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October 30th, 2014
05:29 PM ET

Fmr. Blackwater CEO defends company amidst manslaughter convictions

(CNN) – The Nusoor Square massacre was a major turning point in the Iraq War – a shoot out in the streets of Baghdad that left 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead at the hands of four American security contractors working for Blackwater – the now infamous private security contractor.

"I will not second-guess the split-second decisions of my men," founder and former CEO of Blackwater Erik Prince writes of the incident in his new book, "Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror."

Last week, an American jury disagreed, and found three of Prince's former employees guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and one guilty of first-degree murder. But Prince stood by the security contractors.

"I'm not going to second-guess their actions," said Prince. "They were operating with the rules of engagement dictated to them by the State Departments, with the whole use of force continuum."

The four Blackwater guards have a "good basis for appeal, and I'm sure they'll exercise their rights to do that," said Prince.

Prince said politics are at play, saying "in the 70s, the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops. This time they really went after contractors."

But it wasn't just the left, or hippies criticizing Blackwater. Troops have also had misgivings, saying Blackwater guards felt the rules did not apply to them, and treated troops like an annoyance.

And undoubtedly, many people employed by security contractors are decent people, including former troops trying to make a good living. But there were also bad actors that left the group as a whole with a poor reputation.

Asked if he had any regrets that he didn't take some of the complaints seriously enough, leading to a damaged image for all of Blackwater, Prince pivoted.

"We did take things seriously, we fired a lot of people if they crossed the line in any way. Any time that there was a use of force, it was documented, recorded back to the State Department who controlled that mission," said Prince, adding that the company asked for dashboard cams for, a request he said the State Department denied.

A young boy, a poet, and a grandparent were among the 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians killed in Nusoor Square.

"Any time innocent lives are lost, of course it's a tragedy," said Prince, noting that 41 Blackwater security guards were killed in action by Iraqis.

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