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Big Boy Rules: America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq

42 customer reviews
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ISBN-10: 0306817438
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For this mordant dispatch from one of the Iraq War's seamiest sides, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post correspondent Fainaru embedded with some of the thousands of private security contractors who chauffeur officials, escort convoys and add their own touch of mayhem to the conflict. Exempt from Iraqi law and oversight by the U.S. government, which doesn't even record their casualties, the mercenaries, Fainaru writes, play by Big Boy Rules—which often means no rules at all as they barrel down highways in the wrong direction, firing on any vehicle in their path. (His report on the Blackwater company, infamous for killing Iraqi civilians and getting away with it, is meticulous and chilling.) Fainaru's depiction of the mercenaries' crassness and callousness is unsparing, but he sympathizes with these often inexperienced, badly equipped hired guns struggling to cope with a dirty war. Nor is he immune to the romance of the soldier of fortune, especially in his somewhat bathetic portrait of Jon Coté, Iraq War veteran and lost soul who joined the fly-by-night Crescent Security Group and was kidnapped by insurgents. Fainaru's vivid reportage makes the mercenary's dubious motives and chaotic methods a microcosm of a misbegotten war. (Nov. 17)
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Review

Thomas E. Ricks, senior military correspondent, The Washington Post, and author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003–05
“Steve Fainaru tells a story that is at the heart of the war in Iraq: the U.S. military’s unprecedented reliance on mercenaries. It is a dark tale that until now has remained largely untold, and is related brilliantly here. To understand this war, you must read this book.”


Washington Times, 2/1/09
“Compelling, brutal, disturbing.”


American Author’s Association
“Fainaru's detailed and emotional story about contract mercenaries fighting in Iraq is not only timely, but also presents a side of that war that needs to be shown…It certainly makes one stop and rethink the direction this country has taken with how this war and future wars will be fought…Entertaining and action filled…Brilliantly crafted.”


Time Magazine, November 2008
“[A] harrowing exposé.”


Penthouse, December 2008
“If you read only one book about the war in Iraq, make it this one.”


Army Times, Marine Corps Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, 11/24/08
Big Boy Rules is another eye opener — and, in the end, a tear-inducer — about the loose ties and loose management of contractors’ employees.”



San Francisco Chronicle, 11/28/08
“If Jeremy Scahill's provocative Blackwater is an eye-opener about the political ties and big finances of one contractor, then Big Boy Rules is another eye-opener—and in the end a tear-inducer—about the loose ties and loose management of contractors’ employees”


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/30/08
Big Boy Rules reads more like a novel than a newspaper as it weaves Coté's life into the larger story of the shoot-'em-up security contractors.”


Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12/5/08
“An important, timely, scathing new book”



Metro Spirit, 12/08
“Chilling, gripping and stunning in its delivery, method and detail…A must-read book for any American the least bit concerned with the actions, reputation, and circumstances of American activity overseas.”
 


Washington Post Book World, 12/14/08
"The most vivid account to date of the misfits, thugs, and outright psychotics who kill with impunity under corporate flags...this book is consistently engaging and powerfully instructive."


Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Big Boy Rules [is] on the must-have list…Fainaru's skill lies in unwrapping the folly of the war on a personal level that is both enlightening and chilling.”
 


Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 1/18/09
“A valuable addition to the small but growing body of books on the privatization of warfare. His book is a gritty, ground-level examination of how the lines of accountability become blurred when a nation farms out an unpopular war to hired hands…Fainaru poses a host of compelling questions.”


Washington Post, 3/15/09
“Compelling realism and documented sources. [Fainaru] is a master of nonfiction storytelling, with an appropriate blend of first-hand action accounts, engaging interviews, and keen observations…This razor-sharp, on-the-edge account will seize your attention and hold it. Your desire to learn more will keep you turning pages. Expertly crafted and organized into a well-documented report of the lives and deaths of mercenaries in Iraq, the book is grisly, graphic, and often gruesome…Expect to feel deep emotion, expect to cry, expect to enjoy the truthful and talented writing.”


