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The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security [Kindle Edition]

Ann Hagedorn

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Book Description

The urgent truth about the privatization of America’s national security that exposes where this industry came from, how it operates, where it's heading—and why we should be concerned.

Thirty years ago there were no private military and security companies (PMSCs); there were only mercenaries. Now the PMSCs are a bona-fide industry, an indispensable part of American foreign and military policy. PMSCs assist US forces in combat operations and replace them after the military withdraws from combat zones; they guard our embassies; they play key roles in US counterterrorism strategies; and Homeland Security depends on them. Their services include maritime security, police training, drone operations, cyber security, and intelligence analysis (as Edward Snowden has famously revealed). Even the United Nations employs them.

When did this happen? The turning point came when the US found itself in a prolonged war with Iraq, but without adequate forces. So the Bush Administration turned to the PMSCs to fill the gap. Private contractors and subcontractors eventually exceeded the traditional troops. The industry has never scaled back.

Ann Hagedorn profiles the members of Congress who recognize the dangers of dependence on PMSCs, but have been unable to limit them or even determine their true scope. She takes us to the exclusive club in London where the PMSCs were created, and she reveals the key figure in the evolution of the industry. She introduces us to a US Army general who studies new developments, such as PMSCs’ drone operations, and worries about PMSCs potentially fighting American troops. The Invisible Soldiers will inspire a national dialogue about a little-known international industry on which our security rests.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1783 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (19 Aug. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #837,031 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should we privatize war? 4 Oct. 2014
By B. J. Taylor - Published on
Having worked with Iraq via the Foreign Military Sales program this book was of particular interest to me. Ms. Hagedorn gives a history of private military and security companies, formerly known as mercenaries. The companies that were linked to the term "mercenary" needed a new image. They continued to hire former military personnel, but they wanted to present themselves as being more professional. Thus, they marketed "military skills" as a commercial product. Given that we are now engaged in military actions in multiple regions, unless the draft were re-instated, we do not have enough military personnel to do the job. Privatization fills the gap between what the American military was trained and equipped to do – fight conventional wars – and what was needed in current unconventional wars.

The war in Iraq became known as the “first contractors’ war”. Contractors were beating a path to Iraq in order to get a portion of those billions of dollars in contracts that were being awarded by the US Government. Paul Bremer, who led the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq for a year, was himself a contractor. A private contractor was, for the first time, running the military occupation of a nation.

Contractors now provide everything from logistics and engineering services to food prep, laundry, housing, construction, and security. Contracts being awarded often required a specified number of personnel to be in place quickly. Ms. Hagedorn revealed that companies often hired third-country nationals as subcontractors because they were cheaper and could be deployed quickly. However, many of the personnel were not properly trained. I saw a lot of third-country nationals in security positions when I was in Baghdad, especially in the Green Zone.

In Afghanistan, Blackwater hired unqualified personnel as pilots and this resulted in a crash
killing several people, including a US military pilot with an exemplary safety record. No flight plan had been filed. The lone survivor died from exposure several hours after the crash. Since no flight plan had been filed, it took search crews a long time to locate them.

Ms. Hagedorn writes of incidents where numerous innocent Iraqi civilians died as a consequence of privatizing war. There were incidents of unnecessary use of lethal force by security contractors. These incidents not only undermined the US mission in Iraq but also affected US relations in the region in general and jeopardized the safety of our soldiers. Blackwater was a prime example of these callous disregard for Iraqi lives, and even American soldiers' lives. Early in the war, there were no laws to reign the security contractors in or to hold them accountable for their actions.

Jan Schakowsky, a congresswoman from Illinois, questioned the use of these private military and security contractors (PMSCs). American taxpayers were already paying to fund the military, considered the world’s most powerful, so why pay a second time to privatize the military operations? Contractors are not required to follow the same rules as active duty military. So who was overseeing them? Schakowsky tried but failed to ban private contractors’ from being involved in the supervision and interrogation of prisoners. The CEO of one of the largest contractors had been implicated in a number of human rights abuses around the world.

Some of these contractors showed an arrogance and disrespect for the military troops. A topic Hagedorn did not address was one I encountered. Often the military personnel did not understand contracting resulting in them not being aware of what the contractors were actually responsible for.

The book provides a good insight into the pros & cons of using private security forces. Most Americans probably do not realize that when US troops pulled out of Iraq the end of 2011, many were replaced by contractors.

Another area for privatization is maritime security – the guard against piracy. With so much water to patrol it is difficult for international naval forces to protect every commercial vessel.

I think the book makes a case revealing that the US Government, especially the State Department, was in over their heads. So they often stepped aside and let the private sector take over.

This book is very well written making it easy to read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who's Watching the People Watching Our Military's Back 10 Sept. 2014
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
In this volume about modern mercenaries (now called contract security agents) Ann Hagedorn makes the major point that these soldiers are an entity to themselves. Most of these service companies (PMSC, private management security companies) are the outgrowth from mercenaries used to fight surrogate wars in Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. They were originally set-up by ex-British and South African/Rhodesian special forces who helped to train anti-terrorist and anti-guerilla groups for many of various African dictators.

