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Publisher's Summary

A largely untold facet of the war on terror is the widespread outsourcing of military tasks to private mercenary companies. Accountable neither to the citizenry nor to standard military legal codes, these largely unregulated corporate armies are being entrusted with ever-greater responsibilities on behalf of the nation.

Meet Blackwater USA, the most secretive, most powerful, and fastest-growing private army on the planet. Founded by fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire Erik Prince, the scion of a conservative dynasty that bankrolls extreme-right-wing causes, this company of soldiers is now being sent "to the front lines of a global battle, waged largely on Muslim lands, that an evangelical president, whom Prince helped put in the White House, has boldly defined as a 'crusade'."

Ranging from the blood-soaked streets of Fallujah to Washington, D.C., where they are hailed as heroes, this is the dark story of Blackwater's rise to power.

©2007 Jeremy Scahill; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A crackling expose." (New York Times Book Review)
"Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater would be a masterpiece of the genre of futuristic sci fi were it not so regrettably real....It's got all the twists and turns and secret corners of a Hollywood thriller....[A] horrifying but necessary read." (Daily Kos)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • zrer10
  • Knoxville, Tn United States
  • 04-30-10

Wakeup Call.

I have to say, i dont think most of the reviewers read the book. Perhaps they saw an interview on tv and from that they decided they didnt like the subject of the book, because the book is not "a factless rant","anti-christian", "anti-troop", or "anti-american".
The book references christian mercenaries and their financers. Now perhaps calling them mercenaries sounds harsh, but that is the truth. If you are fighting for the money, then that is what you are. I suggest if you really care about your country then you should inlist instead. That they are christian mercenaries may give some comfort. But not me. And especially not in a war that already has too much religion in it. And to that point the book is certainly not "anti-troop". It is anti-mercenary. Finally it is not 'fact-less'. It is so fact filled i was shocked. It was page after page of interviews and statistics. Only after pages and pages of facts would it draw a conclusion. Which you probably already drew yourself just by listening to the facts. I would say that I think that it may not be as non-partisan as I would have liked. Sometimes I would hear a clearly partisan group or politican referenced as if they were an objective witness and other times I would hear just as partisan conservatives referenced as "far right" or "ultra conservatives". But on the whole I think this is a real wakeup call and I hope that people are reading this.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • P. Bowen
  • New York, NY United States
  • 01-15-14


Would you listen to Blackwater again? Why?

although we hear less and less about the privatization of the American military, this books provides a great reminder of what is going on behind the scenes.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Stanley
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 10-30-07

Truly frightening

As most folks know, Blackwater has been much in the press during the fall of 2007. Journalists tended to say little is known about Blackwater. Maybe they hadn't been doing much reading.

In early 1987 Scahill wrote this investigative book laying out the backstory about the rise of this band of mercenaries and its entanglement with the establishment neocons and what is often called the "radical religious right."

One's reaction to this book will likely be determined by the reader's political point of view. The further to the political left the reader is, the greater the anger the book will spark. The further to the right, the more scepticism the tale will surely fire. But I suspect, for most readers, the tale will be viewed as horriffic-if-true.

This story may not bode well for the direction our government/culture/country is headed.

I can't stop without mentioning the narrator who reads the text with the deep scarey theatricality so stereotypic of movie trailers. That's a pity as it unnecessarily creates a sense of danger, something the text itself is plenty able to do.

24 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Juliet
  • Ridgewood, NY, United States
  • 08-27-12

Informative Read

I purchased this book a while back since Jeremy Scahill always provides honest and refreshing insight into foreign policy issues, but I never got around to reading it. I just finished reading it as a follow-up to Rachel Maddow's Drift and they complement each other so nicely!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This is quite revealing. I had to take a break from it several times-the information contained was overwhelming to listen too.
There were many things in government that provoke the imagination-but this puts it out there. It is revealing as it exposes the workings of the war machine of the Bush administration.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Writing vs Narration

This story of Blackwater is an important and scary read. As a reader of many, many other books on the Iraq conflict this is just another confirmation of failings in a very sad story.

