A lively and entertaining but sometimes nasty journalistic look at modern soldiers-for-hire.




Unsettling accounts of private, quasi-military organizations that played a surprisingly important role in countless post–World War II conflicts and then flourished to become front-page news after 9/11.

Veteran British war correspondent Geraghty identifies three traditions of freelance soldiering: the “traditional mercenary,” common during the chaotic days of postcolonial Africa; the “plausibly deniable warriors,” who carry out covert missions for legitimate governments; and “modern private security operators,” which include Blackwater, DynCorp and dozens of others prospering in Iraq and Afghanistan. Caught up in the anarchy in Congo in the 1960s after the sudden Belgian withdrawal, white mercenaries received rare positive PR by rescuing large numbers of whites from the widespread massacres. Soon the United States, South Africa, Cuba and the Soviet Union supported mercenary armies, both black and white, in a vicious bloodbath in Angola lasting into the 21st century. America’s not-so-covert ’80s support of the Contras fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government is an example of “plausibly deniable” warriors, but Britain enjoyed greater—and less publicized—success sending men to Yemen in the ’60s to frustrate Egypt’s efforts at control, and to Oman to stabilize the government. Readers may be surprised to learn of Britain’s leading role in the plausibly deniable aid to mujahideen fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Geraghty also notes that the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan produced a vast expansion of private security services. Despite well-publicized episodes of trigger-happy behavior, such services remain essential in chaotic nations with ineffective police. Because Britain enjoyed more success in keeping its covert operations covert, the author’s British viewpoint offers a unique perspective on the role of mercenaries in modern warfare.

A lively and entertaining but sometimes nasty journalistic look at modern soldiers-for-hire.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60598-048-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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