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Making a Killing: Guns for Hire
on 14 September 2009
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.