Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Talk: "Blackwater"

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
By Jeremy Scahill

As the title suggests, this book is a history of the foremost American mercenary company, as well as the mercenary industry in general. Through detailed description, a story unfolds that would give any true American patriot reason for concern.

This isn’t merely a story of one company or one industry, though, as it details the underlying far-right and neoconservative agendas, including the privatisation of core military functions which created the opportunities that Blackwater and other companies seized.

Blackwater in particular is an example of interlocking connections between various far right and fundamentalist christianist groups and leaders. These connections led the company to become, as Scahill says, a virtual Republican Praetorian Guard.

The book also provides a history of the failures, lies and deceptions of the Bush Administration’s occupation of Iraq, how the interests of both the US and Iraq were ignored for the interests of big business and the neoconservative world view, with deadly and tragic results.

Amply footnoted, the book provides exhaustive sources, most of them readily available to the public, if they had the means or interest to put it all together. Fortunately, we don’t have to, since Scahill has put it together for us in an easy to read, very accessible form.

Some people have dismissed the book as left wing. But that’s a common tactic used by the right to deflect criticism and analysis of what it’s doing. Read the book with an open mind and decide for yourself.

I was left with a strong distrust of Blackwater and the mercenary industry generally, and I came away with a simple realisation: When it comes to government services, and military operations in particular, cheaper isn’t always better, and or even a good idea. This book shows why.

The best way to sum up this book and its subject comes from Scahill himself, near the end of the book, when he says:

“What is particularly disturbing about the ‘expanding role’ of Blackwater specifically is the issue of the company’s right-wing leadership, its proximity to a whole slew of conservative causes and politicians, its Christian fundamentalist agenda and secretive nature, and its deep and longstanding ties to the Republican Party, U.S. military, and intelligence agencies. Blackwater is quickly becoming one of the most powerful private armies in the world, and several of its top officials are extreme religious zealots, some of whom appear to believe they are engaged in an epic battle for the defense of Christendom.”

What I read: Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill. 452 pages, including notes and index. Serpent's Tail, London. ISBN 978-1-84668-630-6.

Click Here to go to the Amazon.com page for this book.

This originally appeared in a slightly different form on Facebook.

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