The two most known to Americans are Haliburton and Blackwater. One has been spun off from its’ original owner while the other has gone through multiple name changes (the latest being Academi). All of these groups have been doing business in Iraq and Afghanistan since the American Armed Forces began to be reduced and turning security back over to the Iraqi Army (and we know how well that’s gone).

The problems that Hagedorn concentrates on is the lack of ‘accountability’ that these PMSCs have to both the countries that hire them and the American military with which they work. Over the last few years, there have been attempts to ‘reel’ in these companies but because they keep changing names and bases, it’s hard to make them accountable. In one story she tells how a US soldier was accidentally shot by a contractor, but nothing could be done to prosecute the shooter.

Just by the personality of the types of people who start and run these companies, you are dealing with loners and mavericks. They may know all the right ‘buzz’ words and wear suits, but that doesn’t mean they can do what they say or control the people they put into the ‘field’. In one chapter she talks about how contractors have been hired to assist the US Border Patrol and ICE with illegal immigrants. She makes the point that they run many of the detention centers where the illegal immigrants are kept. We just seen in the last few weeks how they can’t handle what they were hired to do much less do it the way most Americans would like.

Bottom line, Hagedon makes the point that you can’t depend on these contractors to conduct their business as the government would because they are for-profit. They hire people who have ‘iffy’ backgrounds from Third World Countries who have different ideas on the ‘rights’ of citizens. Even though Congress has strengthened the laws of accountability there is no way to ensure that they are enforced once a contract is rewarded, especially if the work is outside the US. Should they be given even more important service roles vis-à-vis the US military, we could be putting our people at risk.

Zeb Kantrowitz
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched Book on Important Subject 28 Aug. 2014
By Celia - Published on
This is a very important and well researched book of how America is outsourcing vital military functions to Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) and how we depend on these companies for our national security. Many people would say these companies are really a mercenary army. These companies are used to get around many laws in the US regarding the use of the military since technically these companies are the US military. The most well-known US PMSCs is Blackwater.

The British were the first to develop these companies. In fact, a British PMSC received one of the largest contracts from the US government for work in Iraq because the US government thought the British had more experience in occupying other countries (I would to point out two things: If the US needs to outsource its military shouldn't US not foreign companies get significant preference? Also the choosing of a British company because the British were an empire seems to indicate that the US government has some imperial aspirations).
Private Military Security Contractors first played a significant role in Bosnia. Though the formal US military vastly outnumbered the PMSCs, the PMSCs were useful to the Clinton Administration because they helped minimize the appearance of US involvement in the region (i.e. PMSC security forces don't count in the number of US military forces in a region). However, PMSC's played a major role in the US war in Iraq where the ratio of PMSCs to the regular army was 1:1.

Many people in Congress in the first decade of the 21st century were opposed to the use of PMSCs, most notably Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and John Kerry before these politicians became President and Secretary of State. However now all these politicians seem to accept these companies being used perhaps because so many military operations now depend on them.
The use of these organizations has a dark side. They are used by politicians to get around laws restricting the US military since they aren't part of the official US military. They are used by politicians to understate US military involvement in an area. They are not covered by the same laws as the US military (supposedly the industry regulates itself which in my opinion is something which no industry does well). The solders don't receive the same benefits as US servicemen. Certainly these organizations add to the military industrial complex and evoke concerns that they are increasing the profit motive for war.

These companies are essentially a mercenary army. I always think of mercenaries as only caring for the money not the cause they serve. If ISIS or some enemy country made them a better offer would they desert the US?

The author herself points out that historically mercenaries have tried to take over countries they were "hired" to protect (Organized crime often claims they are "hired protection").

The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security is an important book about the US military. Civic minded Americans should be concerned about the US now maintains its multiple military commitments. It is well written but it is not a light, cheerful read. It is and important book about a major subject that should be of interest to all informed Americans.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good background but misses impact. 4 Jun. 2015
By Thomas M. Magee - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an Iraq vet this book did peak my interest. I personally saw contractors at work over there in many different ways. The book is an easy read. The author does have several interesting stories. The style flows really well from chapter to chapter. This book was interesting but it missed the mark. It focuses to much on making the contractors the boogie man of the day. The book misses the point that war zones are not nice places. It isn't like anything here in the US. Thousands of contractors served honorably doing scores of vital tasks across the Middle East. I think there is a whole lot more to the issue than what is in this book.

This book focuses a lot about the stories on the mercenary companies like Blackwater and a few others. The book goes over the bad stories scores of other books has already gone over. That is a fraction of what is going on. Contractors are doing everything now from the visible guard functions to cooking meals. All of those tasks used to be performed by soldiers. The book needs more analysis on the topic. There is a reason why there are so many contractors. It is because we have to small of a military. They must use contractors or stay home. Yes, they are cheaper in the long run. However, they are not cheaper in the short term. That is why Congress and the public chocked on the bill from these firms. It costs money to get people to show up in a war zone.

People need to focus on that issue, not old stories from ten years ago.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Accounting 6 Nov. 2014
By RicTaylorhard - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Invisible Soldiers is a detailed accounting of private security companies, contractors, which have been around since antiquity. However, they rose to unprecedented prominence during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The scary message is degree of secrecy, incompetence, and corruption evidenced by government, including administrations and congress. Read it to get the eye-opening story. Almost 60 percent of the book is composed of notes, bibliography, and an index: numerous sources.
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