The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

By Jeremy Scahill

Nation Books (updated and expanded paperback, June 2008, North American English rights)

ISBN-13: 9781568583945 • 560 pages


It was the Mogadishu moment of the Iraq war. March 31, 2004: Four American mercenaries are ambushed in the Sunni hotbed of Fallujah, their jeeps set ablaze with the men inside. An angry mob drags their charred corpses through the streets, hanging them from a bridge overthe Euphrates River. “Fallujah is the graveyard of the Americans!,” the mob declares in front of the cameras. Within hours, the imagesspread across the world. The ensuing US slaughter in Fallujah would fuel the fierce Iraqi resistance that haunts US occupation forces to this day. Who were the mercenaries killed in Fallujah and who sent them there to die?

Meet BLACKWATER USA, the world’s most secretive and powerful mercenary firm. Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet the world knows almost nothing about the firm’s quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the United States. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex-Navy SEAL named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes.

This is the dark story of the rise of a powerful mercenary army, ranging from the blood-soaked streets of Fallujah to rooftop firefights in Najaf to the hurricane-ravaged US gulf to the chambers of power in Washington DC, where Blackwater executives are hailed as new heroes in the war on terror. This is an extraordinary expose by one of America’s most exciting young radical journalists.

Read Scahill on Blackwater in The Nation magazine:


“Jeremy Scahill’s exposé of the Blackwater mercenary firm forcefully demonstrates the grave dangers of outsourcing the government’s monopoly on the use of force.”

Joseph Wilson,
former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

“If the Republicans lose in 2008, they will leave office armed and dangerous. Blackwater is the utterly gripping and explosive story of how the Bush Administration has spent hundreds of millions of public dollars building a parallel corporate army, an army so loyal to far right causes it constitutes nothing less than a Republican Guard. The most important and chilling book about the death throes of U.S. democracy you will read in years and a triumph of investigative reporting.”

Naomi Klein, author, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine

“Jeremy Scahill skillfully chronicles the birth of America’s frightening Praetorian Guard, one that has been unleashed — 25,000-strong — in Iraq. These hired guns, with their black uniforms and automatic weapons, appeared on the streets of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. They operate, at home and abroad, beyond the bounds of legal constraints and are controlled by secretive puppet masters, such as Erik Prince, who have close ties to the radical Christian Right. Should our nation enter a period of instability following another terrorist attack on American soil, an economic collapse or a series of environmental disasters the tyranny groups such as Blackwater impose on others could become the tyranny they impose on us. The rise of this unchecked mercenary force, as Scahill understands, could presage the final stage in the collapse of American democracy.”

Chris Hedges

“From Belgrade to Baghdad, from Nigeria to New Orleans, Jeremy Scahill leads a new generation of muckraking journalists. With trademark courage and conviction, Scahill is exposing the dark, violent and secretive world of the neo-mercenaries Washington is increasingly deploying in its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and at home in the US. This is an explosive book!"

Amy Goodman, Host, Democracy Now! and co-author of The Exception to the Rulers

“Thanks to Jeremy Scahill and other reporters of conscience and courage, ‘independent journalist’ is not an oxymoron. Scahill’s thirst for truth and justice is not far below the surface as he trains his investigative sights on war profiteers like Blackwater, who stop at nothing to turn a fast buck. Katy Helvenston, mother of one of the four Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah, calls their employers ‘the whores of war.’ Hats off to Scahill for showing us why she is right.”

Ray McGovern, 27-year Veteran CIA Analyst and co-founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)


Jeremy Scahill
, 32, is an unembedded, international journalist. He is a correspondent for the national radio and television show Democracy Now! and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. He has reported extensively from Iraq through both the Clinton and Bush administrations. He reported from Yugoslavia during the 1999 NATO bombing and spent years covering the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic’s government and the rise of a neoliberal regime backed by the United States. He has also reported from Nigeria, where he and colleague Amy Goodman exposed the role of the Chevron oil corporation in the massacre of protesting villagers in the Niger Delta. Traveling around the hurricane zone in the wake of Katrina, Scahill exposed the presence of Blackwater mercenaries in New Orleans and his reporting sparked a Congressional inquiry and an internal Department of Homeland Security investigation. Scahill has won numerous awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting and numerous Project Censored Awards. He was among the only western reporters to gain access to the Abu Ghraib prison when Saddam Hussein was in power and his story on the emptying of that prison won a Golden Reel for “Best National Radio News Story” of 2002. Scahill’s work has appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, Dollars and Sense, Z Magazine and on a wide array of websites. Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Firm is his first book.


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