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The Man From Blackwater, Shooting From the Lip

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, left, with attorney Stephen Ryan: Tight-lipped amid questions about his company in Iraq.
Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, left, with attorney Stephen Ryan: Tight-lipped amid questions about his company in Iraq. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

Republicans took a more favorable view of their benefactor.

"We should take care not to prejudge," said Tom Davis of Virginia ($717,829).

"We should not be holding this hearing," protested John Mica of Florida ($145,454). "Therefore, I move that the committee do now adjourn."

Many Republican questions could only loosely be qualified as such. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) congratulated Prince for a "very good job," while Chris Shays (Conn.) credited him with a "perfect job."

"How many individuals under your protective service have been injured or killed?" asked Patrick McHenry (N.C.).

PRINCE: Zero.

McHENRY: Zero?

PRINCE: Zero, sir.

McHENRY: Zero individuals that Blackwater's protected have been killed in a Blackwater transport?

PRINCE: That's correct.

McHENRY: Zero?

PRINCE: Zero.

Democrats were careful not to even mention Prince's politics -- but California Republican Darrell Issa ($131,235 from defense interests) decided to take offense anyway. "Labeling some company as Republican-oriented because of family members is inappropriate, and I would hope that we not do it again," Issa complained.

"Well, the only one who's done it is you," Waxman pointed out, accurately.

Issa stammered and didn't complete his reply.

Though Prince read his opening statement with beads of sweat on his brow and upper lip, he quickly adapted to battle. When Danny Davis (D-Ill.) asked him to concede that Blackwater had killed innocent civilians, Prince replied: "No, sir. I disagree with that. . . . There could be ricochets. There are traffic accidents, yes. This is war."

As the hearing stretched through the lunch hour, the witness grew cockier. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) said no more than "Thank you for being with us" before Prince shot back: "Glad I could come here and correct some facts."

Prince had evidently made enough corrections, for a member of his entourage caught the chairman's eye and made a "timeout" signal. The hearing thus adjourned, the Blackwater chief picked up the "MR. PRINCE" nameplate and, with a sly look, pocketed the souvenir.


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