Book Review: Blackwater: The privatization of America’s military

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Now and then a nonfiction book comes along that is a real page turner. Jeremy Scahill’s book, Blackwater: The Rise Of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is a very readable piece of investigative reporting. It takes a beneath-the-surface look into Blackwater USA, the most notorious and deadly member of the Bush administration’s privatization agenda.

Scahill, a Polk Award-winning journalist, often writes for The Nation magazine and has been a correspondent for nationally-known Democracy NOW! He has 70 pages of endnotes that document his research—a book that is scholarly in its accuracy and yet understandable to anyone interested in the truth.

He brings to the surface for everyone to see the Blackwater owner and officials who are extreme right-wing Christian zealots, many of whom seem to believe they are involved in a holy war to save Christianity itself and Blackwater as their military arm. The rank and file of this military force that numbers over 20,000 come from some of the most corrupt regimes around the world. They are placed all over the world, and you can be sure if you smell oil, they are not far away.

Erik Prince, Blackwater owner and CEO, says: “Our corporate goal is to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did to the Postal Service.” Scahill’s book exposes the nearly half-a-billion dollars in no-bid contracts Blackwater has received in taxpayer money. Some of the contracts are so secret that one branch of the government can’t be told what Blackwater USA is doing for another branch of the government. Blackwater has one of the largest privately owned ammunition stockpiles in the USA just a few hours from the nation’s capital. They are also building their own armored tanks called the “Grizzly.”

Jeremy gives a detailed account of the events leading up to and following the four mercenary soldiers killed in Fallujah in 2004. When their families sued Blackwater for wrongful death of their loved ones, Blackwater countered by suing the families, with Kenneth Starr leading the case. Katy Helvenson, mother of one of the four killed, calls Blackwater and other private military firms in Iraq, “the whores of war.” Perhaps this could be another title for this powerful book that shines a light into this dark underworld.

Jeremy Scahill will give a presentation and be available for book signing Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m., at Highland Community College West, 300 Northwest St., Elizabeth.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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