The New York Times came under fire on Wednesday for running what critics characterized as “uncontested propaganda” in the form of an op-ed by notorious war profiteer and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
As in his other prominent op-eds that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, Prince—the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—pitched his plan to largely privatize the 16-year war in Afghanistan. Many have denounced this for-profit scheme—which would place the war in the hands of an American “Viceroy” and private mercenaries—as tantamount to “colonialism.”
“Why is the New York Times op-ed page publishing Erik Prince’s sales pitch for more mercenaries?” asked The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones.
The scheme being proposed “would make Prince, who now owns another private military company, Academi, very rich,” Jones added. “The conflicts of interest are glaring, and yet this advertisement was given pride of place in the opinion section.”
when outlets like the Times uncritically publish pieces like Prince's, it further blurs the line between opinion and straight propaganda pic.twitter.com/nQFyc70EWK
— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) August 30, 2017
Further, as Slate‘s Ben Mathis-Lilley observed, Prince’s Times bio failed entirely to highlight these conflicts of interest.
While the bio “notes that [Prince is] the chairman of the Frontier Services Group, it doesn’t make clear that the Frontier Services Group’s business involves selling ‘force protection’ to clients in countries including Afghanistan.”
The real problem, argues GQ‘s Jay Willis, “is not that Prince is taking advantage of an opportunity to shill for his latest collection of well-compensated mercenaries. It’s that the New York Times is giving Prince space on its opinion pages in order to do so.”
Freelance reporter Paul Blest noted that the Times “allow[ed] Erik Prince to grovel for a new contract” in its opinion section “almost ten years to the day” of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre—the killing of 17 Iraqis by Blackwater security guards.
Others similarly criticized the Times on social media:
Tomorrow on the NYT Op-Ed page: "Let Us Re-Discover the Joys and Benefits of Agent Orange," by Dow Chemical pic.twitter.com/COxBo9CUtZ
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 30, 2017
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) August 30, 2017
— Annie Shields (@anastasiakeeley) August 30, 2017
Top photo: Blackwater founder Erik Prince testifies before a House committee examining the mission and performance of private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, Oct. 2, 2007. (Susan Walsh/AP)
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