No company in our time has been as mysterious or as controversial as Blackwater. Founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997, it recruited special forces veterans and others with the skills and courage to take on the riskiest security jobs in the world. As its reputation grew, government demand for its services escalated, and Blackwater's men eventually completed nearly one hundred thousand missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both the Bush and Obama administrations found the company indispensible. It sounds like a classic startup success story, except for one problem: Blackwater has been demonized around the world. From uninformed news coverage to grossly distorted fictional portrayals, Blackwater employees have been smeared as mercenaries, profiteers, jackbooted thugs, and worse. Because of the secrecy requirements of Blackwater's contracts with the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA, Prince was unable to speak out when his company's opponents spread false information. But now he's able to tell the full and often shocking story of Blackwater's rise and fall. In Civilian Warriors, Prince pulls no punches and spares no details. He explains his original goal of building an elite center for military and law enforcement training. He recounts how the company shifted gears after 9/11. He honors our troops while challenging the Pentagon's top leadership. And he reveals why highly efficient private military contractors have been essential to running our armed forces, since long before Blackwater came along. Above all, Prince debunks myths about Blackwater that spread while he was forced to remain silent-myths that tarnished the memory of men who gave their lives for their country but never got the recognition they deserved. He reveals new information about some of the biggest controversies of the War on Terror, including: • The true story of the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. • The actual details of Blackwater's so-called impunity in Iraq. • The events leading up to the televised deaths of Blackwater contractors in Fallujah. Prince doesn't pretend to be perfect, and he doesn't hide the sometimes painful details of his private life. But he has done a great public service by setting the record straight. His book reads like a thriller but is too improbable to be fiction.
“Prince’s book belongs on the shelf next to the memoirs of the other Iraq and Afghanistan war chieftains…. we need Prince’s story to help us understand the history of the post- 9/11 wars and the myriad roles contractors played in these conflicts.”
—The Washington Post
About the Author
Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, is the founder and former CEO of Blackwater. Since selling the company in 2010, he has pursued a variety of new business ventures.
Just typed up a couple pages, computer crashed, can't retrieve it, so here now goes a quick summary from the top of my head:
Erik Prince, real Man of Mystery speaks. Portrayed by some as archvillain, thought by others to be some kind of modern day Knight Templar, this real life Navy Seal and entrepreneur tells all about the founding of Blackwater and their role in Iraq.
The book starts off as a mini-biography of his dad, a man who started off as a salesman making forty cents an hour to founder of a billion-dollar company. Prince makes it clear that his father instilled in him the foundation that led to his later success.
It was as a Navy Seal in the Balkans that Prince first realized the need for private training facilities for special operations and highly focused training. Previously, Seals and their elite counterparts often had trouble getting sufficient training time on military training facilities that were over capacity from general use training by others.
Columbine becomes a turning point for the Blackwater team as law enforcement brutally realizes the need for more specialized training. Several years later Iraq explodes and the need for highly trained security teams draws Blackwater into its largest conflict and most controversial affair. While under government contract, Blackwater was forbidden to speak out publicly in its defense, especially against one high profile lawsuit that eventually tarnished its reputation almost beyond repair. Now free to speak, Prince effectively reveals The Other Side of the Story, and it's clear that Blackwater was often a scapegoat for others' ineptitude and politically driven agendas.
Many interesting stories are revealed, such as a huge ambush of the Polish Ambassor. Unlike Banghazi, this has a happy ending as Blackwater and Polish security valiantly band together and keep him alive. In a later ceremony honoring the fallen, the Polish ambassador gratefully credits Blackwater for his survival. Lesser known stories of BW's involvement providing security in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans are told. A sweet love story between him and his beloved wife Joan is interwoven in between them all.
The book is all meat and no filler whatsoever. Fact-dense with so many footnote links that it becomes hard to turn the page without accidentally touching one.
Perhaps the best summary comes from the book itself:
"There is much the government doesn't want told about the work we did: the truth about our State Department-sanctioned operational tactics in Iraq, including our rules of engagement; or Blackwater's involvement with President Obama's ever expanding terrorist-hunting tactics in Pakistan and beyond..."Read more ›
As the wife of someone who has worked for Blackwater for 9 years, I can attest that this book is 100% genuine. Finally a realistic and factual light has been shed on this company and it’s heroes. The men KIA and the men and women who risk their lives everyday for our country are getting the respect they deserve. It’s an informative read and I highly recommend it for anyone familiar with Blackwater and for anyone who would like to know the truth.
well, like most people I had a negative opinion of Blackwater. First of all the name was ill chosen and reeks of evil. Second, of course, all I ever saw were the pics online and on TV of these massive guys cradling sub machine guns. Who were these mercenaries, I wondered? Well, of course, like most people I was grossly under- and ill informed. Prince has his flaws, of course, let's not be naive. My wife passed away from cancer too but i never was unfaithful. Could I understand why he was? Maybe? Maybe not. But at least he owns it. This was a book about blackwater, not about him, and he could have tried to cover up his foibles. He briefly mentions his family life throughout the book perhaps to show some of his humanity. I found him likeable and candid, and eminently believable.
