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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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1 Beaverton Politics- Covert Government and Conspiracy Theory
2 Burnside American Studies- Military Industrial Complex and National Security

This title in other editions

Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror

by

Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Introduction

December 6, 2003

AT ELEVEN P.M., EIGHTEEN CARS, WATCHED OVERHEAD BY U.S. ARMY APACHE and Kiowa Warrior helicopters, as well as by a pair of Blackwater he­licopters, known as Little Birds, stormed out of the Green Zone. They turned onto a pockmarked roadway, drove past scorched traf­fic barriers and burned-out remains of vehicles once used for suicide bombings, and sped toward Baghdad International Airport. A mo­torcade escorting a head of state and the U.S. secretary of defense doesnt travel light. Especially not on the “Highway of Death.”

That multilane stretch of asphalt connects Iraqs largest interna­tional airport with the coalition-occupied Green Zone. For years, insurgents had effectively owned the five or so miles, ambushing convoys, diplomats, and American troops roughly once a day. So dangerous was the road that the State Department would ultimately outlaw its personnel from using it at all. And even before that, no one took that road without a plan.

But sometimes Paul Bremer wouldnt take no for an answer.

Shortly before eleven p.m., Bremer, the United States presidential envoy and administrator in Iraq, had finished a meeting with Secre­tary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld outside the Green Zone. To the surprise of his Blackwater security detail, Bremer insisted he would see the secretary off at the airport.

Frank Gallagher, the barrel-chested head of the detail charged with keeping Bremer alive, quickly recalibrated travel plans. “Need­less to say, some of the radio traffic back to me expressed grave con­cern about doing the mission and questioned my sanity,” Gallagher later remembered. “But I could see the look in [Bremers] eyes that this was not open for debate.”

The trip out was uneventful, but Gallagher sensed the worst was yet to come. The show of force had certainly tipped off the insur­gents that something unusual was going on at the airport. And Bremers Blackwater motorcade would have to travel back to the Green Zone without the Pentagon detail that had accompanied Rumsfeld.

Once Bremer had said his good-byes to the secretary, the Coali­tion Provisional Authority leader and his right-hand man, Brian McCormack, climbed into the back of an up-armored Chevy Suburban SUV. Gallagher gathered his Blackwater team. “I explained that get­ting back to the Green Zone was going to be an adventure, and made sure that everyone was aware of the dangers,” he said. “We promised to have a cup of mead in Valhalla later that evening.”

Contractor humor.

Around eleven twenty p.m., Bremers pared-down convoy pulled away from the airport. The nimble Blackwater helicopters darted out front, providing top cover and scanning the roadway for threats. Gallagher, in the front passenger seat, wrapped his fingers around his matte black M4 carbine and stared out into the darkness that enveloped the roadway. Bremer and McCormack chatted about meet­ing schedules for the next day.

Suddenly, a call from a Blackwater bird above: “Be alert—a vehi­cle ahead is backing down an on-ramp onto the road.” The driver of Bremers SUV pulled into the far left lane, closest to the highway median. The lead and follow armored cars maneuvered to flank Bremer on the right.

There was a jarring crack against the bulletproof window on Gal­laghers door—what he later learned had been an AK-47 round that had marked him for death. And then, with a horrible flash of light, an improvised explosive device (IED) rocked the armored Humvee be­hind Bremers SUV, destroying the Humvees axle with a deafening blast.

Bremers driver swerved and battled to keep all four tires of the SUV on the ground. From the darkness, insurgents opened fire with AK-47s, rattling machine-gun fire off the right side of the car. There was nowhere to hide; flames and headlights provided just enough light to grasp what was unfolding. “Wed been ambushed, a highly organized, skillfully executed assassination attempt,” Bremer later wrote. “I swung around and looked back. The Suburbans armored-glass rear window had been blown out by the IED. And now AK rounds were whipping through the open rectangle.”

Tuna! Tuna! Tuna!” shouted the voice from the radio in Bremers SUV. It was Blackwaters shift leader, limping along in the battered armored vehicle, calling out the code for the SUVs to drive through the ambush: Leave the Humvees, he was saying; get Bremer out of there now.

Contractors in the two helicopters above unloaded enough am­munition to repel the attack, while Blackwaters drivers ignored the burns on their feet from the heat of the blast and stomped on the gas through the fog of smoke on the roadway. One of the trailing Subur­bans pulled immediately alongside Bremers car, shielding it while speeding down the Highway of Death so close together that the cars sideview mirrors touched. “I asked for a casualty report and learned that two of our four vehicles were damaged, but limping along,” Gal­lagher said.

The stench of explosives lingered in the ambassadors vehicle as they made it to the Green Zone. And soon, the Humvees and helicop­ters made it back as well.

Miraculously, no one was injured.

Since I first enrolled in the Naval Academy after high school, my lifes mission has been to serve God, serve my family, and serve the United States with honor and integrity. I did it first as a midshipman, then as a SEAL, then—when personal tragedy called me home from the service—as a contractor providing solutions for some of the thorniest problems on earth. The business of war has never been pretty, but I did my job legally, and I did it completely. Too well, perhaps, growing Blackwater until it became something resembling its own branch of the military and other government agencies.

