Author Jeremy Scahill has revealed that a Naval Academy conference founded by Senator John McCain’s wife Cindy and named in her husband’s honor called last spring for a ban on the use in war zones of private security contractors like Blackwater.
The 9th Annual McCain Conference on Ethics and Military Leadership — at which Blackwater founder Erik Prince was among the speakers — concluded that “the use of deadly force must be entrusted only to those whose training, character and accountability are most worthy of the nation’s trust: the military.”
What makes the conference’s conclusions particularly ironic is that since 1993 McCain has been chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), which has longstanding ties to Blackwater. In 2004, an IRI delegation to Afghanistan included Paul Behrends, a longtime friend of Erik Prince. Behrends was then a partner with the now-disgraced Alexander Strategy Group, which had Blackwater as a client.
More recently, according to Scahill, IRI has been paying Blackwater millions of dollars a year to protect its operations in Iraq. In addition, the PR firm of senior McCain campaign strategist Charlie Black advised Erik Prince during 2007 Congressional hearings on the Nisour Square massacre.
The official summary of the conference goes on to say, “The military profession carefully cultivates an ethic of ‘selfless service,’ and develops the virtues that can best withstand combat pressures and thus achieve the nation’s objectives in an honorable way. By contrast, most corporate ethical standards and available regulatory schemes are ill-suited for this environment.”