He supports almost everything he says with documentation, and refutes most critics with equally valid documentation - e.g. when the government tries to accuse him of overcharging them. He contends they actually under bid most of the competition (which still is there, by the way - Triple Canopy, for example. Why isn't Hillary and Henry after them.?) and can prove it.
As far as Blackwater he does an excellent job explaining how this type of contractor is a time honored factor in warfare. Oddly most of their work was security, as opposed to combat. Our own nation was founded with the help of flat out mercenaries - LaFayette, von Steuben, etc. In addition, we fought against mercenaries - the Hessians. And he shows beautifully how biased and grotesquely ignorant, naive, and opportunistic people like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Henry Waxman are. The fact that Obama still employed Blackwater, the fact that Blackwater RESCUED Biden, Hagel and Kerry from the Hindu Kush and they were too stupid or naive to realize it wasn't the Army....the fact that lawyers tried to destroy them and never prevailed....were all eye opening examples of gross hypocrisy. I overall thought it was an excellent book and the thing that bothered me the most was the subplot - the fact that our military is so bloated, so awash in regulations, bureaucracy, compliance, and so unable themselves to field a complete army - they NEEDED these type of contractors. For example, historically he says that it used to be for every 10 soldiers/military they needed 1 contractor. By the present day in Iraq, it is one contractor for each soldier. And part of that is the fact that the supposed Obama drawdown in Iraq is actually, like much else in this fraudulent administration - really isn't, because every soldier who is leaving Iraq is being replaced by....a contractor! So the amount of Americans or American advisors and contractors is staying the same. The number isn't changing; just that they are hired help instead of Army, Navy, Marine or AirForce. The government, army and State department simply do not have the personnel to do what they need to do. Partially this is because they are spread thin. Partially because they are inefficient. Partially because they are grossly (and willingly, btw) encumbered by absurd rules - rules of engagement in particular, but also rules about staffing, behavior, compliance, etc. What I took away from this is that our great army isn't so great. It is small and constrained by idiots - witness the entire idiocy of the Fort Hood shooter trial. Our soldiers are terrific but they are working for politicians, even their officers (if you don't believe me, read Honor and Betrayal next). And as a result, contractors have to step in and fill the gaps. They can do it faster, better, and more efficiently. That thin military....with nations like China and Mexico, North Korea and a resurgent Russia....who don't have the same rules....augurs not well for us.Read more ›
As a former Army officer and later a contractor (PAE, Dyncorp & MPRI), I experienced both sides of the military culture and that of a contractor.
The book is a history of Blackwater and of its founder-author who presents an honest and forthwith account of building a company in the midst of conducting security US State Dept contracts in an environment not known previously in our military history. For those who never deployed or were assigned during our country's time in Iraq (and especially those who attempted to second guess what it was like), Iraq was absolutely monumentally dangerous. The dis-organization that was Bremer's time as a result of inept post invasion planning highlighted by the disbandment of the Iraqi military and moreso, the civilian infrastructure was (in my opinion) a large part of the catalyst and causation of the insurgency.
Although this reviewed never worked with Blackwater personnel, I knew of their missions and of their force protection challenges in terms of both physical resources and qualified personnel. The US State Department was the singular beneficiary, as no personnel were KIA. Blackwater's record of accomplishment was stellar. Several chapters deal with incidents which resulted in civilian deaths-unfortunately war, especially the war in Iraq was in essence.."who are the bad guys?"
Without a doubt, no other organization with that much exposure to the insurgency performed so well under absolutely critical security and force protections metrics. Things changed daily-I cannot imagine how a civilian organization could adjust without dedicated, well trained and focused personnel who understood the dynamics of the overall situation.
So as to the mission, Prince, et al in the management did what few organizations could accomplish. Even our military would of had a difficult time adapting to changing times on the ground with as many troopers and unlimited resources which were available.
The comments about his family and the devastating and horrific personal experiences with regard to his wife while she was undergoing cancer treatment..and the indiscretions along the way.
For those who worked contract in either Afghanistan or Iraq, this book provides and insight into the workings of a company contracted by the Federal government and at the same time viewed with great indifference within members of Congress.
Make no mistake for those who question the salaries of those who worked on conflict/war zones. No benefits, no retirement, just straight salary with the belief one was doing something good (good guys against the bad guys) and supporting our troopers.
Frankly, post Iraq was a mess and as mentioned the Bush, Cheney & Bremer trio "of who made the decision" to totally dismiss some 400,000 Iraqi soldiers who allegedly (read Fiasco by Tom Ricks) and according to their Iraqi commanders wished to support the new government post Saddam. Add to it the civilian infrastructure directly caused the country to fall apart..with some 4468 US KIA and over 30,000 WIA and at a cost nearly one billion US dollars (mostly borrowed from China).
The legacy of the war in Iraq will be with us for decades to come..