Saturday, February 20, 2010

Read: "Making a Killing" by James Ashcroft

Read: Making a Killing: the explosive story of a hired gun in Iraq by James Ashcroft with Clifford Thurlow, 2006, 9781852273118.

There was a reference on to this. Most of the readers on the book board there tend to be really right-wing and that reflects their tastes but I reserved this and tried it out. It was good.

Ashcroft was in the British Army for a few years then became a lawyer in London. At the end of 2003 he quit his lawyer job and took a job with Spartan as a security contractor in Baghdad. At first his assignments were personal protection details but then the company started getting more and more work as more and more of my money started being spent there. His very first assignment (at least he made it seem like the 1st) ended in a deadly gunfight right outside the Green Zone.

Ashcroft and company set-up a compound and started training Iraqis to be armed guards for water supply and treatment facilities.

1. Ashcroft had plenty of time in the Green Zone and of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He was unimpressed with the "ticket puncher" officers and those afraid to say what needed to be said about troop levels and other foolish ideas by Rumsfeld and others.
2. Iraqis are not incompetent - they just don't care about certain things and graft is a way of life. Spartan's guards were happy with how Spartan did not skim off the top of the payroll or only hire family members and tribal members. However, that happiness did not last.
3. Ashcroft's discussion with U.S. Army officers about the clusterfuck of Iraq and how it had shit-all to do with 9/11 and Al Quaeda.
4. Screw-ups by the Army:
4a. Combat troops who just fought a war used as a de facto police force.
4b. Policies and actions by troops that end up making enemies. In the U.S. people would experience the humiliations some Iraqis went through and complain to the government or protest. Iraqis go home and get a rifle or make an IED.
4c. Incompetent officers who write up thievery of oil tanker trucks as insurgent activity rather than banditry.
4d. An interesting critique by British trained Ashcroft on the urban tactics of the U.S. Army.
5. I wonder what Ashcroft's Army experience and training were. He served in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. He seems really switched on and capable as a shooter; was he just well trained or was he used to getting shot at? I don't recall if he wrote about that.
6. Lots and lots and lots of money was getting spent.
7. Iraqis had all sorts of theories and guesses about what evil the U.S. and Israel were up to in Iraq.
8. Muqtada al-Sadr is a murderous shithole who should have been arrested or killed.
9. Ashcroft's comments about cruelty and inhumanity remind of the first rule of living in a war zone: LEAVE.

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