An issue I have with this book is the narrator. I have been an Audible listener for years and this is the first time I've found a narrator almost too irritating to listen to. The over the top attempt to be sonorous and profound would be laughable if it weren't in the telling a very important story.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 11-27-16

Well... this was terrifying

This was a scary, intense, thought-provoking book to read, and I'm so glad I did. Here you will find the story not just of how a powerful and rich ultra right wing and fundamentalist family created the largest private army in the world, but more importantly, the story of how America has slowly outsourced more and more of the war effort. We see the beginnings of Blackwater, as a training ground for armed forces and police. But then they grow to private security, peacekeeping operations, and worldwide mercinaries. The questions this book raises are serious, profound, and largely neglected by American culture: if private armies fight our wars, then who holds them accountable to the same code of conduct as the actual army? If we privatize our wars, and don't count these contractors among the dead, do Americans get a real sense of our war's devistation? If we use a 1:1 armed service-member to contractor ratio, doesn't that make it easier to fight in wars, and doesn't that mean we will deploy troops with less oversight? And what does that mean to our democracy? And if contractors are sent out with less legal oversight and on shorter contracts, whose to say they won't leave an area less politically secure than when they went in?

This is an important book. It makes two real points as it charts the company from its founding in 1997 to 2006. First, contractors are not held to the same moral and legal code as the real army, and are thus more likely to commit abuses. Second, the use of contractors makes it much too easy for a country to engage in wars without real consequence of oversight of the population. You should read it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A view changer

It gives one an idea of what really goes on behind the events that one cannot make sense of.eye opener.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The greatest enemy to the United States is its own military-industrial complex. Add Christian fundamentalism into that brew and if a stupid president is doing the stirring, the mix is sure to lead to our own demise.

This book is not only scary, it is chilling! The author clearly has a liberal slant but it is also clear that he has done his research. He obviously knows what's going on in the world, he's a first-class investigative journalist, a crusader for the truth and I commend him for his knowledge. But and although the story is gripping and more than just a little sinister, I have to honestly say that listening to this book over the course of about a week was more of a burden than a joy. Granted this is not a joyful subject matter, I place partial blame upon the narrator, Tom Weiner, whose cold, monotone voice and nearly flat reading made it hard to get into this already complicated story. The rest of my complaint sits with the author who packed this book with fact upon fact upon fact...reinforced by supporting facts and somewhat long and convoluted digressions of even more facts. I feel the story suffers because of the excessive and never-ending facts.

Suffice is to say, this is an important book. The truth is that it is deeply disturbing how our government is semi-secretly building a corporate army (the new "Praetorian Guard" as the author calls it), to loyally serve the far right; and the fact that this army seems to be impervious to any attempt to hold it accountable for its actions, as if Blackwater is above and beyond the reach of any law. From all the frightening, alarming, horrific things this book touches upon, there is one important question. What incentive does a private, profit-driven mercenary army have to create and maintain peace and democracy, and to eradicate suffering and anarchy? It can only be the same incentive that our current government has, which is NONE...and that is a truly terrifying truth.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Horrifying Details, Great Book

First word that comes to mind when finishing this book is "Horrifying".
It's not the mysterious mercenaries in black cloth and full military gear roaming the globe shooting people with no accountability. It's the government that lets them.
Refusing the idea of allowing for private armies to operate freely under no strict guiding laws seems like a no brainier to me. Yet Blackwater exists and have a booming business.
This book tells the story of how Blackwater, how it was formed, who are the main people behind it, what's their background, highlights of their work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and stories from all around the world about mercenaries involved with Blackwater.
The book tends to read like reporting rather than telling a story. This could sometimes make it a little boring if you're not really interested in the topic, especially when it comes to legal details. However, the amount of details and their importance trumps any slow down in some parts of the book.
This book is a must read for all those who heard about Eisenhower's famous phrase "the military industrial complex" as Blackwater is the leader of the industry of military.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful