Twelve Dead Men and a Woman's Quest for Justice
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How war profiteering in the Middle East tore apart a village in the Himalayan foothills.

In 2004, writes London-based Businessweek senior international correspondent Simpson, not long after the U.S. invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a recruiter came calling in Kathmandu, ostensibly looking for workers at a luxury hotel in Jordan. In fact, those who answered the call were placed in the hands of people such as a former dry cleaner who ran a so-called body shop in Amman: “If you needed the ‘bodies’ of menial laborers, you went to Ali al-Nadi.” So it was that American military contractors in Iraq found their way to al-Nadi’s door to fill their ranks, and a dozen men from that Nepali village found themselves on the way to enriching everyone but themselves—but briefly, for on their way to the contractor’s camp within a vast U.S. air base, they were kidnapped by Islamist militants who declared the Nepalis “infidels” inasmuch as they were working in the service of the “Crusaders.” The Nepalis were executed, leaving it to their survivors to wonder how they had ended up in an American war zone in the first place. The answer, untangled by Kamala Magar, the widow of one of the Nepalis—whom the author interviewed numerous times in 2005, 2013, 2014, and 2016—came to implicate the largest American military contractor in Iraq in a sordid chain of human trafficking. Of course, the contractor continually denied the allegations throughout a long process of legal discovery, parts of which went all the way to the Supreme Court. Suffice it to say that, given the choice of ruling in favor of an utterly commendable Nepali widow of questionable legal standing but with an unflagging commitment to justice or a multibillion-dollar corporation with unlimited legal funds, the courts did not often honor the ideals of the law.

A powerful work of investigative journalism, one that speaks volumes about the business of war and of human slavery alike.

Pub Date: April 17th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-244971-9
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2018


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