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on 7 September 2017
The most boring book that I have ever read, it amazes me that I read the whole thing. Repetitious and dull, also very biased. As another reviewer has already said; "Everything in this book could be condensed into 25 pages".
Having been in Iraq myself, the book is best summed up on the second page in by Martin Strong, Vice President of Blackwater Worldwide; "Jeremy Scahill actually doesn't know anything about Blackwater".
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on 6 September 2017
Really boring book. The author presents a biased view on anything related to Blackwater and makes it sound like a controversy. His appeal worked as I ultimately bought the book, but if ever there was a waste of my time and money on books...this is near top of the list after "The Siege: The attack on the Taj" by Adrian Levy
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on 28 September 2015
An amazing insight into corporate greed set way over the value of a human life...every tragedy seemed to be an opportunity to create more contracts, more money without any real way to slow down the juggernaut. A cracking read but it will leave you feeling deflated that the company actually seems to get away with it.
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on 21 March 2017
Goes on a bit at times repeating its self. I have learnt that the UK is not the only country hell bent on privatising everything.
Good read and educating it's shows how the US and UK completely messed up Iraq.
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on 18 May 2015
biased reporting i dont mind but this got on my nerves a bit.
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on 14 April 2015
Very interesting
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on 23 April 2016
Disappointingly poor research and badly written, not what I was expecting
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on 31 August 2017
With Erik Prince's recent op-ed in the NYT arguing in favor of largely turning the US presence in Afghanistan over to private military contractors, now seems like a good time to review Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater," a detailed expose of Blackwater's (now merged with Triple Canopy and known as Academi) actions during the first decade of its existence, from 1997 to 2007.

Scahill makes no pretense at "objectivity," in that he is openly on a mission to reveal what he sees as Blackwater's misdeeds and makes no attempt to "see their side of the story," so to speak, although he does present copious amounts of information about Blackwater and the Prince family, and has numerous interviews with people connected to Blackwater in one capacity or another. If you are pro-Blackwater or pro-private contractors, you are likely to find Scahill's firmly staked position irritating. If, however, you are on the fence or just don't know very much about Blackwater and the world of private contracting, which is the modern version of what used to be known with euphemistic romanticism as soldiers of fortune, this is an eye-opening read about the profound changes the US military and the way it conducts operations have undergone in the past 20 years.

During the Gulf War of 1991, Scahill tells us, the ratio of private contractors to regular troops was 1 in 60. During the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate rose to something like 1 in 3. Following the downsizing of the military in the 1990s under Clinton, and the aggressive privatization of everything, especially military actions, promoted by Cheney and Rumsfield during the W administration, the US found itself outsourcing a considerable portion of its military activities to private for-profit firms like Blackwater, CACI, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy, who provided services ranging from security for high-ranking US officials to rendition and interrogation of high-value prisoners, frequently at "black" sites in countries with abysmal human rights records.

Scahill discusses the problems surrounding the involvement of these mercenaries in national or international conflicts, which often center around the fact that they are largely exempt from both military and civilian law. Using mercenaries, including large numbers of non-citizens, rather than regular soldiers who are citizens of the country they represent, also frees a government from heeding the public will: citizens are much less bothered by the deaths of foreign mercenaries than they are by the deaths of "their" soldiers, especially draftees.

Which gets us to what may be the biggest concern that Scahill has about these companies, a concern that I and many others share. In his op-ed, Prince argues, as he has argued elsewhere, that private contractors are more efficient and more cost-effective, and can get the job done much more quickly for a fraction of the price. But that ignores a critical point about war, which is that it is not just a job. War is not--or should not be--business: it is the response of last resort to desperate circumstances, and should be carried out only by will of the people, and by the very people whose will has sanctioned this grave step. Profit(eer)ing off of war can only lead to more war, conducted by people whose main stake in the game is to prolong the conflict and killing as long as possible. There are no doubt many reasons why the current war in Afghanistan is the longest-running war the US has ever conducted, but the fact that this is a profitable business venture must be a significant contributing factor. Prince and a number of his cronies are supposedly devout Christians who believe they are doing God's will. May God and posterity judge their actions justly.
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on 25 June 2015
Having at the time been a firm believer in both the Iraq war and president Bush – indeed I gladly played my own small part in it, as time progressed I began to have serious concerns and ask myself questions about it.

I have read several books on the war – from the British as well as the American perspective, and learned all about the deceit, manipulation and perversion of alleged intelligence used to justify it, the fiasco of institutional incompetence from top to bottom , the complete absence of planning for what happens next, the insufficient resources to consolidate victory, and the disastrous decision making by Paul Bremer in particular in the abolishment of the very fabric of Iraqi society – thus at a stroke creating hundreds of thousands of now unemployed heavily armed Iraqis with a grudge. I also read about the presence of ‘civilian contractors’ – which in the mind’s eye conjures up images of builders and engineers. I also heard of Blackwater.

On opening the book, I read credits from the likes of Michael Moore and thought that this book may be a litany of anti-war and anti-Bush rants – however, what is in this book is nothing short of explosive. Had it been untrue, then those named in it have access to the best lawyers and politicians that money can buy……

This book catalogues what cannot be anything else but the corruption and personal gain by politicians and opportunistic ‘businessmen’. Huge swathes of the American military were ‘privatised’, after which the politician involved became employed by the companies who won the often un-tendered contract. The book also demonstrated the extremely close link between many of those at the very top of this with what can only be described as 'NeoConservative Christian fundamentalism’. This is an important aspect, which links various players to this, from the campaigners, businessmen and fundraisers to the Republican party & George Bush himself.

This book details the opaque web of contracts and sub contracts by which ‘private military companies’ operated in Iraq and Afghanistan, where nobody appeared to be held accountable when things went wrong. Where the likes of Blackwater when it suited, maintained that they were a private company, then when it suited, that they were essentially part of the US military ‘Total Force’. (There were actually three times the number of ‘contractors’ employed by a well-known UK PMC in Iraq than there were British servicemen).

The book details how the entire ‘security’ apparatus swallowed up a massive proportion of the money directed for ‘reconstruction’, and how, just before he left Iraq, Bremer granted these PMC’s immunity from prosecution. It has been described as being ‘like the wild west – only without the sheriff’.

It is not only in the Middle East that Blackwater made a killing (literally). In the wake of hurricane Katrina, within hours, muscle bound men in khaki combat fatigues and wraparound sunglasses were swaggering or driving SUV's with blacked out windows around New Orleans and firing their assault rifles at what they termed “black gang bangers” (and commandeering what was once peoples houses) – with nobody quite clear as to under whose authority they were operating - certainly not the local Police.

The book is without doubt written and referenced by what may be termed ‘left wingers’ by some (there are several references for example to the South African ‘apartheid regime’), however, there is no way that this book could have been published if the author was unable to verify the claims stated.

In summary, this book opens the lid on the brave new world of private armies – armies who have tens of thousands of mercenaries on their books, who have their own commando, jungle warfare and parachute capabilities, who have their own fleet of aircraft and helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, and who are available to the highest bidder. A possibly frightening world is ahead of us.
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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.
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