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A Bloody Business: America's War Zone Contractors and the Occupation of Iraq Hardcover – 2 May 2006

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The mysteries of mercenary soldiers have a perennial allure. As the U.S. Army shrinks, a private army steps into the breach. "A Bloody Business" offers an unprecedented look behind the scenes and into the ranks of this mercenary force (numbering as many as 15,000 today) who guard supply convoys, train foreign soldiers, provide security for foreign leaders and dignitaries - and whose workplaces are the most dangerous hot spots on the planet. With its insights into who these men are, what drives them, where they come from, how they prepare, and what they do, this book provides a uniquely close-up and complete picture of the private army behind America's military muscle.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x97b3d6fc) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97ae31c8) out of 5 stars A good book on another sector other than the Security Contractor 27 July 2006
By MountainRunner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An element of private military companies is the rediscovered opportunity to join "the fight" without joining a public military organization. Reasons for taking the private route include being too old, too unfit, short-term goals (i.e. quick money, <1yr commitment, the experience, etc), flexibility of choice, or any number of other reasons. The fact is private military companies providing security, logistics, and other services in and around the modern battlespace is re-democratizing war.

Looking at the private military industry operating in Iraq, Colonel Schumacher reviews many of its varied components beyond the almost cliche private security details (the shooters). From construction to trucking to training and even the security contractors, the author profiles elements of the private military industry as under-appreciated, undervalued, and, in many of his examples, highly patriotic.

This is a book heavy on cheerleading for the private contractors as individuals without spending too much time on the question of the appropriateness of the industry. These men and women do not get the same insurance, logistic support, fire support, medical support, or equipment the public armed forces receive. In return, they get the opportunity to serve at their leisure, higher pay, and little recognition. This book attempts to correct the latter as "[n]either a glorification nor a cheap shot-riddled exposé", as the back of the dust cover describes it.

Indeed, most of the reviews on Amazon and other sites echo this sentiment: "...the incredible amount of dangers they face, often times it is more than money which motivates them. For the majority of the contractors, it is their chance to serve their country" and "[t]hey are no less patriotic, no less courageous, than people in the military."

Colonel Schumacher glosses over the issues behind the tremendous increase in using private military companies in the last decade. He largely attributes the availability of skilled security resources as a result of "Up-or-Out" policies, but this is a narrow reading of the realities. There is more there than that, especially military downsizing etc but like most of the political arguments, Schumacher oversimplifies to spend less time on the intellectual analysis (and long-term realities) and more on the daily realities of the contractor.

Interesting is his observation of the multicultural and multiethnic make up of PMCs, which reminded me of the democratic and ethnically blind pirates of the 17th Century as described in Benerson Little's excellent book, The Sea Rover's Practice. The comparison is not meant to suggest a similarity between pirates and private military companies beyond the organizational and motivational parallels between these non-state forces that operate with paradigms different from the societies they come from. One example is a more democratized operation that includes dropping the discrimination found in their contemporary societies -- if they are operating on the same team or ship that is.

When Schumacher does explore the raison d'etre of PMCs use, he has both hits and misses. One "hit" is when he writes: "[b]ecause contract operations do not get the visibility that military operations do, the true cost, in terms of lives and impact on US foreign policy is disguised. As a concerned public, we need to be far more aware and informed about where, when, and how the United States employs these firm."

However at the same time he misses the point by just including barely a page in his 262 page book on the political realities, but yet frequently returns to the point of the under-appreciated and under-supported contractor and their value. The latter is clearly the point he wants to make and does not want to delve into the politics behind their use like most other books on the subject. This is somewhat refreshing to a reader new to the subject but the human story should not outweigh the concern we the public should have over their deployment. The focus of the book is clearly to tell the story of the "unsung hero". Schumacher makes no attempt to connect private military contractors with the evolution of war, which isn't his purpose anyways.

That all said, the book really is a good read and good on first person (almost whole chapters are told by the participant with only setup by Schumacher) accounts. The focus on non-shooters is almost refreshing. At times reading like a novel, it is a quick read.

I was once asked for a reading list that included first-person accounts of private military companies in action. Just a few months ago, I was pressed to provide anything, but I'd include this on a reading list for another -- non-academic -- perspective.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97ae321c) out of 5 stars A Real Read 19 Feb. 2007
By T. G. Reitz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Schumacher's book is an easy yet engrossing read. He devotes time to various types of contractors (e.g. truckers). Good to get the perspective of non-shooters, but I wish he would have gone further into engineers, etc. at risk in-country. Minor points aside, he makes the case for WHY we need contractors, and he strips the shine off the "$1,000 per day" myth. His depictions are grimy, and real. If you're reading about Iraq, and questioning the seemingly impossible task of reconstruction, you must read this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97ae3654) out of 5 stars A Bloody Buisness 30 Mar. 2007
By Mark Wieber - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Gerry Schumacher brings the gritty world of security contractors into focus in this very informative book. War stories from actual contractors, re-told from the vantage point of a battle seasoned veteran. Plus, the experiences of a retired soldier who was in Iraq, met the people, and ran some of the missions. If you are looking for a political agenda, this is not your book:) If you are looking for a window into life in Iraq, this is an excellent collection of stories that changed my view about contractors and about what life in Iraq is like outside the spin zone.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97ae3a20) out of 5 stars Bloody Business Bloody Impressive!!! 22 May 2006
By Travis B. Johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I honestly could not put this book down, i'm in the middle of about four different books but saw this one and could not say no and was finished with it in two days. As a man who has been there and seen those things, i always envied and admired the private contractors over there and might possibly seek employment in that sort of job. The book is excellent, exploring everything from some of the controversies and concerns of PMC's, what it takes to get with a PMC, what you can expect being a PMC, and thats only the first third of the book, the personal stories about the truck drivers, trainers, and security contractors is the heart and soul of the book and gives you a interesting and deep look into these men and women who still serve their country in another capacity and perform tasks that put less a burden on our already strained military, while making a nice profit for themselves, all in all a excellent book!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97ae3b04) out of 5 stars A Balanced, Objective Account 1 Jan. 2008
By Richard M. Kuntz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While Jeremy Schall's book on Blackwater is very well reported and informative, it is infused with anti-contractor bias, whereas Schumacher's account allows for the necessity of contractors to the military to fill voids left by U.S. (and other Western countries') policy. Pelton's book, while it contains some anti-contractor bias, is exciting and the best of the lot in my view.
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