that Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq those sharing his vision of "Christian supremacy," "knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis."

As I say, this story bears watching from a number of angles. As I've noted previously on this blog, Prince is among a gang--I'll be blunt--of outright thugs who have found refuge in the Catholic church in the past few decades, who share a dream of pushing the Catholic church more and more to the political right. I am all for welcome, and I believe that the church ought to open its arms to everyone, saint and sinner alike.

But I am perturbed by what seems to be the penchant of the American Catholic church in recent years to open its arms far more fondly to neocon thugs than to many of its own flock, who have been driven from communion by the church's refusal to permit theological dialogue, to affirm the full personhood of women and the right of women to ordination, to love and accept gay persons, and to meet with and bind the wounds of many Catholics who were sexually abused by clergy as children and whose lives have been made a living hell as a result.

The church appears to have more room for Erik Prince and Newt Gingrich than it does for the faithful theologians it has silenced one after another, for women and gay people who want to claim their full personhood, or for those abused as youths by clergy.

I'll be following the Erik Prince story with great interest, too, because of the considerable role his family played in funding the battle to overturn same-sex marriage in California. His mother gave $450,000 to that fight. Have a look at the chart featured in the article to which I have just linked about that story, and note the intricate interconnections between this one family, with its "Christian supremacist" view of life, and one group after another, all of whom appear linked by a theocratic agenda to impose their "Christian" views on the whole society. Note the influence that a few wealthy powerful people can exert in our society, through channels often hidden from public scrutiny, as money moves around from linked group to link group to suppress democratic deliberation and progressive change grounded in such deliberation.

The chart does not even tell the entire story. Prince's father founded the anti-gay Family Research Council along with Gary Bauer. Between July 2003 and July 2006, Prince's family foundation gave at least $670, 000 to Family Research Council and $531, 000 to Focus on the Family.

For anyone concerned about the role played by religion in the public sphere, about the attempt of Christian theocrats to subvert democratic processes, about the unspeakable collaboration of some of these groups with murder and atrocities of innocent people in the Middle East, about the considerable welcome these folks receive in some sectors of American Catholicism (and the considerable silence of American Catholics of the center about that unholy development), and about the link between right-wing religion and homophobia, this is a story to follow.

In its eagerness to make gay folks unwelcome in church and society, the Catholic church may sometimes get into bed with murderers. And that's one bed it would do well to stay out of if it wants to remain credible, it seems to me.