Simons begins "Master of War" telling us us that "No company has ever amassed Blackwater's size, strength, and full-service military capabilities . . . within a few short years it boasted more weaponry, manpower, and high-tech systems than many small countries." A good buildup, but the book fails to deliver any information of significance.
Erik Prince, its founder, grew up in a well-to-family (family business was sold for $1.35 billion after father died at an early age) with family friends that included Chuck Colson, Gary Bauer, and James Dobson. Erik's was admitted to the Naval Academy, but left in his sophomore year because of "overly stringent rules," then enrolled in and graduated from Hillsdale College, became a White House Fellow, and ended up transferring to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's office. Prince became enamored with Navy OCS and becoming a Seal, which he accomplished. However, after about two years, Prince resigned at a time when his wife was battling cancer (eventually died) and his family was dealing with issues following his father's death.
Prince decided to focus on providing training facilities for Navy Seals that would be superior to what he had experienced. Soon was providing assistance training local law enforcement, then began picking up Navy contracts after getting on the approved contractor's list. (Prince was also a major Republican donor, though the book does not link those donations to favors received.) Eventually became a contractor providing security for Paul Bremer in Baghdad - State Dept. supposedly lacked the ability to do so in a combat zone. Prince's wealth also allowed the company to provide helicopters, according to Simons.
Blackwater became famous when four of its contractors were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. There were about 170 private security companies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Blackstone alleges that it was constantly being blamed for the acts of the others - eg. running a U.S. division commander off the road, unwarranted killings of Iraqi civilians, etc. Blackwater started with $200,000 in contracts in 2000, and ended up with over $1 billion income in the next seven years. Simons explains very little of how that occurred. Blackwater employees were paid $500-$600/day for a variety of duties, including training Afghan police and other personnel.
Blackwater's downfall began in Sept. 2007 when it's contractors shot up the area in Nisoor Square - alleging they were fired upon first - 14-17 civilians were killed. By the time investigators initiated their inquiry, the evidence had been "cleaned up." Five contractors have been charged, one is cooperating with authorities; the company has not been charged. Regardless, the Iraq government banned Blackwater from operating within its borders.
"Master of War" offers little to commend reading it - my suspicion is that the author did little research beyond interviewing its CEO. If you're looking for an expose, this isn't it.