By Marc Norton
Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who has been called “America’s most notorious mercenary” by author and journalist Jeremy Scahill, has emerged as an influential advisor to the incoming Donald Trump regime.
Prince is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, who is in the process of being confirmed as secretary of education — and an advocate for the privatization of public schools.
The connection between these two reactionary political players is no secret, but is one of those barely-known facts that has remained mostly hidden in plain sight. Despite significant press around the confirmation hearings for DeVos, the corporate media has not called the public’s attention to her relationship to Prince. Plaudits go to the The Intercept for publishing an article on January 17 by Scahill about Prince’s connection to Trump, and highlighting his connection to DeVos.
Prince’s biggest claim to infamy is as the founder of Blackwater, a private security firm that hired mercenaries to augment US military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, among many other places. Blackwater, now transformed into a company called Academi, had an intimate relationship with the CIA, and was regarded by many as one of the CIA’s go to organizations when it wanted to contract out its dirty work. Blackwater got into hot water more than once, particularly in 2007 when some of its mercenaries gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year old boy, in Baghdad.
Scahill reports that trusted sources tell him Prince has been giving Trump advice on his staff picks for the Defense Department and the State Department. Nothing like having friends in high places if you want work.
Prince is close to another Trump advisor, the racist Steve Bannon. Prince has often appeared on Bannon’s Breitbart Radio. Last July, Prince told Bannon that a Trump administration could and should create a new version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination program during the Vietnam War that “neutralized” tens of thousands of alleged Viet Cong leaders. The new assassination program would presumably target “radical Islamic extremists,” and who knows who else.
DeVos, while not a public advocate of murder like her brother, has worked for decades in an effort to undermine and assassinate public education. A billionaire heir to the Amway fortune, she is a prominent Republican donor and fund-raiser. Her political efforts have centered around campaigns to give parents taxpayer-funded “vouchers” so they can pull their children out of the public education system and send them to private schools, including religious schools. She has also campaigned to expand charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private companies.
What you can do.
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She isn’t responsible for her brother, of course, but the two are closely linked politically, as described in a 2014 Mother Jones article — and there’s no sign anywhere that she has said she doesn’t approve of his actions.
DeVos hails from Michigan, where she is a political force to be reckoned with. She has been credited with creating a network of charter schools in Michigan that are virtually unregulated, despite the abysmal test scores of their students. Dick DeVos, Betsy’s husband, led and funded the successful campaign in 2012 that turned Michigan into a so-called “right to work” state, effectively outlawing the union shop. That includes, of course, public schools.
DeVos was called the “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee” for the office of Secretary of Education ever by Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers.
The Erik Prince-Betsy DeVos connection adds another layer of concern to the prospect of DeVos running the Education Department. It is becoming more clear every day that the Trump regime is a collection of the most reactionary set of scallywags ever assembled in Washington DC, which has seen its fair share of reactionaries.
Prince did his bit to get this latest bunch of scallywags into the White House, and to give the Education Department to his sister. On November 4, just days before the election, Prince used Breitbart News to spread a fake story about the Anthony Weiner sex texting scandal, claiming that the New York Police Department investigation “found State Department emails. They found a lot of other really damning criminal information, including money laundering, including the fact that Hillary went to this sex island with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Clinton went there more than 20 times. Hillary Clinton went there at least six times.”
Let’s hope that DeVos is not tempted to recruit her brother to run an assassination program against public high school principals. Oops, I meant a “character” assassination program.
This article was first published by 48 Hills Copyright © 2017 by Marc Norton
Marc Norton’s website is www.MarcNorton.us.