Blackwater | Jeremy Scahill

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


Embark on a deep-dive into the shadowy world of Blackwater, a private military corporation whose mercenary army expanded across the globe, all while operating outside the constraints of the law. In this summary of Jeremy Scahill’s groundbreaking book, ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,’ uncover the aggressive mark these mercenaries left behind in Iraq, follow a trail of brazen actions protected by immunity from prosecution, and see how the privatization of military functions exploded under the Bush administration. Learn about the entangled political and business interests behind this world-spanning force and the controversial private military industry.

Blackwater’s Unprecedented Contract Killings

Blackwater, a private army owned by Erik Prince, was responsible for the death of 17 civilians and the injury of over 20 more in Iraq’s Nisour Square in 2007. Despite complaints from officials about their violent acts, Blackwater was protected by the State Department, which gave them $1 billion in no-bid contracts. The guards, who charge up to $2,000 per day, were granted immunity from prosecution under leaders like U.S. Ambassador Paul L. Bremer. Blackwater was even defended by President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who claimed that independent contractors were unaccountable for their actions. The Nisour Square shootings were found to be unjustified, provoking outrage from military leaders. Relatives of the victims eventually sued Blackwater for war crimes and killings outside the law.

Blackwater and the Privatization of Military

The book explores the growth of Blackwater, the largest private security and military contractor, which is part of the trend of privatizing the military. The concept of privatization was advanced by former Secretary of Defense Cheney under the Bush administration and was later implemented on a massive scale during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. By mid-2007, there were 180,000 private employees working for 630 contractors in Iraq, and one out of every three people involved in the coalition were contractors. The government paid contractors the equivalent of all the taxes paid by every taxpayer who makes less than $100,000 annually. Blackwater became synonymous with the private police and security business. The book revealed that not a single Blackwater contractor had ever been charged with a crime under any legal system – U.S. civilian law, military law, or Iraqi law. The use of contractors allowed the U.S. military to dodge unpopular issues that might have arisen and many armed contractors were used as mercenaries.

The Rise of Blackwater

Former Navy Seal Erik Prince founded Blackwater with family money, building a private military training facility that soon became the largest private arsenal in the U.S. Blackwater’s reputation grew after the September 11 attacks as they expanded into providing private security for the U.S. military. However, the company’s actions in Iraq, including shooting at civilians and running people off the road, led to controversy and criticism. Blackwater’s success was due in part to its connections with the extreme religious and political right wing, as the family behind the company was anti-abortion and anti-gay. The rise of private armies like Blackwater in Iraq was likened to the Alaskan Gold Rush and the O.K. Corral, as the postwar business boom was all about security.

Blackwater’s Rise to Power

The book recounts the rise of Blackwater, a private security firm, and its entanglement with the US government in the Iraq War. The firm gained a foothold in the post-9/11 world and presented itself as a silent partner in the American “struggle” to eradicate terrorism. As Blackwater expanded, it became involved in more controversies, including an ambush in Fallujah and an attack by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Najaf. Despite mounting criticism, Blackwater grew at an alarming rate, negotiating its role in shaping Defense Department standards for private contractors and winning a $750-million contract from the Worldwide Personal Protective Service. The US government’s reliance on Blackwater and other private security firms drained the Iraq reconstruction budget and led to numerous abuses, including those at Abu Ghraib prison.

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