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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making a Killing: Guns for Hire
I have to admit to being slightly puzzled about the low ratings this book has got. I first read it last year when it was published in paperback and found it a compelling informative read, yet the reviews on Amazon talk of it as "dull and repetitive" - "frustrating" - "childish rant".

Having now read it a second time I can with out hesitation recommend it to...
Published on 14 Sep 2009 by S Wood

versus
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blackwater - a flawed but important book
Although this book is written from a blatantly biased - anti-Republican - viewpoint, it is nonetheless an important insight into the appalling legacy that has been left behind in Iraq by the current US administration through the privatisation of the military. The wholesale robbery and betrayal of both the American and Iraqi peoples should not be ignored, because of a...
Published on 6 Nov 2007 by Mr. John Fallon


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making a Killing: Guns for Hire, 14 Sep 2009
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I have to admit to being slightly puzzled about the low ratings this book has got. I first read it last year when it was published in paperback and found it a compelling informative read, yet the reviews on Amazon talk of it as "dull and repetitive" - "frustrating" - "childish rant".

Having now read it a second time I can with out hesitation recommend it to anyone who wishes to be informed about some of the realities of the modern mercenary industry. The book focuses on Blackwater and tells the story of the forming of the company, the background of its right wing Christian fundamentalist owner Erik Prince, the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that have made Blackwater a major participant in the growing Mercenary industry (sorry "International Peace Operations" - Blackwater speak). It is packed with information, quotes from the leading figures in Blackwater (virtually to a man all ex government employees), covers events such as the killing of the 4 Blackwater operatives in Fallujah, the gunning down of Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad.

Some reviewers speak of it as being an angry rant and the book certainly contains anger in it - this is generally in the form of the testimony of relatives of Blackwater employees who have died in circumstances that are hardly a credit to Blackwater, or relatives of Iraqis killed by trigger happy Blackwater operatives. The author himself has not written an angry book, that he has problems with the mercenary industry is obvious and a perfectly reasonable position to take: the relationship between it and the then governing Bush administration is blatant cronyism, the no bid contracts, the immunity from any accountability provided by proconsul Bremer and plenty of campaign financing for the republican party. The book certainly doesn't come across to this reader as a rant but rather puts Blackwater in particular and the Mercenary Industry in general under the microscope.

The book is not entirely without its faults, there is an element of repetition - a few quotes are used twice and though relevant to both the contexts they are quoted in, it does come across as a bit clumsy. Obviously it would have been better if these problems were sorted out at the editing stage but for this reader they didn't spoil an effective piece of investigative journalism that sheds light on a shadowy industry in cahoots with a shady government.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Disturbing, 26 Jan 2013
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If you already have a distaste for increasing privatisation this book about the increasing use of mercenaries by the USA in its conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan will just make you boil with frustration and anger. I think this sentiment when reading this book will not be just confined to those who have left-leaning politics but also any soldier or ex-soldier who takes pride in their service. The book is very well researched and gives an insight into a issue that is not discussed or written about all that much.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale of mercenary politics, 10 Dec 2008
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
The Iraq war has seen a vast expansion in the use of private security contractors to complement the U.S. military. But who are these contractors? Who pays them? And how did one contractor, Blackwater, become so entrenched? Jeremy Scahill answers these questions and more in this provocative, thoroughly reported book about the world's largest, private mercenary army. Scahill has done a masterful job of researching this secretive organization to disclose its origins, motives, leaders and activities. getAbstract strongly recommends this compelling, disturbing story to anyone interested in the Iraq conflict, and in the larger picture of how private armies reshape warfare.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blackwater - a flawed but important book, 6 Nov 2007
By 
Although this book is written from a blatantly biased - anti-Republican - viewpoint, it is nonetheless an important insight into the appalling legacy that has been left behind in Iraq by the current US administration through the privatisation of the military. The wholesale robbery and betrayal of both the American and Iraqi peoples should not be ignored, because of a misguided but well-intentioned attempt at investigative journalism. If you read one serious book this year; this should be it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Information packed read - don't miss it, 4 July 2014
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Brilliant book which should be compulsory reading for anyone who has the remotest interest in world affairs!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quite staggering in terms of revelation, 12 Jun 2014
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Highly readable, quite disturbing to read at such lengths the power of so called, contractors
Is this the new " democracy"
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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but the real question remains unanswered, 7 Sep 2007
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G. van Geleuken "Gerard van Geleuken" (Luxembourg, Europe) - See all my reviews
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A well-researched book that provides much interesting background, but the author's personal convictions (to which he is of course fully entitled) tend to get in the way of objective reporting.

Most readers will remain unconvinced, for instance, by the stark contrast between the many misdeeds of evil mercenaries and trigger-happy US soldiers on the one hand and "the bold resistance of Fallujah's residents" (page 141) on the other. Note also that everything the US government and military spokesmen say is "propaganda", while Al-Jazeera is exclusively engaged in "reporting".

