Monday, November 26, 2007

Blackwater (Jeremy Scahill)

I'm currently reading Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill. It recounts the history of Blackwater USA (Wiki entry here), the company employing a large proportion of the "security contractors" hired to protect assets in hostile places around the globe, such as in Iraq.

The book begins by documenting the bloody ambush of Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in March 2006, and moves on to tell how the U.S. Government is increasingly using companies such as Blackwater to influence foreign policy where it would be politically unwise to use the U.S. Military. Scahill tells how Blackwater has set up bases in Tbilisi, Georgia and Azerbaijan which are now tantamount to having unofficial U.S. bases in the area, but without the political uproar.

The book certainly makes interesting reading. In fact, what I find most enlightening is not how powerful and influential companies like Blackwater are, but rather the clear political wrangling that goes off behind closed doors, that common folk like me only get a hint about in the press.

Scahill is obviously very passionate about this cause, and he has produced a seemingly well researched piece of writing that forces us to ask questions not just about our role in Iraq, but also asks us to cast an eye over other conflicts and places of political unrest. It is clear from the stories told in this book that our governments aren't giving us a true picture of what is happening in these places. But this is something a cynical, skeptical person such as myself already suspected anyway.

However, the book could hardly be called impartial, and as such it loses much of the credibility it should be earning. Scahill's choice of language is constantly laced with emotive terms that will make it easy for any party opposed to his views to dismiss the entire book as left-wing propaganda.

In choosing to write in this style Scahill has made a rod for his own back. What should be a chilling, hard hitting exposé on the U.S. Government's recent political choices is in danger of being wholly dismissed when the questions it raises deserve to be answered.

If you can look past the occasional emotional phrase, and concentrate on the fully referenced source material, you can see a book which raises as many questions as it answers. Although I doubt answering these questions was ever Scahill's intention, in writing this book he has at least made public what is happening that other media sources aren't giving us a true picture of.

1 comment:

swtim255 said...

Spot on review. I am half way thru the book and find it hard to go on due to the very " pro anyone that is fighting the US" slant. A google search only shows 2 sites that have expressed this view. Most show a sycophant slant of “me too, Blackwater bad, you great”. Of course the sites are either far left or socialist.