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669 of 801 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unflinching serious work of journalism
I read this book in one night after hearing Mr. Scahill speak in Washington DC. The book is a remarkable and bracing wake up call about the privatization of war and how that subverts even basic notions of democracy. I find it remarkable that people criticize Mr. Scahill for using terms like "radical Christian right" - as if these terms are caricatures and ad hominem...
Published on March 18, 2007 by Julia K.

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135 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important, if flawed, contribution to the debate
Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater" is a passionate, if one-sided, condemnation of Blackwater USA, the military contractor firm located in rural North Carolina. "Blackwater" is the latest in a long line of books condemning the Bush administration's (mis)management of Iraq War. Scahill's book begins with a recounting of the infamous lynching of four Blackwater contractors in...
Published on September 4, 2007 by Andrew E. Cox


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669 of 801 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unflinching serious work of journalism, March 18, 2007
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
I read this book in one night after hearing Mr. Scahill speak in Washington DC. The book is a remarkable and bracing wake up call about the privatization of war and how that subverts even basic notions of democracy. I find it remarkable that people criticize Mr. Scahill for using terms like "radical Christian right" - as if these terms are caricatures and ad hominem attacks. Hardly. In fact Schaill then spends hundreds of pages breaking down exactly what is so "radical Christian right" about Blackwater. He is a serious journalist who has uncovered a story that is both illuminating and frightening. It's hard to have any respect for people who say "I didn't even get to the first page" and then feel like they can write a review on its content.

Last point: As good a writer as Scahill is, he's a better public speaker. People should go hear what he has to say. These aren't easy truths to consume, but they are truths that define and explain the current calamaties unleashed on the world
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570 of 689 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A meticulously documented expose, March 1, 2007
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This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
Don't believe the reviews on this page smearing this book. Jeremy Scahill has written a meticulously documented book about an all-too-real threat to democracy. And not just in war zones, where Blackwater operates in concert with U.S. forces, but without the accountability, however flawed, of the official military. They appeared, as Scahill documents, on the streets of New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast as a security force. This was in a situation where what was desperately needed was more humanitarian operations--food, rescue, emergency housing. But the Bush administration decided to devote funds to their colleagues from the war zone. Scahill exposes all of this, based on his own eyewitness reporting and on a meticulous analysis of Blackwater's history and operations.

By the way, I'm a reporter and editor who has found Scahill's articles extremely valuable, and in any of my following and checking of his stories, I've never found a single point that didn't hold up. The reviewers here may not like the facts he presents, but they are facts.
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391 of 476 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So many one-star reviews for a very good book....., March 25, 2007
By 
Loribee (Western New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
I almost didn't buy this book because of the poor reviews (many written almost before the book came out, I must add), but decided to purchase it anyway, and I'm glad I did. It is well-written, thoroughly researched, and it is an expose of a company that every American should be aware of. I highly recommend it.

Blackwater scares me. One of the blurbs on the back of the jacket says they are just like Saddam's Republican Guard, and while I disagree with that, if they continue on the road they're on, it could happen.

They are fighting our wars, lobbying for fighting other wars, and for "peacekeeping" (something they're not very good at) missions in places we have not yet interceded. They were first-responders in Katrina, bringing guns and ammo, not supplies, for desperate people.

The scariest part is that they can kill with impunity, and I'm quite sure they do. It is also difficult to tell where the government ends and Blackwater begins, as people travel back and forth from high-level government positions to high-level Blackwater positions.

There is no accurate record of how much money Blackwater is actually making in our military conflicts, but through the maze of contractors, sub-contractors, sub-sub, etc., it is very difficult to imagine they are saving the government money as they claim.

