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Big Boy Rules: In the Company of America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq


From Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru comes an unforgettable journey into Iraq’s parallel war—a world filled with tens of thousands of armed men roaming Iraq with impunity, doing jobs the military can’t or won’t do. Fainaru reveals in gritty and shocking detail what drives these men to do the world’s most dangerous work.

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From Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru comes an unforgettable journey into Iraq’s parallel war—a world filled with tens of thousands of armed men roaming Iraq with impunity, doing jobs the military can’t or won’t do. Fainaru reveals in gritty and shocking detail what drives these men to do the world’s most dangerous work.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

For this mordant dispatch from one of the Iraq War's seamiest sides, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post correspondent Fainaru embedded with some of the thousands of "private security contractors" who chauffeur officials, escort convoys and add their own touch of mayhem to the conflict. Exempt from Iraqi law and oversight by the U.S. government, which doesn't even record their casualties, the mercenaries, Fainaru writes, play by "Big Boy Rules"-which often means no rules at all as they barrel down highways in the wrong direction, firing on any vehicle in their path. (His report on the Blackwater company, infamous for killing Iraqi civilians and getting away with it, is meticulous and chilling.) Fainaru's depiction of the mercenaries' crassness and callousness is unsparing, but he sympathizes with these often inexperienced, badly equipped hired guns struggling to cope with a dirty war. Nor is he immune to the romance of the soldier of fortune, especially in his somewhat bathetic portrait of Jon Coté, Iraq War veteran and lost soul who joined the fly-by-night Crescent Security Group and was kidnapped by insurgents. Fainaru's vivid reportage makes the mercenary's dubious motives and chaotic methods a microcosm of a misbegotten war. (Nov. 17)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In the past three years, a sudden literature encompassing over a dozen books of journalism, scholarship, and memoir has documented the rise of private security firms in Iraq and as part of other recent conflicts. Fainaru (coauthor, with Ray Sanchez, The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream) won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for his Washington Post series on the companies that grew in Iraq "like mushrooms after a rainstorm, some with boards of directors and glass offices, others that are scarcely more than armed gangs." He shows that these firms operated all but outside the law and beyond oversight, "the largest use of private forces in the history of American warfare," whether it was the notorious Blackwater, a large State Department contractor, or Crescent Security, a small profiteer whose reckless activity is the primary subject of Fainaru's reporting. Five Crescent employees whom Fainaru came to know were ambushed, kidnapped, and murdered, and his skillful injection of a personal element into the larger story makes this a highly engaging book, among the best written so far on this subject. Recommended for all libraries.
—Bob Nardini

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306818387
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 813,992
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Fainaru is a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. In 2008 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. He lives in El Cerrito, California.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: On the Border xi

1 Social Studies, Inc 1

2 I Want to Kill Somebody Today 16

3 The last Train 36

4 We Protect the Military 48

5 The Stories You Tell 68

6 Now You Are Going to Die 85

7 Your Blood 102

8 Scope of Authority: God 122

9 Hostage Affairs 143

10 Blackrwatey for Special Security 161

11 Faith that Looks Through Death 182

Epilogue: The Book of Wisdom 205

Source Notes 213

Selected Bibliography 235

Acknowledgments 237

Index 243

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2009

    I believe a truly realistic look at the situation in Iraq during the first five years.

    I found this book spellbinding. The author truly walked the walk and lived the life.His report on our shadow army in Iraq makes one realize how different our efforts in Iraq were from previous conflicts. The descriptions of the use of private contractors and their power and importance in the war was eye-opening to me.
    I whole-heartedly recommend the book. It's well-written and every page is worth reading.The book focuses on the individuals in a squad of an actual contractor and follows their experiences over a period of many months.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

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    Posted January 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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