It was déjà vue all over again.
—Attributed to Yogi Berra
They’re still with us—the Prince family that is. It’s hard not to marvel at their staying power. Those with long memories will recall the great trump friend and cabinet member of the trump administration Betsy Dee Prince. By the time we got her, of course, she was married, and was known as Betsy De Vos. She was especially distinguished since she was one of the few trump appointed cabinet secretaries who managed to hang on to her position for the four years the trump was living in the White House.
Throughout the trump White House years, she was the Secretary of Education. In that capacity she did so many great things for the education of wealthy children that it is hard to recall them all. A couple of her more recent ones, however, serve as good examples of her efforts on their behalf. During the second month of the COVID 19-pandemic in 2020, she demanded that public schools reopen in the fall. She said that if they didn’t she’d send their money to private and religious schools. In May she used federal coronavirus relief funds to create a $180 million voucher program for private and religious schools.
The good works of Betsy and her family were not limited to helping private and religious schools. In May 2020 it was disclosed that Betsy and other family members had funded the Honest Election Project. Its goal was to fight efforts to expand vote-by-mail options in the 2020 elections. Betsy’s brother, Erik Prince, was also involved in assorted companies that were engaged in non-education ventures. One of them was Blackwater USA.
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In its early incarnation, Blackwater USA was a training facility for special operations personnel. In its later years its operations were expanded to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among services rendered, a Congressional Report found, Mr. Prince’s employees at Blackwater Worldwide were involved in almost 200 shootings between 2005 and 2007 in Iraq. Not all of the shootings were directed at enemy combatants. Among the non-enemy shootings was a December 24, 2006 shooting of one of the men guarding Iraqi Vice President, Adel Abdul Mahdi. He was killed by a drunk Blackwater employee.. On February 4, 2007, an Iraqi journalist was killed by another Blackwater employee. On September 9 five people near a government building were killed by one of the Blackwater employees; three days later five people were wounded by Blackwater employees, and four days after that seventeen Iraqis were killed by Blackwater employees in Nisour Square. As a result of that last shooting, four of the men involved were tried in the United States. One of them was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted of murder and three of the men were convicted of manslaughter and weapons charges. All were pardoned by the trump in the blissful waning days of his White House tenure.
Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 after he settled federal investigations into its activities in Iraq by paying $42 million in fines. Notwithstanding the hefty fines it paid for the conduct of its employees during their years in Iraq, the overall operation was profitable for Erik. Over the course of its operations Blackwater billed the United States Government more than $1 billion for services it had rendered. Ridding himself of Blackwater has not, however, removed Erik from having an interest in military matters in that part of the world. On February 26, 2021 it was reported that Erik is once again under investigation for his military activities although no longer in Iraq or Afghanistan. According a recently released United Nations report, he has selected a new venue. It is Libya.
A United Nations panel of experts began investigating Erik’s activities in connection with his possible participation in activities that were violations of an extant arms embargo on Libya. As a result of that investigation, the panel prepared a report that has been viewed by assorted sources that are now disclosing the report’s conclusions. Among other things the report concludes that Erik helped arms suppliers evade an arms embargo that was imposed on Libya by the United Nations. The New York Times reported that Erik had, among other things, furnished weapons and a force of armed mercenaries to a militia commander whose goal was to overthrow the extant government in Syria. According to the New York Times the forces were exceptionally well equipped. They were armed with gunboats, attack aircraft and cyberwarfare capabilities. The operation provided by Erik reportedly cost $80 million which seems like a lot until you recall that when he disbanded Blackwater he had paid $42 million in fines which, in the Prince scheme of things, suggests those large numbers may be large but they’re not intolerable.
It is not now known whether Erik will suffer any adverse consequences as a result of the report. His reaction to the report was not surprising. He denied all its conclusions. As he said to one reporter: “My name has become click bait for people who like to weave conspiracy theories together. And if they throw my name in, it always attracts attention. And it’s pretty damn sickening.” Some might conclude that comment by suggesting to Erik: “So is your conduct.”