The lack of oversight is the most frightening. No one seems to know what they are REALLY doing in Iraq or Afghanistan. If we are going to be outsourcing our wars, there needs to be oversight and accountability.
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135 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important, if flawed, contribution to the debate, September 4, 2007
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater" is a passionate, if one-sided, condemnation of Blackwater USA, the military contractor firm located in rural North Carolina. "Blackwater" is the latest in a long line of books condemning the Bush administration's (mis)management of Iraq War. Scahill's book begins with a recounting of the infamous lynching of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in 2004 and works through the company's various exploits since the invasion Iraq. The book's purpose is use the birth and evolution of Blackwater to call attention to the broader trend towards privatization of traditionally military functions. Scahill is effective in impressing upon the reader the value of Washington connections in winning Federal contracts and he focuses heavily on the lack of accountability applied to private military contractors---mercenaries--during the last several years of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Blackwater is less an analysis of policy than a revealing piece of journalism serving as an ideological appeal for readers to oppose privatization of military functions. Just as Scahill rightly points out the weight that ideological rather than practical considerations have carried in the Iraq war's prosecution, it is important to understand the Scahill's ideological background as well. Scahill cut his teeth with leftist journalist Amy Goodman whom the LA Times referred to as "radio's voice of the disenfranchised left" ([...] In addition, Scahill mentions various independent journalism outfits in the acknowledgement section of the book. One example, the Z-magazine website which hosts a "subsite devoted to the anti-corporate globalization movement" is representative of the progressive political perspective that Scahill has adopted. According to Wikipedia, "Progressive" is "an alternate term currently in wide use favored by some adherents to modern liberalism in the United States." Given Scahill's background we should be unsurprised at his antipathy towards corporations and especially towards the intersection of big-business and military endeavors.

But the author's leftist background should not deter the conservative reader. Scahill does a great job of illuminating the last two decade's trend of military privatization. Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, military privatization is a policy of significant concern that deserves serious debate---and this is where Scahill both succeeds and fails. He succeeds by thrusting the issue into the national consciousness and posing important policy questions. He fails by both not exploring his own questions with serious analysis and by leaving out other important questions. Are mercenary firms such as Blackwater effective? Scahill describes several instances in which the Blackwater contractors were able to win firefights with surprising few personnel. To what extent do governments choose mercenaries in order to avoid the political pain of reporting American casualties to a casualty-intolerant society? Scahill notes that contractors do not count as military casualties allowing governments to engage in dangerous military operations without having to pay a political price later. What has motivated the DOD privatization drive over the past two decades---decades that included both liberal and conservative presidents? The leftist reader would answer "corporate greed" and the conservative reader would answer "an ossified DOD bureaucracy" that is too slow and stupid to innovate or act. These are important questions that Scahill could have addressed to provide insight into a trend that is not likely to ebb in the coming decades.

Ultimately, "Blackwater" is a solid piece of modern muckraking journalism. Flawed by it's one-sided and limited treatment of important policy questions, "Blackwater" remains an engaging piece of writing in its own right. It is a unique contribution to the debate on modern military issues because its audience is not the policy elite of Washington DC but rather the citizen voter. For this Scahill should be commended.
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102 of 126 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War is Buiiness & Buisness is Very Good!, March 16, 2007
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This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
This is a disturbing but accurate account on how big goverment & big industry work. Personally knowing one of the contributing authors to this book (Garrett Ordower) I would guarantee the book's meticulously and well researched dollar amounts, fact checking & research. Blackwater takes some serious hits ,(most of them well deserved) but I do believe that they play a critical and much underappreciated role around the world. As with any large organazation be it military, police or goverment there are always abuses and misconduct. Blackwatwer seized an opportunity and ran with it. They arent the only people getting rich in this war or the only organazation doing what they do for the U.S. Goverment. Many of the men working for Blackwater are former special forces operatives. If they were still working at their old jobs in the military we would be giving them Silver Stars and Navy Cross's for their activities. Because they are being paid by a corporation and not the U.S. Goverment we hang this mercenary label on them. I think that is patently unfair to them. Scahill may be a left wing radical, commie loving pinko writer. I dont know what his politics are, but he has done us all a great service by exposing what is really going on. The involvement of big goverment and big buisness is always scary. Eisonhower warned us about it fifty years ago and it is still true today. The people making these decisions very seldom have a child being exposed to the horrors and dangers of war. Perhaps if we they did there would be no need for Blackwater and other companies of this type. Scahill has done us a big favor by writing this book and every American needs to read it especially the U.S. Attorneys who prosecute fraud and corruption in goverment.
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136 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Disturbing Account of Corruption and the Potential Loss of our Freedoms, March 8, 2007
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This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
I'd like to start by saying that I was a Republican once, when that meant smaller government, staying out of your neighbor's business and taking care of yourself. The level of outright corruption by the Bush Administration has been exposed before, but this is an excellent exposition on the very successful attempts by Christian Fundamentalists to privatize war. While our Constitution says that it's the job of government to "provide for the common defense," the neoconservatives and the military-industrial complex have clearly conspired to bleed our treasury at the expense of our liberty. The author has carefully documented his case and many of the accounts of the individual Blackwater mercenaries themselves are sympathetic.

