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What Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Learned About the Business of War

What Blackwater founder Erik Prince learned about the business of war
What Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Learned About the Business of War
Photograph by Mark Peckmezian

Erik Prince is not whining, he wants that clear. “However much I had to put up with, in terms of the assault from all sides, from the lawyers and the bureaucrats, pales in comparison to guys who lost their lives, who were maimed, either active-duty military or contractors,” he says. “I’m just providing a cautionary tale to the next guy dumb enough to run to the sound of the alarm bell. Because the government can drop you on a dime and leave you hanging.” For Prince, who in less than a decade took an obscure military training facility, Blackwater USA, and transformed it, with government contracts, into a billion-dollar company before selling it in late 2010, even score-settling is a public service.

In a dark suit and white, open-collar shirt, Prince is sitting warily in a hotel suite above New York’s Times Square. For years he’s been rumored to be working on a memoir about Blackwater (now called Academi), a name linked in the public imagination with the killings of dozens of Iraqis and Afghans. Now, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, is published, and Prince is busy promoting it. A private person, he submits to an interview with the enthusiasm of a dog in a shower. And yet he’s been waiting for this, too—to make the case for himself and his company and place the blame where he believes it belongs: “If I could send a message back to my younger self, it would be: Do not work for the State Department at all.”