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The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security Hardcover – August 19, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“Why did America’s war in Iraq end in failure? One big reason was the decision to outsource so much of the war’s conduct to private security firms. Who ‘won’ the Iraq War? Those very same firms. Flooding the war zone with mercenaries, they walked away with vast riches, while leaving behind a legacy of corruption and ineptitude. Ann Hagedorn’s coolly devastating book exposes the causes and assesses the consequences of this travesty.” (Andrew J. Bacevich author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country)

"Well-reported and eye-opening. . . . This thoughtful book should kick-start a long-overdue debate." (Alan Cate The Plain Dealer)

“The strength of Invisible Soldiers is the impressive depth of Hagedorn's reporting: copious interviews, generous use of sources, and a compelling narrative. . . . Invisible Soldiers also reports on the people behind these private companies, some of whom are seemingly the stuff of fiction.” (Tony Perry The Los Angeles Times)

“Ann Hagedorn has given us a powerful and urgent analysis of our new military and security reality—the hiring of private warriors by governments and corporations for profit and plunder worldwide. As wars explode on every continent, and as these security companies operate in secrecy, shielded from public scrutiny or accountability, this brilliantly researched and vividly written book is essential reading.” (Blanche Wiesen Cook, Distinguished Professor of History and Women's Studies at John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY and author of ELEANOR ROOSEVELT)

“A critique of the United States’ fateful turn toward private military and security contractors as a consequence of the Iraq War. . . . A brisk, disturbing account that adds to the sense that liberties taken in the war on terror have created long-term liabilities for American society.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Hagedorn lucidly describes the long-range challenges to democracy caused by the privatization of security.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

About the Author

Ann Hagedorn has been a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and has taught writing at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her previous books are Wild Ride, Ransom, Beyond the River, and Savage Peace.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 19, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416598804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416598800
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. J. Taylor on October 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Having worked with Iraq via the Foreign Military Sales program this book was of particular interest to me. Ms. Hagedorn gives a history of private military and security companies, formerly known as mercenaries. The companies that were linked to the term "mercenary" needed a new image. They continued to hire former military personnel, but they wanted to present themselves as being more professional. Thus, they marketed "military skills" as a commercial product. Given that we are now engaged in military actions in multiple regions, unless the draft were re-instated, we do not have enough military personnel to do the job. Privatization fills the gap between what the American military was trained and equipped to do – fight conventional wars – and what was needed in current unconventional wars.

The war in Iraq became known as the “first contractors’ war”. Contractors were beating a path to Iraq in order to get a portion of those billions of dollars in contracts that were being awarded by the US Government. Paul Bremer, who led the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq for a year, was himself a contractor. A private contractor was, for the first time, running the military occupation of a nation.

Contractors now provide everything from logistics and engineering services to food prep, laundry, housing, construction, and security. Contracts being awarded often required a specified number of personnel to be in place quickly. Ms. Hagedorn revealed that companies often hired third-country nationals as subcontractors because they were cheaper and could be deployed quickly. However, many of the personnel were not properly trained. I saw a lot of third-country nationals in security positions when I was in Baghdad, especially in the Green Zone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on September 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
In this volume about modern mercenaries (now called contract security agents) Ann Hagedorn makes the major point that these soldiers are an entity to themselves. Most of these service companies (PMSC, private management security companies) are the outgrowth from mercenaries used to fight surrogate wars in Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. They were originally set-up by ex-British and South African/Rhodesian special forces who helped to train anti-terrorist and anti-guerilla groups for many of various African dictators.

The two most known to Americans are Haliburton and Blackwater. One has been spun off from its’ original owner while the other has gone through multiple name changes (the latest being Academi). All of these groups have been doing business in Iraq and Afghanistan since the American Armed Forces began to be reduced and turning security back over to the Iraqi Army (and we know how well that’s gone).

The problems that Hagedorn concentrates on is the lack of ‘accountability’ that these PMSCs have to both the countries that hire them and the American military with which they work. Over the last few years, there have been attempts to ‘reel’ in these companies but because they keep changing names and bases, it’s hard to make them accountable. In one story she tells how a US soldier was accidentally shot by a contractor, but nothing could be done to prosecute the shooter.

Just by the personality of the types of people who start and run these companies, you are dealing with loners and mavericks. They may know all the right ‘buzz’ words and wear suits, but that doesn’t mean they can do what they say or control the people they put into the ‘field’.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Celia on August 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a very important and well researched book of how America is outsourcing vital military functions to Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) and how we depend on these companies for our national security. Many people would say these companies are really a mercenary army. These companies are used to get around many laws in the US regarding the use of the military since technically these companies are the US military. The most well-known US PMSCs is Blackwater.

The British were the first to develop these companies. In fact, a British PMSC received one of the largest contracts from the US government for work in Iraq because the US government thought the British had more experience in occupying other countries (I would to point out two things: If the US needs to outsource its military shouldn't US not foreign companies get significant preference? Also the choosing of a British company because the British were an empire seems to indicate that the US government has some imperial aspirations).
Private Military Security Contractors first played a significant role in Bosnia. Though the formal US military vastly outnumbered the PMSCs, the PMSCs were useful to the Clinton Administration because they helped minimize the appearance of US involvement in the region (i.e. PMSC security forces don't count in the number of US military forces in a region). However, PMSC's played a major role in the US war in Iraq where the ratio of PMSCs to the regular army was 1:1.

Many people in Congress in the first decade of the 21st century were opposed to the use of PMSCs, most notably Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and John Kerry before these politicians became President and Secretary of State.
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