What exactly is the problem with Blackwater and other firms like it?
Up until a couple of centuries ago, when (so-called "civilized") nations went to war, private contractors took care of supply and transport. In many armies civilian drivers and their teams of horses brought the field guns right up to the firing line; only when they were in position did the artillerymen take over.
This approach obviously had its drawbacks, and by the twentieth century the military, generally speaking, had taken over all the logistic and other services it needed. Large conscript armies had the manpower to do so, and it was not really a waste of resources if a poorly paid conscript with only basic training spent his time in the army sorting underwear in sizes.
Now the pendulum has swung back again and the Pentagon (soon to be followed by the defence departments of other nations) is contracting out all sorts of activities, which sometimes involve carrying guns.
Enter the "mercenaries". However, this term is not particularly helpful if we want to understand the phenomenon; as is clear from Scahill's description, today's private military contractor is a very different animal. Their operations are run from gleaming corporate headquarters, not from some seedy corner café in Charleroi (Belgium) as was the case 30 or 40 years ago.
Also, the PMC firms in the US want to be as closely associated with the government and the armed forces as possible - as Scahill explains - and are in that respect almost comparable to the French Foreign Legion or the Gurkha battalions in the British army. Unlike with the condottieri of old, there clearly is no danger that they will suddenly leave or change sides in the middle of a campaign.
The people who run these firms are also smart enough to realize that their industry needs to be regulated, and that all forms of excess need to be avoided, if they want to win long-term acceptance from governments and the public. Why Scahill takes it as a given that this is mere window dressing to hide unspecified sinister designs is not made clear.
Finally, Scahill also takes it for granted that it should be deeply worrying to the reader that the people behind Blackwater are devout Christians. Now I would agree that people who believe that they have a direct line to God should be prevented somehow from holding public office, but I don't think, in reason, that they can be kept out of the private sector as well.
The real question to be answered is: are PMCs providing value for money? Are they getting the job done?
If you consider, for example, the excruciating slowness, pharaonic costs and dismal results of various UN operations in the recent past, PMCs could certainly offer an alternative worth thinking about, even if there are all sorts of political, ethical and practical problems to be sorted out.
For further reading, I recommend "Making a Killing" by James Ashcroft, an interesting account by a British PMC of his experiences in Iraq.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So close..... but no cigar, 5 Oct 2007
By 
A. Cresswell "Bubblefish777" (london, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book was very frustrating for me as it's filled with subjective and emotive language and contradicts itself over and over again.

I was looking for a well informed objective view of the company, it's history and operations. However although the author seems to have garnered a framework of accurate names and dates he then overly elaborates on this framework making for an easily dismissed work. why ? why put so much effort in getting facts in place then shoot yourself continually in the foot ? A typical example would be the author going on about the huge, massive standing army Blackwater has in Iraq (Hinting at it being this large monolithic presence ready to take over the whole of Iraq and sanctioned to do so by Bush et al.) then 2 pages later cites the numbers as being around 2,500 men and of similar size to a large number of other Private Security Companies. When describing speaches made by various prominent political figures...instead of just citing them he uses adverbs like 'Dick Chenney then thundered "quote.....etc.' why ? why try and place emotive language around what should be an objective and factual account...all it does is makes me realise this guy is anti-blackwater and as soon as you come to accept that you view you view the rest of the book in a poor and fictional light.
So close....but no cigar. Apparently a lot of the research was done by the author's friend. Perhaps the friend should have written the book.
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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A repetitive and angry book, 23 Sep 2008
By 
J. Duducu (Ruislip) - See all my reviews
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I never realised this about myself until recently, but I like books that are even handed accounts, even when the book is coming from a perspective I admire I don't like cheap shots or nasty quips against one side or another. This may work in a debate but as a book it all looks petty.

I will now attempt to stick to my rules in this review.

The main problem of this book is it's doesn't really talk about the history of modern mercenaries instead it's an angry polemic which in the first few pages states the facts that Blackwater is very nasty company guilty of war crimes and murder and the US government lacks either the will or ability (or both) to do much about it. Scahill has done his homework and very quickly adds concrete evidence to this opinion. Case closed after 25 pages. Problem is the book goes on for about 450. Again and again facts are unearthed to further prove the writer's point. I can't argue with the facts, but that makes for a very dull and exhausting read.

This type of book has become a whole subgenre of political history. It's "I'm an American disgusted by my own country's actions". All these books are brave attempts to redress the balance and say to the world "not all of us think like Bush." This is to be admired as a principle but none of them are actually that interesting a book because the scope of the topics chosen is limited and it's hard to be furious for 500 pages.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter

Had this been a book about mercenaries in the modern world talking about their pros and cons (and there have to surely be some pros) in Iraq and many other theatres of operations this would have been a fascinating look at a job whose name is synonymous with morale ambivalence. Comparisons to atrocities from the modern era could have been compared to the actions Flemish mercenaries of the Renaissance or the Norman mercenaries of the Middle Ages. Scahill could still have made his point but the reader would have been able to enjoy the whole tale and seen that mercenaries have always been an essential tool in warfare and quite often associated with war crimes.

Instead this is a newspaper expose, well written thoroughly researched that goes on for about 400 pages too long. Most of the criticism is valid but some of it however is unfair wish fulfilment- war has and always will be a dirty job and it's easy to second guess from an office after the event. That's not to say that Order 17 isn't morally bankrupt and a lot of murderers have got away literally scot free but perhaps the most important thing for you to know as a potential reader is this book is dull and repetitive.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and relevant, 1 Nov 2007
This book became even more relevant following the horrifying blackwater incident that occured in Iraq and resulted in the murder of innocent civilians. What is wrong with Blackwater or firms like it? Quite simply this they are not held to account for their actions. They are a civilian org. and therefore not accountable under military law but because they peform a military function they are not accountable to civilian authorities.

This book exposes one of the ugliest realities in our modern world. It is time to start informing yourselves people. Wake up and smell the Coffee!!!
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Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill (Hardcover - 15 Feb 2007)
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