During my dozen years as company CEO, we filled contracts for the State Department, the Department of Defense, the CIA, elite law enforcement agencies around the world, and many others. We did everything from protecting heads of state to delivering the mail. Blackwater expanded from a simple training center in the North Carolina swampland to encompass dozens of business divisions ranging from surveillance blimp development and construction to intelligence services to K9 operations. We became the ultimate tool in the war on terror, pushing a thousand contractors into Iraq and hundreds more into Afghanistan under the Republican Bush admi­nistration, then continuing a connection to Democratic president Barack Obama that was closer than he has ever wanted to admit. My companys history is a proud tale of performance excellence and driven entrepreneurialism.

The public relations battle at home, however, was very different from a firefight on the front lines. Those conflicts my men and I were trained for. Stateside, though, thanks to endless waves of frivolous lawsuits, congressional hearings, and inaccurate press reports, Blackwater was slagged as the face of military evil. Gun-toting bul­lies for hire. We were branded mercenaries and murderers, and were made the whipping boy for the publics fury over the Bush adminis­trations policies in the Middle East. After failing in their multiyear effort to win hearts and minds in Iraq, the bureaucrats decided a company that had repeatedly answered this governments pleas for help was suddenly more valuable as a scapegoat. I was strung up so the politicians could feign indignation and pretend my men hadnt done exactly what they had paid us handsomely to do.

There is much the government doesnt want told about the work we did: the truth about our State Department–sanctioned opera­tional tactics in Iraq, for instance, including our rules of engage­ment; or Blackwaters crucial involvement with President Obamas ever expanding terrorist-hunting tactics in Pakistan and beyond; or even the depth of government reliance on contractors today and the outsourcing of its war machine. Government agencies dont want that spotlight being shone on our work, nor to applaud the greatest advantage Blackwater offered them: increased capability. They want increased deniability.

For years my companys work was misconstrued and misrepre­sented. At the time, our government contracts explicitly barred Blackwater from responding to the public broadsides. We were never allowed to explain things such as how we secured the contracts we did, or what really happened during a bloody Baghdad shoot-out in September 2007, or the way shifting political tectonic plates crushed my company as an act of partisan theatrics. Or how the one job I loved more than any other was ripped away from me thanks to gross acts of professional negligence at the CIA.

So now Im done keeping quiet. Whats been said before is only half the story—and I wont sit idly by while the bureaucrats go after me so that everyone else can just go back to business as usual. The true history of Blackwater is exhilarating, rewarding, exasperating, and tragic. Its the story of men taking bullets to protect the men who take all the credit, a tale of patriots whose names became known only when lawyers and politicians needed to blame somebody for something.

Our critics have spoken. Now its my turn. Reprinted from CIVILIAN WARRIORS: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror by Erik Prince with permission of Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) BW Productions, LLC, 2013.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781591847212
Subtitle:
The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror
Author:
Prince, Erik
Publisher:
Portfolio Trade
Subject:
General History
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20141028
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
8.44 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror Used Hardcover
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Product details 416 pages Portfolio - English 9781591847212 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
The founder of Blackwater offers the gripping true story of the worlds most controversial military contractor.

In 1997, former Navy SEAL Erik Prince started a business that would recruit civilians for the riskiest security jobs in the world. As Blackwaters reputation grew, demand for its services escalated, and its men eventually completed nearly 100,000 missions for both the Bush and Obama administrations.

It was a huge success except for one problem: Blackwater was demonized around the world. Its employees were smeared as mercenaries, profiteers, or worse. And because of the secrecy requirements of its contracts with the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA, Prince was unable to correct false information. But now hes finally able to tell the full story about some of the biggest controversies of the War on Terror, in a memoir that reads like a thriller.

"Synopsis" by ,
The founder of Blackwater offers the gripping, previously untold story of the worlds most controversial military contractor

Blackwater is one of the most misunderstood companies of our time. As Erik Prince, its founder and former CEO, writes:

“Hundreds of American citizens employed by private military contractors, or PMCs, would lose their lives helping our government wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to have their memory tarnished by the unfair and/or ignorant depiction of PMCs as profiteers, jackbooted thugs, or worse.”

Because of the secrecy requirements of Blackwaters contracts with the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA, Prince was unable to speak out when his companys opponents spread false information. But now hes free to tell the often shocking story of Blackwaters rise and fall. 

Blackwater hired Special Forces veterans and others with the skills and courage to take on the riskiest security jobs in the world. As its reputation grew, demand for its services escalated. Its men eventually completed nearly 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Princes narrative includes newly-revealed details about many controversial events. It debunks myths that have been spread by TV shows and movies. It honors our armed forces while challenging the Pentagons top leadership. Above all, it will make people rethink exactly who the “good guys” and “bad guys” have been since 9/11.

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