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February 13th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Bye, Bye Blackwater

Companies falling under the Blackwater umbrella are now being called 'Xe.'

Companies falling under the Blackwater umbrella are now being called 'Xe.'
Heavily armed Blackwater guards scan downtown Baghdad, Iraq, from a helicopter in 2003.

Heavily armed Blackwater guards scan downtown Baghdad, Iraq, from a helicopter in 2003.

Suzanne Kelly Simons
CNN Executive Producer, Author

Something had to give. Some 17 months after a deadly shooting involving its contractors in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in which at least 14 Iraqis were killed, private security contractor Blackwater is no more. Company President Gary Jackson put rumor to rest by announcing that the companies falling under the Blackwater umbrella are now being called "Xe". (Pronounced "Z").

The former Blackwater Lodge and Training Center has already been renamed on the company's website. It's now called the "U.S. Training Center" but still uses the old Blackwater bear paw log. Similarly, Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, and Blackwater Target Systems will now be called GSD Manufacturing.

While Xe's very generic new black and white logo keeps things simple, one can't help but ask what has really changed ? Former Navy SEAL Erik Prince still has sole ownership of the companies. Gary Jackson remains at the top of the newly-named structure. A new, as of yet unnamed Chief Operating Officer is coming in, and a few of the lower-level executives have been shown the door. Jackson says the moves have been months in the making, but company executives have long been gauging whether the name Blackwater had just become too radioactive. A big answer to just how hot they'd gotten came in late January when the Iraqi government announced that it would not grant the company a license to operate in the country. The State Department – Blackwater's biggest client – said sorry, no license, no contract. The decision not only deprives the company of a lucrative revenue stream, but it will likely force them to lay off as many as 200 people.

To say that the company's founder and owner Erik Prince is down about the news could be an understatement, but if the former SEAL has shown anything over the past decade, it is that he may be down, but don't count him out just yet. Jackson had a similar mindset when I spoke with him recently. The only question now is what's in a name? And would a company by any other name be any less radioactive?

Editor’s Note: Suzanne Simons is author of “Master of war: Blackwater’s Erik Prince and the Global Business of War.” (Collins/Harpercollins June, 2009)


Filed under: Iraq • Suzanne Simons
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Clem Lynne

    Corporate world installed Bush & Cheney in the White House. Bush's two terms was an aboslute success in terms of his obligation to his contributors. But look at what he has left, a country in complete shambles. No, the world's economy in complete shambles. He wasn't satisfied, he left us Blackwater under another name. He took the public for stupid. Why does the media call it what it is – Bush adminstration raped this country and the media is treating it with kid's gloves rather than being outraged about it.

    February 14, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  2. Art

    Hi Suzanne, were they right or wrong I can't say. I wasn't there. What I can say is war is hell! There is no other way to explain it. The best thing we could do is get out of the middle east, otherwise the tragedies will continue. Way to many politics too. I have to say that Kent from Illinois might have a good thought. Where's Bin Laden?? Thanks for reading, Art

    February 14, 2009 at 7:00 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    What a load of BS.
    They were and remain Mercenaries, by any realistic definition.
    =Armed and trained military style individuals with excessive fire power but paid privately, in this case worse still by the US government.
    I wish they had to file for bankruptcy and not hide behind spurious and devious name changes.
    The only military presence in Iraq or any where else should be US military forces subject to US military codes of conduct and the Geneva conventions.
    By the way, this has nothing to do with patriotism for gods sake!!
    regards,
    hodgson.

    February 14, 2009 at 5:07 am |
  4. Thomas

    Wow !
    What a trendy Logo !

    I love the feel of it, Akia of Death !

    You just want to have a cosmopolitan or a dry martin , then turn on the war channel and relax.

    Do they have the hip Xe emblem on there bullets ?

    February 13, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  5. sean brizendine

    sounds like more of the same.
    "sean in santa rosa"

    February 13, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  6. Barbara in Boston

    Hmmmm. This smells like RJ Reynolds renaming. Who do they think they're fooling?

    February 13, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    I doubt that changing the firm's name from Blackwater to anything else will make any difference in the fundamental things wrong with the company. All it will do is confuse the issue but maybe that's half the battle.

    February 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  8. Kent, Illinois

    Blackwater is an incredibly corrupt and dangerous entity. We are not privy to all of it's workings......We cannot handle the truth. If there was a possibility they were above keel why don't they send them to kill Bin Laden? Do we actually want Bin Laden dead or is that a media game the Govt has been playing for the last 8 yrs?

    February 13, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  9. Cori in Colorado

    They should be shut down permanently, they're disgusting; it's the least that could be done.

    February 13, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  10. Zoe

    Unless I am mistaken, our Founding Fathers expressed frequent concern, as did later presidents, about having a private armed militia on the side, and on the payroll. Blackwater did not have to abide by the rules
    of the Geneva Convention nor were they subject to the same protocol as the men and women of the armed forces. Their well documented relationship with Halliburton and its well documented relationship with Cheney, made this a bad deal all round.

    It was a HUGELY EXPENSIVE ,under the radar, free for all and it deserved to be terminated.

    February 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  11. Joe Wilson, Georgia

    The family behind Blackwater has given generously in political contributions to the Republican party and other right wing causes. Now that their political benefactors are out of power, will they be able to withstand the investigations coming down the pipe. One member gave large amounts to making gay marriage illegal in California, despite living in Michigan. Many Democrats voted for Bush's misguided tax cuts, while Republicans continue to be thugs and have no interest in helping America succeed. How are the real Patriots?

    February 13, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  12. jarrod

    this is a prime example of the problems with corporations big or small somthing goes bad or they get sued they simply shut it down and start a new one it is the same with companies that do work or sell items with warranties they just shut down file a loss and start fresh and who is left in the dust the american consumer i beleive the same base of principles apply with blackwater. START holding these company owners accoutable and eliminate the corporate protection and this problem would solve so many issues morally and economically.

    PS i have operated a business for 5 years uder my own name no corporate entity to hide behind putting everything i own at risk integrity, ethics, my house and i have never been sued IT IS called workmanship somthing this country has lost sight of......just because you are in the yellow pages doesn't mean nothing to me.

    February 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  13. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    The sentence below could be used as a slogan:
    If you can not convince them, confuse them.

    February 13, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  14. CarolAnn

    Blackwater, Haliburton, KBR...all of 'em need to go. Wasn't it Blackwater security that was infringing on amendment rights down in Louisiana after the Katrina event? C'mon - how many more laws do these guys have to break before someone who is part of the law and NOT above the law does something about it?

    February 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    I'm sure by changing the name it is going to make right for all the wrong that has been alledgely committed--but let's be realistic--when you hire mercinaries--they are mercinaries-–you can touch the spot of the lepoard--but you can't move them.

    February 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm |