The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I swear that I had intended--fully intended--to read Jeremy Scahill's BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY long before the recent, um, "unpleasantness" about Blackwater mercenaries indiscriminately killing Iraqi civilians and being threatened with ejection from the country by the Iraqi government. But I did run to the Carnegie Library the day that the story broke and picked up Scahill's book. I was expecting a more "measured" book, like IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY or Ricks' FIASCO, but Scahill isn't hiding his lefty methodology. And because of that it's very interesting. It's damn well documented, although Scahill doesn't get much of the first-hand sourcing that Chandrasekharan or Ricks or Woodward get. But although Scahill's general thesis--this Blackwater company has benefited from a "perfect storm" of terrorism, right-wing craziness for privatization, and what Scahill identifies as a "theoconservative" network of militaristic religious fanatics, and in the process Blackwater's activities and influence force us to confront what it means to have our military undertakings, and even civilian rescue efforts such as in post-Katrina New Orleans, run by unanswerable, unelected private companies that can't even be sued for their actions--is pretty easy to swallow for most people, what I like is the way that he understands his history and is willing to do a little digging. John Negroponte, for instance, who was US Ambassador to Honduras during the 1980s dirty wars and then was posted to Baghdad, Scahill links with death squads: he argues that Negroponte actively supported and even organized death squads in Central America in the 1980s, and brought that strategy to Iraq with him. Essentially, Scahill's saying that the Bush Administration either set up or winked at Shiite death squads (whose killings, Scahill points out, rose dramatically right as Negroponte came to Baghdad) as a way to "deal with" the Sunni insurgency.

Because of the Blackwater stories over the past few days, Scahill's gotten a boost in sales, but I haven't seen him making the rounds as much as one would expect. I do subscribe to the theory that the "mainstream media" tries to redefine the "center" as being much more to the right that most people would think, and that they label as crazy or cranks anyone who questions the US's determination to use military and economic power to dominate the world, so this is why I think that Scahill is getting largely ignored even though he quite literally wrote the book on Blackwater.



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