Reference and Research Book News, November 2009
“Reveals the dark truths behind the largest private force in the history of American warfare.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306817438
  • ASIN: B0027VSZOI
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,990,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rick Shaq Goldstein on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an honorably discharged Viet Nam era veteran I try to keep an insightful eye on the transformations that seem to inevitably take place in every war... as assuredly as night follows day. From the battle field strategies maneuvering battalions... to the increasing use of sniper teams... to the current... almost unbelievable use of large... larger... and largest... *PRIVATE ARMIES*. Call them mercenaries (merc's) if you desire... but in today's reality it has almost become a militarized-privatized-Fortune-500 Army. There's an old expression that says "art imitates life"... well I am a witness to "life imitating art"! About a year ago I read a military novel that was built around a Bill Gates type character... who instead of owning Microsoft... he owned a gigantic private military company that would fight America's wars. I thought that was a ridiculous premise... until I read this book. One of the many deceitful things that the author pulls out from behind a very thick government curtain, is how a large company gets a contract from the state department for security forces... then that large company... sub-contracts the contract to a smaller company... who sub-contracts to another smaller contractor... Ad Nauseam. Embedded in the heretofore unexplored upsurge in "merc's" in Iraq, is the fact that the Government doesn't include the number of "sub-contracted" private army personnel, when they divulge to the public how large a fighting force they're using. The government also hasn't been including the "merc's" in their casualty counts.

Once the reader feels indoctrinated into the daily brutality of the war in Iraq... and is shocked as to the almost "lawlessness" of the military contractor's... just when you feel you can't be taken aback any further...
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Format: Hardcover
I recently completed this read. I found Mr. Fainaru's depiction of the experiences and lives of the mercenaries to be frank, eye opening, sometimes humorous and in many cases very heartrending.

Steve describes the chronological events in graphic detail and paints a picture of life and death in Iraq. His portrayal of the months leading up to and the last days of Jon Cote's life describe a young man obviously tortured by events from his past and struggling to find peace. His outlet, the Iraq War.

The spotlight on the irrational decisions and careless actions of Jon's employer, that set the stage for the events that stole Jon's life and those of his comrades, as well as, Mr. Fainaru's descriptions of the actions of other unscrupulous private security companies, show how volatile situations are for those serving or simply surviving in Iraq.

I would recommend this book to others seeking to read a well written human interest on the War in Iraq.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Anderson on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Big Boy Rules is an important book because it provides valuable insight into the American government's mismanagement of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

However, I give it only 3 stars because it reads as if it was written hastily, and is much shorter than I felt it should have been. I felt it should have been well over 300 pages, but the actual content was only around 230 pages, over 10 of which were devoted to detailed passages about the author's divorce, his brother's legal problems and his father's fight with lung cancer.

These self-revelatory passages really had no place in a book with this title, and I suspect they were not removed by the editor only because they padded a book that was far shorter than it should have been (for its price and for its subject matter).

Fainaru's coverage of the mercenary issue may have benefitted from interviews with Iraqis. However, Fainaru claims, "I was never able to get near the Iraqis long enough to hold a meaningful conversation." (p. 87)

But Fainaru made 11 trips to Iraq, and spent at least 3 years there. It is difficult to understand how he could spend so long in Iraq, and still claim that he didn't have time to hold a meaningful conversation with an Iraqi.

The book isn't carefully edited. On page 93, the book states that Iraqi drivers were abducted with the Crescent mercs. But on page 99, the book states that the drivers were Pakistanis.

The most disappointing element of the story was when Fainaru claims that a disgruntled Crescent Security employee passed him a compact disc containing "dozens of documents" describing the US Government's investigation of the company "in voluminous detail". Yet Fainaru discusses the contents of the disc in just half a page.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tracy R. Mahoney on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am an American. I had no idea all this was going on. This is a great behind the scenes look at the lives of military contractors on the ground in Iraq. The main story is about the security contractors, but we also get a glimpse of those who hire them, the other contractors who deliver supplies and build bridges and are simply there to rebuild Iraq. Its amazing that we get anything done over there. The shocking part was how so few people will sign up for this kind of work that these companies must pay HUGE salaries and take anyone they can get, qualified or not, sane or not. The whole thing sounds like a big cluster f---. I could not put this book down. Read it in about 8 hours.
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