Erik Prince is a Small-Government Libertarian Who’s Taken $2 billion From The Feds

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Erik Prince (Miller Center/Flickr)

One of the phrases that conservatives often use is “shrinking government.” President Ronald Reagan even said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Yet, he was elected to head the government!

Conservatives still using this mantra today. As I’ve said before, they love the government. One of my favorite phrases about conservatives is “hate the government, love the government check.”

The same people who claim they hate the government love their government Medicare, subsidies, federally-backed loans, unions and pensions. A great example of this hypocrisy is seen in the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia that has threatened to rise up if the feds ever try to confiscate guns. Ironically, most of the members are former military, police officers and emergency service workers, who all have pensions — provided by the government!

By the way, when Republicans try to break up public service employee unions they steer clear of the police unions. Police officers might lean to the right, but they realize the importance of having a union to back employees and organize collective bargaining.

Another glaringly ironic example is seen in Erik Prince, the war-mongering brother of Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos. Prince is the head of the amorphous mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater. The company has changed names several times to avoid bad publicity from accidentally killing 17 civilians in Iraq. Now it goes by Academi.

Prince is a libertarian. They subscribe to the belief that government should be smaller and stay out of people’s business. But he had no problem taking $2 billion in government contracts. Now, it’s hard to criticize the government for being so big, when your company’s dependent on government money.

In spite of leaving a terrible record in Iraq, Prince is still trying to sell his services to Afghanistan. Prince knows the government has spent trillions of dollars fighting a 17-year war in Afghanistan — and he wants a piece of it. But the current Afghan government isn’t buying his sales pitch.

“Under no circumstances will the Afghan government and people allow the counterterrorism fight to become a private, for-profit business,” said President Ashraf Ghani, in an official statement.

Privatizing war is a very bad idea, because when your company depends on conflict for a living, peace is bad for business. Why would Prince’s company be interested in ending the war and stopping the government contracts rolling in?

According to The Military Times, Prince has proposed taking over Afghan war operations for $5 billion per year. Prince says that’s a steal, since we’re currently spending about $1 billion a week. He claimed he could win the Afghanistan war with 6,000 contractors and 2,000 Special Forces troops.

But Prince’s new plan raises questions about oversight. Who’s going to oversee this money? Will he give us monthly reports on the status of the war? Or would his firm say that since it’s a privately-owned company, they don’t need to reveal their books?

Fortunately, Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis has poured water on Prince’s proposal. Other military experts have also frowned on the idea.

“I think its a recipe for corruption. I think it’s a recipe for potential for human rights or other abuses by forces on the ground because they are not government forces,” said Seth Jones, a former adviser to U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. Jones is currently a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Security.

War profiteering used to frowned upon, but now it seems to have been normalized. Prince’s operation is a great example of why Republicans want to push for privatization. They don’t want to make government smaller, they just want to transfer government spending into private hands.

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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