On Tuesday night, the Acton Institute welcomed Erik Prince to the Mark Murray Auditorium in the Acton Building in Grand Rapids, Michgan. Prince, a west Michigan native, is the founder and former CEO of Blackwater, Inc., the private security firm that became the subject of a great deal of controversy during the Iraq War, and remains so to this day.
Prince’s address shared the title of his book: Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. He related the story of why he founded Blackwater Inc., how the company grew in response to various national and world events, the role the company played in Iraq and Afghanistan in the post-9/11 conflicts, and the public excoriation that both he and his company were subject to at the hands of a hostile press and Congressional investigators after the public soured on the Iraq war effort.
Naturally, Prince’s presence at Acton sparked outrage in the local leftist community, as Prince is widely assumed to be a “war criminal” throughout the leftist blogosphere. This led to calls for protest, which were answered by around ten to twelve individuals who stood at the corner of Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue, peacefully holding their signs. By my observation, it appeared that about 60 percent of the signs were intended to either denounce Prince as a “war criminal” or Acton for even allowing him to speak, with the other 40 percent calling for various leftist economic reforms. Here’s a rather amusing account of the event from a leftist perspective, which notes that at some point the protestors hauled out a bullhorn, but were asked discontinue use of it by the Grand Rapids Police. A more balanced account of the event appears in the Grand Rapids Press.
In the end, this type of protest is the reason why Prince wrote his book, and the reason why he is now speaking out about his experiences. He has largely been tried and convicted in the international court of the leftist blogosphere and punditocracy, and has had relatively little opportunity to share his side of the story. Even then-Senator Barack Obama acknowledged that “Blackwater is getting a bad rap” during a 2008 campaign related trip to Afghanistan, a trip on which his personal security was provided by – you guessed it – Blackwater.
With all this in mind, your best bet is to hear the man out for yourself. The video of Prince’s address and the Q and A that followed is posted below. For a more in-depth examination of the situation, you’d do well to read his book.