Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq
by Steve Fainaru
Published in November 2008
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Anti-war journalist Steve Fainaru spent several months following the lives of Iraq’s mercenaries, and the struggles they face. While his book is very critical of the private security industry, he does a good job at capturing the lives and struggles of the men fighting in Iraq for money.
The writing style was clear, but the author jumps around a lot, making the chronology occasionally hard to follow. What I disliked the most was totally irrelevant information about the author’s Own life struggles that seem irrelevant and detract from the central narrative. The writing was clear and simple, just as it should be.
I found the contents of the book to be very interesting. The description of the security industry and the lives of the men that the journalist followed are fascinating, and I learned a lot about the industry.
The author recounts the stories of many mercenaries. Many of the stories strike me as too outrageous to be true, and are probably embellished. For example a contractor, protesting over his pay, supposedly pulls out a knife and sticks it into his employer’s desk. Or another contractor makes it sound like they would enter villages and shoot at literally everything then leave. Many of the claims seems like they have been cherrypicked and taken out of context.
This book has many suspenseful moments, such as when a contractors vehicle was approached by what appeared to be an Iraqi border guard. The Iraqi guard got close to the car, then attempted to shoot the contractor with an AK47. Nervous from the beginning, the contractor hit the gas pedal, and escaped. Had he been a few seconds later, he would have been killed. Eventually, the contractors are taken prisoner by the fake guards.
I also was shocked at the contrast between Kuwait and Iraq. The contractors get frequent weekends in Kuwait, where they spend their money in the air conditioned and civilized city state. The next day they commute back to Iraq where they undertake extremely dangerous missions.
This book neither stands out as good or bad. It was an enjoyable, short, and simple read, but nothing special - I didn’t get any fundamental perspective bending insights.
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