Small Wars Journal

‘Civilian Warriors: Blackwater and the War on Terror’

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 7:25pm

‘Civilian Warriors: Blackwater and the War on Terror’ by Erik Prince - Washington Post Book Review by Phillip Carter.

… After years in self-imposed exile overseas because of frustration with Blackwater’s legal woes and other issues, Prince now reenters the fray with “Civilian Warriors,” a book about the life, death and resurrection of Blackwater. Prince’s story begins with his maturation as the scion of a Midwestern business family, who inherits the family manufacturing business while serving as a Navy SEAL. After growing restless with the family concern, he started Blackwater with a small, tight-knit group of other former SEALs. The original business plans for Blackwater envisioned the world’s premier shooting facility, where elite military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel could train in ways Prince only dreamed of while wearing the uniform. After 9/11, Blackwater’s mission expanded dramatically, with the company diversifying into many other fields, most notably private security for the State Department and CIA overseas, among other customers. In 1998, Blackwater had roughly $400,000 in revenue ; in 2006, that figure stood at more than $1 billion.

The book, co-authored with David Coburn, presents a well-written, credible defense of Blackwater and Prince’s role in building it. but it does not answer the important questions surrounding contractors and their performance in Iraq and Afghanistan…

Read on.



Mon, 02/03/2014 - 5:35pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill... The issue IS using them... The argument, attack, whatever you want to call it is performance... And the desire of the media, politicians etc, to have some type of control... Just like they do with national forces.

Should have put an ROE clause in the contract.

Bill M.

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 1:47pm

In reply to by Hammer999

The issue being debated isn't using them, but their performance.


Sat, 02/01/2014 - 6:37am

Nations including ours have employed mercenaries in every conflict... At the end of WWI the Allies forces the enemy to pay reparations. At the end of WWII the Allies hung enemy leadership... Why are mercenaries even an issue? Because the media makes it one... Like global warming... Like swine flu... Like the poles melting.

I saw Erik Prince being interviewed by Jon Stewart of all people. He was doing an interview on his book, and surprisingly Jon was pretty kind to him, but he did ask some tough questions that Erik sidestepped, and according to this review he does the same based on the reviewer's comment, "does not answer the important questions surrounding contractors and their performance in Iraq and Afghanistan"

From my experience in OIF many of our sources said that one of our well respected team mates was killed (random attack) as a revenge attack due to another careless Blackwater shooting that left an innocent Iraqi dead. We could never prove that is why our brother in arms was killed, since it was 2007 and peak fighting season, but the logic made sense. We heard the same from a UK private security industry rep in the region who had well placed sources, and a company that also had perfect track record in protecting their clients with the added bonus of not killing innocent bystanders.

I have mixed feelings on the whole private security issue in Iraq and Afghanistan since I have a lot of friends who worked in the private security sector when they retired, or separated from the service prior to retiring, some of them lost their lives doing it. I also doubt the U.S. had anyone more competent or capable at the capacity required to provide protection to our diplomats in Iraq than Blackwater without pulling active duty SOF off their principle missions, which happened for a couple of years. Furthermore, protection details is not a core SOF task, but it is one based on their skill sets they can train up to pretty quickly. In sum I don't think there is a one size fits all answer, and we should take the total man concept when evaluating Blackwater. Yes they made some serious mistakes that likely resulted in American soldiers being killed as a second order effect via revenge attacks, but the U.S. military made more mistakes on a larger scale. Blackwater also provided a unique service in a very bad place, and reportedly had a 100% success rate in protecting their clients.