Monday, 8 September 2014

The Bremer Detail

The Bremer Detail - review copy received through Net Galley

This is a true account of Frank Gallagher - a former US marine, employee of Blackwater and head of Paul Bremer's security detail in Iraq.

Readers may recall that Bremer was in effect the American viceroy in charge of Iraq after the 2003 invasion. I'm sure everyone reading this will have heard of Blackwater, a company whose name became synonymous with scandal, so much so that it changed it's name twice (to XE and then later Academi).

I have to admit that I came to this book with certain prejudices. As someone whose politics are left of centre and as a UK citizen I don't have a particularly positive opinion of America's adventures in Iraq. Nor do I have a sympathetic view of Blackwater who I have always considered to be gung-ho mercenaries.

This book however made me completely re-evaluate my opinions of at least some of those working for Blackwater, which is testament to the humanity and skill with which the author tells his tale.

Frank Gallagher takes the reader through his time as head of Bremer's security detail from the early days of teething trouble to the end, when the operation ran like a well oiled machine.

Throughout he pulls no punches in his criticism of Blackwater HQ who continually attempted to cut costs and not provide necessary manpower. Nor does he hesitate in criticising other contractors for gung-ho unprofessionalism, including those working on other Blackwater contracts.

The most impressive thing he relates however, is how his team never lost anyone to enemy action, nor did they kill anyone. This when they were protecting the man who was possibly more at risk than any other in the world, including the President.

The book gives enough detail of the tactics and professionalism of his team to explain to the reader how this was achieved and one is left with deep respect for both his teammates and for Frank himself.

All in all this was a brilliant book and I would recommend it to anyone, whatever their views of the Iraq invasion.

I give it 5 stars.

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