If you are a student of history, you will be intrigued by the similarities between our efforts to utilize mercenaries and that of the Roman Empire in its decline. What struck me most was the fact that I had missed the complicity of the media in reporting about the deaths of "civilian contractors," whenever mercenaries died in the war zones. The chapter about Blackwater's involvment in New Orleans after Katrina should make all of us fear for our personal liberty.
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55 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Military Privitization is here to Stay, August 13, 2007
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
As most reviewers have suggested, Scahill's Blackwater is indeed written from a Leftist slant. However, Scahill clearly illustrates his leanings early on when admitting to be a regular contributor to the Nation. Additionally, Scahill's book is extremely well cited which allows an interested reader to retrace the author's steps and make some their own decisions on the work (certainly some "facts" are shaped by political bias).

Scahill begins with a discussion of Blackwater owner Erik Prince and his long term close ties with the religious right and the neoconservative movement. Interesting facts, but Scahill's attempts to shape the relationship in order imply that Prince and Blackwater are the strong arm of a Right Wing Christian cabal seems a little forced.

Nevertheless, the book does raise interesting questions not only about Blackwater, but about the move towards military privatization which has been taken place since the early 1990s. He discusses relatively accurately the move under Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfield, and other neocon hawks to create a more stripped down, efficient military through privatization. Still, Scahill attempts to color the move as a combination of corporate greed and xenophobic paranoia. Again, it would be better if Scahill would simply state facts and let the reader decide.

Scahill, I believe, does an accurate job in discussing the operational structure of Blackwater, its ability to lobby political leaders, secure contracts, and expand into the rising global market for private military companies is commendable. Scahill accurately illustrates the current and continuing problems facing the US government in Iraq regarding private contractors, i.e. lack of accountability, transparency, and outward graft and corruption.

Still, it must be recognized that the Pandora's Box of privatization has been opened, and I believe will be impossible to shut. There has been too much money released into military privatization, and too many leaders at the top have already signed on. Over time, I would argue that more regulations will be implemented to ensure at least more public accountability for US dollars. Most likely, if a Democratic administration takes the reigns in 2008. However, the Erik Prince's and the Blackwater's are going nowhere. At least Scahill has brought their existence to the public's attention.

If one truly wants to get a rounded perspective on the rise of private military companies, additional reading is necessary. I suggest Corporate Warriors by Dr. P.W. Singer (of Brookings) which is perhaps the well-researched and encompassing book on the subject, and Licensed to Kill by Robert Young Pelton. Although certainly not as academically rigorous as Singer's work, Pelton provides and alternative slant to Scahill.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Army For Hire, September 9, 2007
By 
Izaak VanGaalen (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
Blackwater was created in 1997 as a response to what its founder, Erik Prince, considered the lax security situation in the United States. It started out small but grew exponentially after three significant events. First there was the Columbine massacre in 1999. Blackwater got a contract to train local law enforcement officials to respond to such incidents. The second was the bombing of the USS Cole. Here they got a $35 million contract to provide training for the US military. The biggest jackpot, however, was 9/11, after which they were given contracts not only with the FBI and the Treasury Department, but also with various duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why, one might ask, would the military and law enforcement go to the private sector for this kind of training. Scahill's answer is that it was part of the Rumsfeld/Cheney drive to privatize large sections of the government, military included, since private industry is reputedly more cost efficient and more effective. The more troubling and unstated reason, however, is that the private sector does not have much oversight and can operate largely unencumbered.

Blackwater, the largest of the security firms, otherwise known as armed contractors or mercenaries, has over $500 million in contracts with the US government, and that's not counting "black budget" work or that of Blackwater's more secretive subsidiary Greystone.

Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill has done a good job of researching his book. He was in Baghdad in 2004 when the news broke that four American contractors (Blackwater soldiers) were brutally murdered in Fallujah. This event brought Blackwater some unwanted notoriety. CPA chief Paul Bremer, whose personal body guards were also Blackwater, was noticeably outraged, and, with the blessing of the Bush administration, ordered a massive military assault on the city.

Erik Prince, former Navy Seal and heir to a large fortune, is also known for being a Christian warrior. Prince is a Catholic like Bremer, and Scahill thinks the connection is important. In fact most of the Blackwater excecutives are deeply conservative and members of right-wing Christian organizations. Many are also former military and have the right connections with the military that land big contracts. Money and the satisfaction of crusading in the Middle East give them an added sense of righteousness. Combine that with connections with neocons in the Bush administration, Blackwater now fields the world's largest private army and the largest inventory of private weapons.

