Caitlin's Reviews > Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill
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Jan 09, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010
Read in January, 2010

Jeremy Scahill has an ax to grind and a certain amount of bias shows through in this expose of Blackwater's corporate army. That said, the book is well-researched, reasonably well-written and will definitely switch your paranoia on.

The book takes you through the creation of Blackwater and the background of its CEO, Eric Prince, a neo-conservative Evangelical Christian who believes that he is fighting the Crusades. It's clear that Scahill believes that Blackwater is evil and I can't say that I disagree with him. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the notion of outsourcing wars and mercenary armies make me think uncomfortably of the Italian city states in the 10th to 15th century and their constant state of warfare funded by citizens and waged by mercenary bands.

I do have some quibbles with this book. The focus is almost entirely on Blackwater's involvement in Iraq with a few ancillary chapters on their involvement in other localities. I would have liked a broader view of the company and its activities. While his chapter on Blackwater's man on the ground in Chile is interesting, Scahill misses an incredible opportunity to trace the history of US involvement in Central and South America and the teaching of torture at the Academy of the Americas and frankly doesn't do a good enough job of explicating these mercenary's ties to the Pinochet government and why that is problematic. There is another missed opportunity in the chapter on Blackwater after Katrina - to observe that we had boots on the ground with guns on the Gulf Coast before there was humanitarian aid is disturbing, but again I would have liked more information about this and an analysis of how outsourcing is impacting our disaster relief efforts. Lastly, I found myself wishing Scahill was a business reporter - I think there's a big story in where the money is coming from and where it's going and I don't think this is explored well.

Overall this is an interesting book, but very topical. Three years after its publication it is beginning to show its age and in another three years it'll be creaky. I think Scahill has done a great job of investigative reporting, but less well on contextualizing his subject matter.
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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Chapman Erik Prince is a Roman Catholic.

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