Controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince is telling desperate people trapped in Kabul that he can get them out of Afghanistan if they are prepared to pay. The story has aroused strong emotions from critics and defenders of the infamous private military contractor. Prince and his company tend to inspire heated partisan responses from both sides but it is worth considering where exactly Erik Prince fits into the sad story of the Kabul evacuation.
Blackwater founder courts controversy again
As desperation grows and the deadline for evacuation looms in Kabul, it is becoming clear that not everyone who hopes to get out of Afghanistan will make it in time.
The Blackwater founder has announced that he will offer American citizens and other civilians trapped in Afghanistan a seat on a charter flight out of the country.
Unlike a number of other individuals and organizations aiming to assist on a charitable basis, however, Prince expects to be paid for his services.
A seat on an outgoing flight will cost $6,500 and for an unspecified additional charge Prince claims that his contractors can get people to the airport itself if they are unable to make it on their own.
The extent to which Prince has resources in place to actually deliver what he is offering to paying customers is unclear.
To defenders this is simply a businessman offering his services for a fee as usual. Critics, on the other hand, are accusing Prince of looking to earn a profit from the misfortune of others.
A question of morals
There is certainly nothing illegal about Erik Prince offering a service which is in demand in exchange for pay. Morally the situation is somewhat more complex.
Blackwater was an extremely lucrative enterprise for Prince and he presumably still has no shortage of money. For people trapped in Kabul the necessary $6,500 might be a very steep price.
An altruist with the resources Prince claims to have could instead be offering help to fellow Americans and vulnerable Afghans without being paid, as others have done.
As this is ultimately a moral dilemma the question must be about what sort of person Erik Prince is; a favorite target for many liberals, he has been accused of a number of illegal dealings abroad.
Like John McCain and Dr. Seuss, Prince also abandoned his dying wife in 2003 to start an affair with an employee who became his next wife, and who he has since divorced. A personal matter but a revealing one as we question his current motives.
Regardless of what one thinks of Blackwater, Erik Prince is clearly no saint. It may be wrong to condemn him too hastily but with so many people still desperate to get out of Afghanistan it would also be wrong to praise him too eagerly.