Book Nook: The Invisible Soldiers - How America Outsourced Our Security, by Ann Hagedorn

Nov 18, 2014

Ann Hagedorn is a meticulous researcher. In her previous books she has tackled historical subjects which are now receding into history. Her latest book examines a topic that is so current that the story lines are shifting every day. In this interview you'll find out how hard it became to actually complete a book about issues that are constantly churning in a fluid fashion that is seemingly being updated and revised by the moment. Hagedorn immerses herself in her work. We were fortunate to have her come out to Yellow Springs to record this interview. And we also got a special bonus: Ann gave us a stirring rendition of her old high school cheer. Ann went to Oakwood High School in Dayton.

Here's my review from the Dayton Daily News:

The U.S. had been steadily withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Now we have suddenly doubled our uniformed military presence there. These soldiers are being described as "trainers" and "advisers." Based upon past experience we should probably be wondering how many private military contractors will also become involved in this burgeoning conflict with the forces of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In considering this issue one excellent place to begin evaluating the situation is the latest book from the investigative journalist (and former Daytonian) Ann Hagedorn.

In her book "The Invisible Soldiers - How America Outsourced Our Security" Hagedorn provides readers with an overview of the robust growth in the privatization of our nation's defense and security. "The Invisible Soldiers" of Hagedorn's title are the private military and security companies (PMSC's) that have been taking on expanding roles in fighting our nation's wars, guarding our embassies, protecting our shipping industry from piracy, and supervising the drones that have become almost as ubiquitous as the private military contractors themselves. It seems like we only hear about military contractors when there are problems. Otherwise they seem invisible.

Last month four former security guards who were employed by the military contractor Blackwater Worldwide were convicted for their involvement in the 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians at the busy Baghdad intersection at Nisour Square. This was an unusual case, employees of PMSC's who have been involved in other instances of murder and mayhem have rarely been prosecuted. Hagedorn's book was published before the verdicts were announced.

"The Invisible Soldiers" provides readers with a moment by moment account of how this tragedy unfolded. Hagedorn recounts that "within ten minutes, Nisour Square had become a scene of death and despair as grim as any in Iraq since the invasion." This event was a public relations nightmare for the PMSC's who had received lucrative contracts in Iraq. Hagedorn writes that "in the aftermath of the massacre, the industry braced for a storm of criticism." PMSC's obtained billions of dollars for work in Iraq. It was a contractors' war. And some billions vanished without a trace. When employees of PMSC's attracted unwanted attention through their actions it was bad for business. Hagedorn explains that "the murders at Nisour Square exposed what could best be described as privatized mayhem."

The author is a seasoned reporter. She presents nuanced reportage in examining various aspects of this industry. She uncovers the origins of these firms and reveals the reasons why they have flourished. We discover that prominent political leaders like Hillary Clinton and President Obama have gradually shifted their policy views in regard to these PMSC's. Most importantly Hagedorn will inspire her readers to wonder; why should this even matter to us? 'Invisible Soldiers" is fascinating, unbiased, thorough, and doggedly well researched.