The most chilling part of Scahill's account is that these armed contractors operate with very little accountability. The rules of engagement for armed contractors are either unclear or nonexistent. Paul Bremer made sure that they were immune from prosecution for their actions in Iraq.

Scahill mentions that legislation has been introduced by Senator Barack Obama and others that would give the US military authority to arrest and detain private contractors for any suspected abuses. This too might not be enough since the military has enough on its plate policing their own troops.

There are many types of government activities that can and should be outsourced to the private sector, but military campaigns in foreign countries is not one of them. Scahill does a thorough - if at times repetitive - job of showing that private soldiers with little or no legal oversight is a dangerous and wrongheaded proposition. These secretive soldiers could easily start committing some of the abuses they have committed abroad at home.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These Are Truly Dangerous Trends, August 30, 2007
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
Scahill documents the rise of private mercenary armies, paid for by US taxpayers under "Black Ops" budgets which are hidden from public scrutiny. We know from previous experience how efficient THOSE contracts tend to be...

Add to that the fact that these paramilitary contractors tend to be big Republican donors, and ex-Administration officials get hired pretty regularly to run their operations, and you have a darned scary "military-industrial complex" scenario. The US military operates under strict Rules of Engagement, and Congressional oversight keeps them (theoretically anyway, if Congress is doing its job) from being used for wars of adventurism. Geneva Conventions are supposed to prevent abuses of human rights, and soldiers are ultimately accountable to the public for their battlefield conduct.

These new Soldiers of Fortune have none of those controls. Their only allegiance is to the firms that hire them, and their profits. They have even been indemnified from legal repercussions for their actions!

Now add the fact that these private armies are mostly assembled by right-wing Christians, ideologues who see the so-called "War on Terrorism" as the final showdown between Christianity and Islam -- a fight to the death to see whose god is bigger.

It's The Crusades all over again.

Overseas is bad enough. After Hurricane Katrina these private soldiers (some not even US citizens) were deployed to guard high-value targets in Louisiana, costing taxpayers many times more than was spent on search & recovery, repair and rebuilding of New Orleans. Most of the work was paid through sealed, no-bid contracts whose terms have never been disclosed. Do U.S. citizens really want private black-shirted armies with "shoot-to-kill" orders patrolling our streets? Isn't that the first step to fascism?

Several times Scahill refers to these private militaries as "new Praetorian Guards" which, looking at the history of the Praetorians, should give pause to the politicians who have authorized them.

Scahill does not write dispassionately -- he never misses an opportunity to describe his villains as "skulking" or "sneaking" or "purportedly." His bias is clear from the first page. But that does not take away from the facts he recounts, all verifiable online (and extensively sourced with 56 pages of references). In fact his writing is clear, fast-moving and far-ranging, with only occasional repeating of quotes. An incredible amount of research has gone into this book, everything from tracing Administration ties to private militias to describing the machinegun handles on Blackwater's corporate headquarters doors.

In the final analysis the reader is left to ponder the new realities of the post-9/11 world. Is it naive to think that The War on Terror isn't primarily a military campaign?

Update October 2: It sounds like Congress is finally awakening to the dangers private mercenary armies pose. Author Scahill has done a great service to his country by raising the alarm.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A real review- not political dogma from EITHER side, July 18, 2007
By 
P. Ryan "peryteran2" (Braintree, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Hardcover)
I read this book because I am worried about the United States selling services that should not be subject to the marketplace. Privatization is a buzzword used by many to find a solution to escalating costs for services.

With that said, I'm skeptical. In some cases, it might work, but I haven't seen it yet. In some instances, we are paying more and when we try and recoup costs, large companies can hold us hostage in court for years. It seem that the financial well-being of a company is not dependent upon the health of a country.

Defense is one of these examples. I always go back to Dwight Eisenhower's speech about the military-industrial complex to justify my arguements in this arena.

After reading this, I am worried that we are selling ourselves short for the long-term. I am certain that the founders of this company believe they are patriotic and want to preserve the US, but a layer of accountability is missing.

This book would have been better and more cohesive if the writer did not veer off in so many directions. He is obviously coming from a certain viewpoint and you need to take that into account when reading his views.

His research is decent and the questions the book raises are important ones, but sometimes his rhetoric gets in the way of telling the story of how this affects the nation. He is clearly afraid of the private military contractors, but offers no solution to stem the outsourcing.

Could have been better written.
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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 - March 8, 2007)
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